Thursday, March 12, 2015

On wishing anxiety away

I've contemplated whether or not to continue writing about my anxiety disorder.  Like I've mentioned before, the potential of coming off as dramatic or whiney or lesser is something that's always stuck with me as I've written these anxiety posts.  Though every time I fight my fear and publish an anxiety post, I receive a private message explaining how someone is going through a similar situation.  And that's why I'm choosing to continue to document the journey.  To remind you (and myself) we are not alone.

I've learned so much just in the past six months about anxiety disorder.  And as I continue to learn, I notice certain behaviors, comments, and mindsets of those who don't suffer from a mental illness.  Of course, any illness is hard and trying.  But illnesses that affect the mind are tough ones, because there isn't an outward sign of damage.  No cast or brace helping to piece back together what was once broken.  And in some ways I think that lack of an outward sign works against those who are suffering mentally.  Because one can be easily told to suck it up, to just offer it up (if you're religious), that someone always has it worse than you do.  When a chronically anxious and/or depressed person's suffering is demeaned in that way, it's like kicking a broken leg in its most ugly state.  I know this because I've encountered it, and I've heard of others encountering similar situations.

This is probably because the term anxiety is used way too loosely.  We all face anxiety at certain points in our lives.  Before the ACT, during our driver's test, waiting to hear back from a job interview, etc., etc., etc.  Anxiety in these situations is perfectly normal.  But.  Do you have a panic attack as you're sitting taking the ACT?  Do you avoid your driver's test in fear of a crash?  Do you not call back the interviewer because you're scared you won't be able to handle what the job entails?  This is the divide between a healthy amount of anxiety and an unhealthy amount.  If your "flight-or-fight" response begins to rule ordinary tasks or you develop agoraphobia, this is when you know your anxiety is at a disorder-level and out of control.

With all this being said, anxiety can't be simply wished, prayed, or hoped away.  Sure, we can pray for the strength to endure and be hopeful that one day it will be easier, but anxiety needs to be taken seriously and faced and treated medically.

I've learned to be more empathetic towards others' suffering.  We say all too often we never know what someone is going through but do we act like it in our words or actions?  Be kind, be compassionate.  Ask questions and how they're feeling.  You may be helping out someone far more than you'll ever know.  

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