wE'Re AlL mAd HeRe

Anxiety, Social Anxiety, Panic… and the rest!

The anxious type – it’s normal

I met up with an old friend recently, (lets call her Sally). I hadn’t seen her in years. She’d read my recent article in The Independent – oh yeah I write for The Independent, I’m totally a ‘big deal’ these days 😉 – (if only I got paid for it)!

Anyway, we were chatting and she suddenly said, “I was really surprised to hear about your issues. You always seemed so normal. If I hadn’t have read that article I never would’ve known. You just don’t seem like the type, you’re so happy.” To which I responded jokily, “Well you should’ve been inside my head back then, it was like the apocalypse in there!” She laughed nervously and changed the subject.
It came from a genuine and well meaning place, so I tried not to be offended. But it was a harsh reminder that the battle to educate others about mental health and reduce the stigma is still very much an issue. I seemed ‘normal?’ What did she expect? A blue face, steam coming out of my ears, running around the room screaming? (technically that last one did happen. . . in the privacy of the flat. Poor Dan). The truth is, if you have a mental health condition the last thing you want is for others to notice. We go to great lengths to hide it, which ultimately causes more damage. The Claire back then would smile whilst desperately fighting to contain the monsters. Nobody had a clue what was really going on.
Dear Sally, you didn’t know that I was struggling because I didn’t want you to know, because I was so afraid of what you might think… and given your reaction yesterday it seems that I was right to keep everything hidden. I don’t understand, I supported you when you broke up with Mike and couldn’t function properly for two weeks, so why were my issues any different? Why did you change the subject so abruptly yesterday? Why does my past make you so f**king uncomfortable? (Ok… maybe I was more offended than I thought by her remarks). Sorry about that *deep breath* – I’m calm again now.
In all seriousness I shouldn’t be angry with her, it didn’t come from a place of hate.

In an ideal world I would like emotional well-being to become a solid part of the education system, for both teachers and students. We all remember the sex ed and ‘how to deal with your periods’ classes.. but what about mental health? Maybe a spokesperson from Mind could visit schools once a year and give a seminar, explaining that, “it’s ok if you feel anxious or sad, it doesn’t make you a freak. There are things that we can do about it.” That certainly would’ve changed my life.

It’s true, I am a happy girl/women 🙂 but I also have anxiety… and that’s fine too.

**Sorry about the additional posts at the moment… what did I tell you? I have too much time on my hands. SAVE YOURSELVES!**

Categories: Anxiety, Social Anxiety

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10 replies

  1. Mental health education in schools would be brilliant, wouldn’t it? Just accepting our feelings and ourselves is so powerful.
    How many people are struggling to enunciate the words “I’m fine!” through clenched teeth? Many more than we’d believe, I suspect! And the word “normal” should be abolished, in my view. 🙂

  2. Another corker Claire. What are we supposed to do? Spend all day in bed crying, or shaking and quaking in a corner? And that’s toe root cause of the problem. Because the physical symptoms, except perhaps in a full blown panic attack, are relatively unremarkable then the general population views it as an unremarkable illness. Or one they don’t want to acknowledge because they have read the 1 in 4 stat and are terrified about when their time is coming.
    On a totally unrelated note, LinkedIn recommended you to me yesterday. How the f@cking hell did that happen? 1. I have a linked in profile which I have never used and 2. Where did t he link come from? I always thought the people worrying about data harvesting were over reacting, but now I’m not so sure!
    And finally, not sure if you saw my last comment but please, please all go and read “Ways to Stay Alive” by Matt Haig. You won’t regret it.

    X

  3. So glad you brought this up and shared your true emotions about how this made you feel. One of my best friends does this frequently. She genuinely cares, but when I answer her questions honestly she does exactly the same. I’ve a pretty up front person. I have found telling people either has them explain to me things they have gone through, are going through, how their great aunt had depression (at least they are trying to connect I suppose.. haha), freak and change the subject or my new favorite (a significant other of someone I know) blurts out in front of others “so what are you doing for your anxiety, what meds are you on?”. Again, I get all the places they come from but YES if they discussed mental health in school people would interact better and MORE people would seek help.

    Ok I feel pretty strong about this one too! 🙂

  4. Hi Claire, it’s great to read more of your writing so please keep it up! As someone who struggles with anxiety sometimes and has a teenage daughter who is showing signs of anxiety in some situations too, I would definitely second your call for anxiety issues and strategies to be covered in PHSE at school. I think meditation in schools would be helpful too. I’m also curious to know what your ideal response would be from someone you had told about your anxiety? Maybe another post in the making? Many thanks for helping to open up the anxiety debate!

  5. Great post 🙂 I have just qualified as a primary school teacher and having suffered with anxiety myself and seeing what small things can make a huge difference, i cannot wait to have more say in the well being of the children in my class and to try to pass some helpful skills on to them to help them look after themselves. We have a great wellbeing team in my school but I would still place it way up high in the importance of lifeskills we need to pass on to children growing up. I’ll let you know how it goes. 🙂

  6. Everyone suffers from anxiety and/or depression to some extent at some point in their life. I think the difference usually comes down to those who are willing to admit their issues and do something about them, and those who mask them for fear of being stigmatised for showing ‘weakness’. Being able to admit your weaknesses is one of the greatest strengths a person can have if you ask me (not that you did). I say don’t waste a single minute of your life trying to be ‘normal’ and spend every single minute of your life being true to yourself!

  7. I can 100% relate to this post. Something I have realised through trying to talk to friends/acquaintances about my anxiety and depression is that most people really don’t want to talk about it! It is the hardest thing to grasp if you have never experienced a mental health issue and it can make people feel really uncomfortable. I have had friends say in the past ‘can we talk about something happy now!’. I think we need to be really picky about choosing the people we share our anxiety issues with as a way of caring for ourselves. It can leave you feeling rejected and hurt which is the worst for people with social anxiety. People who are really dismissive and don’t appreciate your openness are the wrong people to speak to. Everyone’s different and I think tailoring your conversations to reflect this isn’t actually a bad thing. Having mental health education in schools is a great idea and would go a long way to address this problem.

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