It’s ok to not be ok”.
I didn’t fully understand that at first, I used to hate myself for not being able to just get on with life, and think it’s my fault I’m like this. Since my treatment I slowly started to get it, that this isn’t a choice or attitude problem and I’m not just attention seeking. Accepting that this is part of me and I can’t change that. I can now say to myself when I feel like the worlds falling apart around me “I’m not ok, but that’s ok” that helps to give me grounding and a brief moment of clarity.
For as long as I can remember I’ve always been worrying about everything. Seeking reassurance from everyone and never finding a sense of confidence in myself. Chronic low self-worth and constantly judging every action or decision I make as wrong first and then right later when everything is ok, and never feeling good enough for anything. Being set off when someone questions you and falling down the “helter skelter of despair” because you over analyse every little thing. After 13 years of that little merry go round I got to a point where my normal was to see myself as too broken to fix, and not worth anyone’s effort to try. So when I decided to get help last year after a pretty severe breakdown I wasn’t surprised to be diagnosed with severe anxiety and depression, it almost made a bit of sense of everything for the first time.
It’s perfectly normal to worry how people will react when you tell them (well duh, you’ve got anxiety, course you’re worried). I’ve always been quite an open person, not afraid to show my true colours, but this was different. I now had a label that people can assign to me to give some weight to their pre judgements and first impressions. I’m lucky to have a supportive family and group of close friends that would do anything for me. Telling most of them wasn’t so hard, they always knew there was something I wasn’t dealing with very well. Not all of them know how to react to it or deal with it but they’re still there for me.
It’s not all been that easy though. Most people who are open with this will know the “holy sh*t you’re pretty messed up aren’t you?” look with the pitying head tilt that a lot people can’t help but give when you talk real with them. Most people don’t mean to react like that, they just don’t understand it. Receiving that look never feels good but once you get past it and you can talk about it to help their understanding it gets easier.
Having the confidence to stand firm when someone doubts your condition can be tough, but once you learn to dig your heels in it’s pretty empowering to you and not the anxiety for a change. Breaking the stigma with just one person can make a huge difference. You don’t know who they’re talking to next, and they might be able to have that conversation with someone else. I’ve seen it be a chain reaction like that.
“Do you still get your Anxiety?”
This was the question I was asked by a close friend not so long ago. A friend who’s been in my corner through all this when it’s all going wrong. I explained to him how it’s not an on-off switch; or a you’re ill, then you’re better kind of thing. It’s a constant changing spectrum of good and bad thoughts and feelings, how it’s always there no matter what you try to do to get rid of that little monkey inside your head. That some days I wake up ready to take on the world, and the next I want to run away from everything and hide.
Around that time I realised people in your corner tend to be one of two types. People who understand it, are supportive and there for you and then there are people who “get it”. People who “get it” understand what it feels like to be 6 different versions of yourself in one day and not understand why, and for that to be the norm day to day. The first kind of people will always have your back but might struggle to relate to it. And that’s ok. There’s nothing wrong with not “getting” it, it’s being there for them that matters.
I am so grateful for the people who have my back. They are always there without me needing to ask. Whether it’s driving hundreds of miles to pick me up from a weekend away after I’ve had an emotional breakdown, sitting with me when I need to get out of a social situation and have some time inside my head, or even just asking me how I’m doing and listening to an honest answer when I give it. I love you all. You make it so much easier getting through the moments when I want to scream because a social situation is too much, or my self-doubt is snowballing out of control.
I now try to embrace the anxiety that has controlled me for so long. Talking about the bad times to try and keep some control and who knows, it might empower others to take action. I’m not trying to be a martyr or anything, but we can’t carry on with the “oh just get on with it” or “I’m fine” or “keep calm and carry on” burying behaviour that keeps people in a prison in their own head.
I don’t know what tomorrow brings but having the support around me of people who understand what I’m going through, keeping to my routines and talking about it, I know I give myself the best chance of fighting the monkey off, and I’m in the best place I could possibly be.