All too often, people consider anxiety to be a case of “getting a bit stressed”, or “feeling nervous”. It is written off with comments like “Oh yes, I always get anxious when I have a big test coming up,” or “Well, everyone has anxieties.”
This word is thrown around a lot, which I personally feel is one of the reasons so many people still do not consider anxiety to be a mental health condition in it’s own right.
Let me just clarify something. Anxiety is not the same as being stressed out, or nervous about a big or important event. It isn’t the same as an individual phobia about a specific thing.
When you suffer with anxiety, you can become absolutely overwhelmed to the point of a panic attack, with practically no pre-warning at all. Sometimes it can be over the smallest of things, other times you are not even sure yourself what triggered it.
There are days when you can wake up feeling fine, and by midday you feel overwhelmingly frightened to answer the phone. You are not expecting any negative phone calls, and yet you feel overwhelmingly worried about what might be said.
There are days when you are expecting a delivery, but when the doorbell rings, you simply cannot bring yourself to answer the door. You find yourself hiding in your own home, without being entirely sure what you are hiding from.
At present, it is 4:25am here in the UK, and I have had a grand total of three hours sleep. I am wide awake. I awoke to my heart racing through my chest and my hands and legs trembling. My breathing became very fast, until I felt like I could not breathe at all. I began gasping to catch my breath. I have been physically sick twice where my stomach is turning so much. And the reason for such distress? I realised that last week I forgot to send a (non-urgent) email and post a letter.
THIS is anxiety. This is life for so many of us. This is a real mental illness, which can cause so many physical problems as well.
Suffering with anxiety does not make us weak. We would love to take your advice of “don’t worry so much,” or “don’t overthink.” That sounds like a dream to me! But unfortunately, this isn’t something we always have the good fortune to choose.
Every day we are faced with a constant battle with our own minds, which spend some days in a constant state of “fight or flight”, and yet still we have to get through the day with the same success as everyone else.
If you are struggling, please know you are not alone. Please do not be ashamed to speak up and talk about your daily struggles. You deserve to be heard and understood.
Be kind to yourselves, and if you need to take things a little slower, or make time to breathe, then please do. This condition can be exhausting and nothing is more important than your health and wellbeing.
Sending love and strength to you.