14 Things Only Girls With Anxiety Will Understand

Dear Cosmopolitan,

I’ve just seen your post, from May 2016 (sorry I’m late), titled ’14 Things Only Girls With Anxiety Will Understand’. First of all, congratulations on your choice of cute, pastel coloured medication as illustration. It completely and entirely sums up what being on medication for anxiety is all about. As someone who is lucky enough to actually experience anti-anxiety medication, I can tell you that, before your symptoms have actually abated even slightly, you will have gone through constant sleeping; being unable to stop yourself clenching your jaw; feeling sick; feeling hungry; feeling full; feeling more anxious; crying and, probably, some more sleeping. And I don’t just mean at night. I mean all day, every day.  So, yeah, your macaroon themed tablets give a real insight into what girls with anxiety experience.

What I’m not saying is that people with Anxiety will never experience anything from the list. What I am saying is that Anxiety is an illness, not something to write a list about.

  1. “How annoying it is when people tell you to “stop worrying about it.”” You seem to think that ‘anxiety’ and ‘worrying’ are synonymous. They are not. Feeling anxious is probably fairly similar to worrying, but Anxiety (with a capital ‘A’ because it’s a real illness you know…) is more about feeling despair and fear in the back of your throat and the pit of your stomach continuously. Anxiety (yeah, capital ‘A’) doesn’t give you the time to worry.
  2. “”Maybe” is the worst word in the English language.” Don’t worry about making specific plans with me because I’ll probably be asleep.
  3. “How loosely people use the word “panic attack.”” Panic attacks. That’s another post entirely. They’re more common with a diagnosis of Anxiety, but they’re a physiological symptom of their own. You can have a panic attack because you’ve taken drugs, or something particularly distressing has happened. Neither of these will give you a clinical diagnosis of Anxiety.
  4.  “Waking up in the middle of the night and not falling back asleep because your brain is a spinning wheel of anxiety.” You don’t wake up in the middle of the night. You’re drugged. And if you’re not, you’re probably not going to sleep anyway because you will have endless energy. Because Anxiety is not about worrying; it is about chemical changes in. your. brain.
  5. ‘You get anxiety about the tiniest of things’. No. That is feeling anxious. Some people are anxious people; that does not mean that they have anxiety. The majority of people with Anxiety whom I have known actually aren’t bothered by the tiny things because there are at least a million bigger things.
  6. “You can’t stand being late or early” Oh, please. I can’t even be bothered.
  7. “If you ever have to cancel plans, you’re afraid everyone will hate you.” If you make plans in the first place, you’re doing flipping well.
  8. “When your anxiety is in full-throttle and you just shut down.” When your Anxiety is the same every day because it is an actual illness and you get on with your life because, you know, this is just how it is.
  9. “You have anxious ticks you don’t even notice.” OK, to be fair, this one’s probably fairly accurate. Love from someone who plays with their face. Yeah, that’s a thing. It is spelt ‘tics’ though.
  10. “When too many people are trying to communicate with you at once, your brain feels like it’s about to explode.” Isn’t this just a normal thing? Humans are designed to communicate with one person at once. That’s how brains work.
  11. “On the flip side, when no one’s texting you back, it’s definitely because they all hate you.” You are a lone planet, floating through nothingness and despair. But people haven’t texted back so, you know…
  12. “That sporadic anxiety crying.” No.
  13. “Those terrible anxiety stomachaches.” Again, no. This is called feeling anxious. It is normal and functional and part of a response to feelings of worry.
  14. “You freak out if there’s no order in your life.” If you’ve got Anxiety with a capital ‘A’, it’s very unlikely there’s any order in your life at all. It’s more likely that you’re trapped somewhere, trying to find the energy to get out of bed in the morning.

I’ve done a quick search, and there isn’t a similar list for Things Girls with Diabetes Will Understand. I wonder why?

It’s World Mental Health Day on the 10th October. Maybe, instead of raising awareness of what it’s like to feel anxious (thus leading hundreds of people to believe they are suffering from something rather than experiencing something), we should think about how to spread the word that Anxiety (and other mental illnesses) are not a fad, or quirky, or a part of your personality, any more than having vomiting and diarrhoea is who you are.

People are trapped by anxiety: it is hell. Please don’t trivialise it by confusing an emotion with an illness. Anxiety is a physiological illness for which people need real and serious help. It is not cute. It is not something you can self-diagnose from a page-long article in a magazine.

Yours,

Me.

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