I read recently that the way to keep your readers coming back is to be honest with them. No problems there. But also to reveal things about yourself & be relatable.
The relatable part is easy, for I am merely a normal person. Sorry for being blindingly obvious. The revealing part is also fine with me, as honesty is my best policy with you. But it is slightly scary knowing people potentially can start to put together the tatty patchwork of my whole life story without ever having to meet me. Blogger problems 101? I have decided that revealing things that scare the shit out of me & I wouldn’t EVER say to someone upon meeting them (“hey nice to meet you GUESS WHAT?! I’m having an anxiety attack. Nah it’s cool I pretty much do this daily”) is fine if it helps someone, makes someone feel somewhat better, or perhaps just says it because they feel like they can’t.
I’ve had my fair share of mental health issues, it’s been a constant thing since I was around 12 or 13. The thing is though, I am totally normal. Hell, I think I’m pretty smart & competent actually. People with these problems are often completely functioning members of society. You don’t necessarily have to be bed ridden to be unwell. This is important. In my view, the dialogue about depression has increased tremendously recently. Men’s mental health, post natal mental health, suicide awareness even, has become less ‘taboo’ & more we must do something about this now. I’ve been depressed, MANY people have, I’m sure you know at least more than one. But today I want to tell you about anxiety & why it’s one of the hardest things I have had to deal with. & why it’s so misunderstood.
It sort of snuck up on me I guess, in that way like when you were little one day you woke up with boobs like BAM. You didn’t really just WAKE UP with a busty chest, you just didn’t realise that each day they were growing slowly towards their potential gloriousness (in my case, that it was getting worse & worse). So I guess one day I woke up & all of a sudden I couldn’t leave the house without a sickening churning in my gut. Thinking about anything that had to be done was met with dread, the kind of dread you usually feel when you know something terribly horrible or terribly painful is coming your way. Was there anything terribly horrible or terrible painful imminent as I was sitting at my desk studying each day? No. So why was my body ALWAYS in fight or flight mode? My adrenal glands were haywire. Daily. I developed cystic acne along my jaw, which was both painful & had to be medicated. I had nightmares whenever I slept. I probably don’t have to mention I was constantly tired, but I just did. Sorry. EXHAUSTED. The way I dealt with my new found chronic anxiety was to express my worries with obsessive compulsive behaviour. My ‘thing’ or my ‘tick’ was locking doors. Yes, okay, we have ALL turned around to check we have locked the door. This was something I did multiple times, daily though. If I was with my partner, I would know he wouldn’t want to turn back. So I would ask 3-4 times “are you sure I locked the door?” to try to satiate my fully fledged anxiety attack building up inside me ready to explode like a container of food microwaved for too long. At home, on my own, I would check the back door was locked roughly every hour. I would check on our two puppies about the same, convinced they would either escape, or die, probably BOTH, if I didn’t. Utterly convinced the lack of these activities would cause the worst scenario possible. Classic OCD.
Not so funnily enough I can’t find a photo of my skin in the midst of being ravaged from anxiety. This gives you a good idea, though.
I visited my GP about my skin, alarmed at the severity of the acne I had developed for the second time (the first time was when my ex partner passed away. I guess my skin tells me when I’m not coping with life because I choose to ignore it). She made an off the cuff remark, & I found myself saying “actually I can barely leave the house. My anxiety is ruining my life. That’s why my skin is so bad”. The flood gates had opened. The hardest part, you have probably heard before, actually IS saying it out loud. I feared there was not something ‘legitimately’ wrong with me, & that it would just go away. Anxiety & obsessive compulsive disorder are not things to ignore until they go away. Why let yourself suffer in silence & isolation when you certainly do not have to? Step outside of your own skin & imagine yourself as a friend. What would you tell them? For me it would be, “dude WHY aren’t you giving yourself the love & treatment you so obviously need? Let’s do something about this because you deserve to be happy”. Be your own best friend & take the steps to heal yourself. You deserve it. My GP wanted to medicate me daily. Now, I have done this maybe twice before. A lot of people say it made them feel dead inside, & they would rather be sad than be nothing. I’ve never felt this. I still have the same thoughts & feelings, perhaps the edges aren’t as razor sharp as before. But isn’t that kind of what you need when you hate yourself, hate life, or are constantly petrified? I am on the medication now as I type this. It hasn’t dulled my ability to write, & pain is not necessary to be an artist despite what romanticised stories may say. I was sick like a heroin junkie coming off smack for the first three days. Vomiting, vertigo, inability to concentrate. But after those three days I stopped feeling petrified for my life & riddled with anxiety every single day. It works.
We all experience anxiety in our lives. It’s a good thing when it’s functioning in the normal way it’s supposed to. Adrenaline is your best friend in that job interview or before you have a sitting to get tattooed. It serves a purpose. What makes it so misunderstood though is it is uncontrollable. For me, when I am in a full-blown-all-out-ride-or-die attack I am convinced I am dying. My body is telling me that through the physiological changes it is producing. Unnecessary bodily functions stop. Sweat begins. Pins & needles from head to toe. The racing thoughts of “oh shit help” with the loss of ability to think rationally. These are all things that would happen if you actually WERE in a scenario where you could potentially die. It’s up there with the most horrible & frightening feelings in the world. & some experience this daily. I did.
Do you know someone who suffers from anxiety? Just be there for them. Don’t tell them to calm down. PLEASE don’t roll your eyes. They can’t help it & all they probably really need is a hand to hold & calm reassurance while they ride it out. Do you suffer from anxiety or OCD? Please, seek help. In whatever form you feel comfortable with. Do not suffer in silence & do not let it control your life. I still have attacks but they are nowhere near the regularity or severity they once were. & do not be afraid of medication. It got me through a trying time in my life & is still helping me now.
Visit any of these sites or see a GP for more info: Beyond Blue, Mind Health Connect, SANE Australia.