This is a different type of post for me but one that I feel very passionate about.
”Everyone hates me!” Sounds incredibly dramatic but that’s basically how someone with anxiety feels isn’t it? Well its certainly how I feel and some of my friends who also suffer with the grey beast on their backs. I imagine anxiety to be grey, like a blue/grey, black would be too dark and obvious, blue would be too sad and after Disney’s Inside Out, Blue Sadness is practically a celebrity in the world of emotions and that’s sooo not how anxiety rolls! No. For me blue/grey is anxiety. The truth is Anxiety (as I’ve discovered) is very personal and effects people differently. Some people can’t leave their homes, keep a job, be in a relationship. I fortunately do not suffer with anxiety so severely that it has kept me from living a normal life, in fact some people would even question if I have anxiety as I perform with a local amateur dramatic society…. But more on that later.
My anxiety is this middle of the road sense of doom, and yeah sometimes I won’t even notice it there… these are the good days. On the not so good days someone will make a comment at work that I’ve forgot to do something or why didn’t you chase that email etc and I’ll spend a good few hours brushing heavy teardrops from my eyes, hoping no one will notice and if they do, can I get away with saying it’s allergies? This is because like many people I might hear someone say something like ‘Jemma I’ve noticed some of the emails you’ve been sending out have a few errors in them, please can you look at this and make sure what your sending out is correct?’. Now this is none aggressive, it isn’t blameable and even gives me an opportunity to fix the problem without repercussions. My brain on the other hand makes me feel the same way a ‘normal’ person would feel if that same person said, ‘You are utter shit and everyone hates you, you’re a failure for making this error and I can never trust you again’. Now I’m just using work as an example as this can be the place where people receive the most criticism and or stress. I actually work in a very nice office, but this feeling of complete failure can be brought on in many different scenarios.
As a sufferer, this reaction to negative comments can be construed as being unable to take any criticism (not true), or that you’re overly sensitive (not strictly true), or that you’re basically unhinged (mmmm maybe ha ha). The point is there’s no scale for most people’s anxiety, something that they would have taken on the chin one day can see them hiding in the ladies’ toilets the next, that’s the horrifying beauty of this condition. Your own mind is doing this to you.
I am a passionate and creative person, I am also confident in the respect that I will willingly stand in front of 300 people, singing and dancing the night away on stage, in fact except for being with my boyfriend, this is where I feel the most fearless. For a short time, I get to be someone else, someone who doesn’t have anxiety, who doesn’t care what anyone thinks because quite frankly in that moment I have the biggest balls in the room (figuratively speaking) and it feels great! I then of course revert straight back to thinking that every person (mainly women) hate me and that when I go to the ladies they’ll probably bitch about me, not because I’m special but because I’m so spectacularly un-special they need to point this out to each other? Who knows?
The point is I know I’m not the only person who feels like this from time to time, but I see people’s reactions when the word ‘Anxiety’ is brought up. It might be an eye roll for the people who believe that like depression, anxiety is something millennials have made up as an excuse not to move out of their family home. It could be an emoji style sad face, which is like a ‘o poor you, but just don’t think about it’ (Geez thanks just never thinking about it has never occurred to me). Or if you’re lucky and have an amazing friend it could be ‘anxiety! That must be shit. Well what can I do to help you with that’.
I’m not sure if I’ll ever be rid of my anxiety, not completely. I am active in trying to not let it take over my life which feels important, but a cure??? I just don’t see it. One powerful aid is people understanding what anxiety is, they don’t need to tip toe around you or even change the way they interact with you (I mean unless they’re a douche, but then your anxiety has probably made you avoid them anyway). They just need to understand that they don’t need to ask why you’ve been in the toilets for 15 mins or say, ‘smile it’s not that bad’, if they manage that, well that’s probably the best you’re going to get. Below is a list of things I try when I’m feeling anxious. Also kudos if you couldn’t help but sing the steps classic at the beginning of this post.
- Listening to the Headspace app meditation made simple and only takes 30 minutes
- Walking or going for a run. I do my best thinking when doing either of these things, especially if the sun is shining.
- Read an uplifting blog post. So many people have their own struggles. Sometimes its good to put everything in perspective.
- Talk to myself. Sounds odd but sometimes its all to much for my brain alone to process. I find if I say what is bothering me out loud it helps me hear it properly, without the hidden meaning I’ve already attached to it. I acknowledge it, try and reason with it then throw it away.
- Having a good cry. If I need to be upset I allow myself that time.
- Have an anxiety buddy. Anxiety isn’t something I talk about very much, but when I do I turn to my friend who is a fellow sufferer. Talking with someone who understands the pain is the biggest relief for me.