This will perhaps be one of the most personal pieces I ever write. I went back and forth deciding on whether or not I even wanted to write this blog and be so raw. I know that I may get some backlash from people over this, and definitely some judgement but I don’t care. Because if I fear what other people say, when I have the ability to help someone else, I go against everything I believe in. So here we go, let’s begin.
October 7th through 13th is Mental Illness Awareness Week. I suffer from severe anxiety. Not just an attack here and there, but legitimate general anxiety disorder. It’s true that anxiety attacks are provoked by something and then sometimes simply made bigger in your head and you can talk yourself down. However, people who suffer with general anxiety disorder suffer from anxiety regardless of whether or not something provokes it. And it’s not just a feeling that is in your head that you can talk yourself down from. It’s a physical reaction, a chemical imbalance, a mental reaction of your subconscious working quicker than your actual conscious. So many people are so quick to say, “Relax, it’s in your head,” but it’s really not that simple.
Aside from general anxiety disorder, I suffer from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), which is ultimately what the anxiety disorder stems from. And one thing that really irks me is people who think that OCD is simply needing everything to be straight instead of crooked, or that you have to count to ten every time you shut the light off. That’s not what it is, at all. It stems from an underlying issue or fear and then your compulsions are based off of that fear. More importantly, it is a chemical imbalance that you have no control over.
All anxiety disorders are forms of chemical imbalances. If it’s severe enough some people may go on anxiety medication to try to help the imbalance. If someone was diabetic, you would give them insulin. If someone has a chemical imbalance, you would give them their medication. But I’m so tired of the negative stigma placed on people who suffer from anxiety disorders and people who take medication for it. Medication is not a mask that covers up a person’s real identity. Rather the medication is a mask that covers up the disorder so that the person’s real identity can shine through.
Anxiety is not something to shrug off. It’s a real issue when it’s something that you have to deal with. And on a daily basis, if not treated, it can be beyond frustrating. I understand though that some people don’t understand anxiety simply because they’ve never had an attack. The best way that I can describe it includes the word “enough.” During an attack, despite what the attack is from or about, you usually question if anything is enough.
“Am I healthy enough?”
“Am I doing enough?”
“Am I skinny enough?”
“Am I making enough money?”
“Am I smart enough?”
“Am I worth enough?”
“Am I being enough?”
It’s a haunting thought process and there’s no way to turn it off. The only way to get through an attack is to precisely get through it. And the amount of strength that it takes to do such a thing is not something that should be frowned upon, and it’s sad to me that it seems to always be.
Just because a person suffers from anxiety disorders, doesn’t mean there’s a disorder in their personality. You can function just fine, granted there might be an occasional short attack here and there, if you learn how to deal with it. In order to learn to deal with that, you have to get to the root of your issue and truly work from the inside out. Sometimes, it includes medication to let your brain know that you have a chemical imbalance and need help producing x amount of said chemical.
The thing is, everyone has issues – it’s just a matter of how it affects the person and to what level. People with anxiety disorders have a chemical imbalance that prevents them from being able to rationalize crazy thoughts and calm down. And guess what… it’s beyond their control. I know firsthand. No one chooses to have a chemical imbalance. No one chooses to deal with anxiety. But for some, it’s the cards they get dealt; being judged for it shouldn’t be in the deck.
The reason I’m writing this post is to promote some awareness. Anxiety does not define someone, it’s simply something they deal with. So the next time you judge someone, or think you know their story – double check yourself. Everyone really is fighting their own battle, and some battles we never know about until they’re over and fought.
I know from my own experience, anxiety can create a war within a person, there’s no need for this extra war in society simply for the acceptance of anxiety.