I have some great friends, I’m very lucky. Some of those friends are especially great though as we have a kindred state of mind, we’re in the same gang; we are warriors of worry. To suffer from panic, anxiety, sadness and fear is an isolating head space to be in and to have true friends who genuinely understand what’s inside your head – because it’s going on in theirs too – is immeasurably important. It instills a support, one you know you can fall back on when you most need it. My beautiful friend Louise wrote some brilliant words about her anxiety and I want to let everyone see it, it’s a very valid description of the suffering, and, more importantly, a genuine reassurance that we’re not as alone as we fear with these crippling thoughts. Thanks Lou for letting me share.
“Anxiety disorders can be crippling and socially destructive. I personally like to refer to mine as Messy Head Syndrome. Somehow that makes it feel a little more friendly. Now just to clarify, I’m not talking about ‘I’m a little bit jittery and I don’t really like that’ anxiety, but the ‘I feel like I might die or even worse still, scream in public’ kind of anxiety. Causing a scene is probably something I dread the most. The anxiety I’m talking about is the ‘heart racing so much that my vision is blurring’, the ‘shaking so much that I can’t walk properly’, the ‘rooted to the spot, frozen with fear’ kind of anxiety. This is fight or flight gone truly rogue. There aren’t a hundred tigers chasing us, we’re simply going down an escalator, I don’t even have a problem with escalators, but my body has this scenario all screwed up.
If you tell people that you are feeling anxious, nine times out of ten they will say, “Why? What are you worrying about?” My friends, if I could answer that, I could have solved my problems a long time ago.
For anyone who suffers with this, free floating anxiety and panic disorder are not figments of our imagination. There is very often no logical reason as to why we are sweating and palpitating, but chances are, if we have an ‘episode’ in Gap on a Tuesday lunchtime, we will, by our strange powers of association, start to dread the thought of going in again the following day or week. And thus a cycle has formed. A high street, fashion retail fear has developed, which has absolutely nothing to do with the price of jeans or the terrifying, US style sizing.
And the trouble is, we can no more snap out of it than someone with a broken leg can get up and run a half marathon. The stigma still attached to mental health disorders is deep rooted, so much so that many people won’t even admit their problems to their loved ones. It might very well be awkward and hard work to be friends with a sufferer, but believe me when I say, it is nowhere near as bad as being the one in the eye of the storm.
The Doctors tell us to eliminate stress from our lives as if they live on a different planet. We are living in the age of neuroses; stress is the precipice our very existence is teetering on. We are natural born worriers, pretty much developing complexes in the womb. Social media makes us feel like we are losing at life and that the only way to get better at it is to post our lunch on Instagram and hashtag ourselves into oblivion. To essentially lie about who we really are and to only ever show the edited highlights of a life which is being lived for the approval of others. This isn’t living, this is cheating. It is little wonder that these types of anxiety state conditions are on the rise. No one feels good enough, even the ones that are posting their enviable lives are probably crying into their iPhones over someone else’s more enviable life. It’s rotten to the very core. We have lost our way dear people.
If we, the 21st century anxious, are going to heal ourselves, then of course it has to come from within, but we also must feel understood and supported.
So the next time someone tells you they feel anxious, scared or panicky, don’t ask them why. Simply give them a hug and ask them what you can do to help them on their journey to recovery.”