“Anxiety is very real, every anxiety-ridden thought I have is raw and true”
Please note: The following may contain some triggers for those with mental illness.
I was at a dinner party.
“What do you think you’ll die from?”
Some say cancer, diabetes, some hope for old age. I instantly figured suicide.
Now I am not suicidal or at risk but that isn’t to say I don’t think about it, maybe, once a week for 3 seconds before I push back. It’s not that I should kill myself, but that eventually, I will run out of options, I’ll run out of people that would be hurt by this and then it would be alright and only then. That’s hard to read – it’s much harder to realise and it’s again harder to burden someone with that fact.
There are many things that make us different, but there is one that defines me. I have an anxiety disorder and bouts of depression. It’s always been difficult; to have something be so utterly personal that is also a chemical imbalance out of my control. Which is why for at least 8 years I wasn’t diagnosed and didn’t seek professional help.
I realised something was different in me but I couldn’t handle the thought of burdening someone with the truth. Who knew what they would do with the truth about me? I protect myself because stigma is alive and well when it comes to mental health and I’m afraid as a person, and as someone who works within the media industry that putting a name to this story will negatively affect my life.
Anxiety is very real, every anxiety-ridden thought I have is raw and true. I don’t even see them as bad thoughts, I see them as facts; I am unlovable, less than intelligent, a failure who will die alone and there is no point trying to improve myself – I will fail and everyone will know I tried. My anxiety makes it impossible for me to be close to you. If you’re that amazing, why on earth are you with me? I’ve clearly made a mistake.
Now I enjoy most of the symptoms of anxiety but I’d like to personalise them for you because I’m afraid I can hear an echo of ‘we all feel that’ in the room.
Think of all the time you’re awake, I don’t know what you think;
“If this shoelace comes undone one more time, I’ll get unnecessarily grumpy”
Every day I worry:
“When will you be sick of me?”
“Are my parents are proud of me?”
“Do my friends secretly hate me?”
“Am I inconsiderate? Of course I am.“
“How could anyone want to spend time with me when I’m so needy?”
I spiral. You can’t slow down those thoughts, then comes the physical reaction. You’re shaking, hot, nauseous, muscles tense, teeth grind, you’re feeling claustrophobic, and you have nightmares.
I want you to like me, but I fail to see why I can be liked. It sounds very existential, but I assure you, its hours of every day and it doesn’t stop when you seek help. It slows, it dips, but there will always be another breakdown to worry about. There will be your final breakdown. To me, your final breakdown is when you are forced to change. Your final breakdown is as much behind you as it is in front. Your final breakdown was the last one you had before you got help, and it’s the one you will probably have after you’ve sought help. You will not be cured or reset.
What changed? I told someone. That was against personal procedure. Someone else knowing this secret is huge, and shouldn’t be done carelessly. Three’s company, and showing someone that there’s three parts to your friendship – you, your anxiety and your friend – that can be a deal breaker. After all, it is very difficult to effectively communicate what you’re going through.
Despite advice, I didn’t seek professional help then either. It’s a hard place to be in, to potentially have a key to change your life and to decide you’re not worth it. To think that you’re looking for attention that you’re making it up – not just to think it, but also to believe that you’re not worth it is a hard feeling for others to perceive.
Imagine a ship’s anchor dropping into the ocean. As it hits the ocean floor it drags along, destroying the ocean bed. That is what it felt like when I had my most recent breakdown. It felt like real pain because it is real. The last time I had a breakdown was 2007. I hid it as best as I could. Then that year I couldn’t handle or hide, it felt as though there was an anchor at the back of my neck working it’s way through my brain. I was afraid I would change, that some switch in my brain would be fried and I’d be worse off. I eventually broke in front of someone and they made a call for me, with my permission.
The call was to my GP, who I had spoken to a year previously, I’d visited him and he gave me a referral and medication for anti-anxiety and depression. Back then I was too worried that my parents would find out that I didn’t see the psychologist. I took the medication, which helped. Without the therapy, less than a year later I was worse than ever. It’s hard to find a psychologist, therapist, counsellor or psychiatrist that fits but it is definitely worth the endeavour.
After 8 years of doing this alone and one year on medication I finally visited a psychologist. It’s not always helpful but it’s reassuring to know I can talk to someone. It helped so much I tried to go off my medication slowly, and a portion of anxiety slipped back. I tried to go off my medication partly because my parents don’t like the idea of their child being medicated. I didn’t tell anyone I was going off my medication. I painted myself into a corner. I’m not on strong medication, but messing with chemicals you don’t fully understand is terrifying and shouldn’t be done alone. I’m now back on my medication.
Let’s finish on the sunny side though.
Due to my anxiety I am far better at picking up on body language and language in general, like an emotional, highly empathetic MacGuyver. After all, reading body language is simply a muscle you strengthen and when you obsess about how people perceive you, that muscle is a gun.
I can use this to my advantage. I do this because I’m very nervous and I like to have some element of control. I also know that my sense of humour is the quickest and best trait I can utilise in order for you to remember and like me. I like that about myself, I feel almost calm and almost secure when you’re laughing.
And if work comes out of networking, it’s ok, because the only element of my life I can control is my work life. I’m good at what I do, and I sacrifice my health in order to get my work done and done well.
I use humour as a charm technique because I am incredibly charming, I know that, you know? And I know just by saying that – it’s funny, it’s also true and I win on both counts – for being truthful and being charming…if you can use it in your life to connect to people… if you make people laugh they will love you and that’s what I long for, and want.
– Miriam Margolyes
I know how to play these cards I’ve been dealt, it’s taken me a long time but I’m getting better. A sense of humour is a powerful thing and provides many benefits to me. It makes you like me, it distracts me and it enthralls me. Try to find more things to make you laugh. Talk to someone if this sounds too familiar, and remember to check on people. But really check, we should all be better than OK.
This piece was submitted anonymously.
Image sourced from http://www.flickr.com/photos/porsche-linn/7085203423/