* The “LET’S GET REAL ABOUT:” series is a series of posts dedicated to talking about real life topics. This includes topics that wouldn’t normally be spoken about and topics people aren’t always comfortable to speak about. So, welcome to it. You’re about to read another part of “the erin diaries”, enjoy. *
Before we even begin to get into this post, I want you to release your shoulders from your ears, unclench your jaw, and remove your tongue from the roof of your mouth. We physically tend to hold onto stress in the least noticeable ways. Relax.
Okay, now that you’re a little more relaxed, let’s sit down and have an uncomfortable yet important conversation about something that has become so relevant in today’s world – anxiety.
I was 16 years old when I was diagnosed with anxiety disorder – yes; I’ve just admitted to everyone out there that I have an anxiety disorder, go me! An anxiety disorder is not something that you should be ashamed of, and it is not something that defines you. There are so many people out there in the world who are going through the same thing as you. It is okay. You are okay. You are normal. You are human. We need to stop talking about anxiety as if it’s taboo, because it’s not. It is real. There are people out there, normal people like you and I, living with anxiety. And guess what? It is okay. They are okay. They are normal. They are human. Anxiety doesn’t define who they are. They are some of the bravest people you will ever meet. Anxiety is just something they go through.
Now, unless you have experienced anxiety personally or you have been witness to someone else’s anxiety attack, you won’t even begin to understand what it’s like. I’m going to try to explain anxiety to you now, so, if you’re interested, keep reading.
Sometimes, many people who have anxiety continue living their lives as if they are not going through something. They put on a happy face each day and carry on with everything. But beneath the surface there is pain, suffering and uncertainty. The best way to support a loved one through anxiety is to be able to try to understand it. Anxiety comes in different forms, it escapes through different outlooks and manifests in different reactions.
For each person who goes through anxiety, it can be extremely different, but ultimately, anxiety looks and sounds the same. If you look close enough, I can assure you that you will see it. You will see it in the nervous habits. It’s the nail-biting, the foot taping, and the pen drumming. It’s in the hair pulling, the touching the face and the nervous laugh.
It goes unnoticed in the unanswered texts, the indecisiveness and the self-isolation. Often it turns into an unexplained anger, a lack of tolerance. It is the fear of the unknown. The terror of the known. The loneliness of being alone, but the scariness of being surrounded by people. It is in the over analysis of every day. Questioning the unanswerable and answering the unquestionable.
Anxiety screams an intolerable and repetitive song that doesn’t stop. It plays inside your head all day long. It can sound like this…
I’m not good enough.
I’m a bad friend, a bad daughter, a bad girlfriend, a bad sister.
I am no good at what I do.
I am wasting your time, I am wasting my time.
I’m boring. People don’t like me. I have nothing to offer.
It is doubting your connections, your worth, and your relationships. It is believing you are too annoying, you are not important, it is self-doubt.
I will just let you down.
I’m not good enough.
I’m not good enough.
It’s looking for a way to channel your anxiety, something to release the nervous energy. A mindless task, something to keep busy. It is something to distract the mind from the screaming self-disapproval song that is still playing in your head. It is the need to run, to scream, to move. It’s moving on the spot or dancing in your bedroom. It is getting out of the house, out of your personal bubble and going to the gym, or going for a swim, drawing a picture, writing out your thoughts… all done with the thought that you are doing it all for fun, when really you’re doing it simply to move forward. It is constant punishment, why did you say that? What are you doing with your arms? Stand straight. Move away, you’re too close. Don’t look at them. Look away. Stop being weird.
Anxiety is often hidden by a happy face and suffered alone. It is silent anxiety attacks hidden by a smile. It is weakening panic attacks, suffered all alone. The pain in your stomach that confuses the body in to believing it is unwell. The tightness of your chest that is so constricting you simply cannot breath. Anxiety is insomnia that keeps you awake all night, but it is also the sleeping away of the days just to get through. That is what anxiety is.
Everything you have just read above is everything that someone going through anxiety deals with. But, what was not said is how incredibly brave people with anxiety are. They get up each day, scared to death that things won’t go right, scared to death of what people will “think” of them, scared to death that they will not get through the day or the situation without having a full-blown anxiety attack, and they actually live their lives despite all those thoughts. That right there, is courage. As I sit here writing this, I have so many thoughts going through my mind, the thoughts of who’s going to read this? Who’s actually going to care? Why are you even doing this? But, I know that somewhere out there, someone is going to appreciate this. They are going to identify with every last word they read above. So, to that person, I want you to remember, it is okay. You are okay. You are normal. You are human. Anxiety does not define who you are; it is simply something you go through.
When you go through anxiety, you need people. People you love and trust. People who understand that what you are going through is something that you’re trying to deal with. People who know that it is okay. People who know that you are okay. People who know that you are normal. People who know that you are human. When you find those people, appreciate them and hold onto them, because ultimately, they will become your people. Your go-to’s. Your people you call when you’re having a bad day or a bad moment. People who will tell you to take a deep breath, count to ten, and tell you that it will all be okay.
I am so incredibly lucky to have my people. I have a few particular people I can always go to whenever I am having one of “those” days. I have my best friends who are always supportive and have never judged me for being the way I am. I am extremely grateful that I have them. And then I have my boyfriend, my amazing, kind-hearted, caring boyfriend. Wow, I cannot thank him enough for loving me despite everything. Loving someone with anxiety is not an easy thing to do; I’m the first to admit that. But, when you find someone who accepts you for who you are, someone who you trust, someone you can rely on no matter what, then you love them and you love them well. Here is a link that I shared with him early on in our relationship about how to love someone with anxiety (click the link), and I said to him, “when you don’t quite understand why I’m acting the way I am, then I need you to read this”. A year and a bit later, its safe to say that he’s learnt more about me each day and he now understands me. He is one of the main reasons that I can get through more than I thought I was ever capable of. He pushes me to be a better person, to venture into the unknown, to believe in myself a little more and for that I am forever grateful.
To the person reading this right now, I need you to know that it gets better, your anxiety will become more manageable. I need you to know that having anxiety is okay. It doesn’t define you, it doesn’t make you who you are. You are so much more than anxious thoughts and self-doubt. You are brave, beautiful, strong and capable. Don’t let your anxiety tell you otherwise.
All my love,