Anxiety. You know it well. That bitch of a disorder that many of us are all too familiar with and feel we can’t really talk about.
Why? Judgement, fear, perception. It’s an invisible condition so it mustn’t be real. You’re just a drama queen/king. Well, people that have never suffered anxiety will probably see it this way and I’m sure you’ve been on the receiving end of this if you’ve experienced anxiety.
Friendships, family, work, thoughts, social media. They’re all triggers and sometimes nothing triggers it at all because anxiety is an irrational bitch that can strike at any time without warning. That’s how she rolls.
You’re feeling good when you wake up. You get ready for work, get in your car, and all of a sudden as you’re sitting in traffic, you feel like Dumbo the elephant is sitting on your chest and although he’s adorable, you want him to get the fuck off, so you can breathe again.
You have 47 Facebook notifications on your phone and you’re certain there’s an email in your inbox telling you that your phone bill is going to be $1000 this month. What happened between leaving the comfort of your home, to getting in your car and functioning as part of society? You’re trying really hard to understand why this came on very suddenly. Did someone piss you off because they were going 14.2 kilometres below the speed limit? Of course they did, you live in Sydney, after all. That’s probably not anxiety, just good old fashioned road rage; or maybe you feel anxious because you have this feeling of certainty that you left your back door open or your stove on all day. The picture is forming in your head and you start gulping. All of a sudden, your house has burst into flames, Lethal Weapon style, while you’re busy at work, recommending lipstick to someone looking for the perfect beige pink shade and because you take your job seriously, your house will just have to wait.
Kudos to you, you’re a star employee and you should be proud. At least that’s how your boss would see it in most cases, but if you have a sore throat, you’ll be sent home to take it easy because everyone gets those so you need to rest up you silly goose and don’t even think about work, please. Now, if you feel unwell tomorrow then stay in bed, that’s an order.
That, right there, is what’s wrong with the world’s perception of anxiety.
A visible illness or one that we’ve all encountered seems real and relatable. Anxiety, however, is not something you see and because it’s invisible it must not be real but a throat filled with nasty microbes is something we all experience, so you’re more likely to be cut some slack.
Funny thing is, even people that suffer it themselves are not great at empathising and that’s probably because they’re consumed by their own anxiety. We’ve all been that self-absorbed arse, haven’t we?
Having had anxiety since I was a golden haired little cherub, I know that many of us experience these feelings and perceptions daily. Yes, these fears sound ridiculous when you actually repeat them to yourself, but recognising how to cope with them is what many of us are not great at, whether you suffer from it yourself or are around people that do.
Why are we so quick to judge people who say they feel anxious about something that’s trivial to us? Why are we quick to minimise someone else’s very real and valid fear? The truth is that most of us are self-centered creatures. We’re not good at listening to other people about their problems because our attention span is somewhat short, especially if we can’t really relate to what they’re saying or we’ve been tagged on Facebook and heard the ‘ping’ on our phone.
If I feel any of the above feelings, I have my own coping mechanisms that work well for me and recognising what works to keep you calm is the key to getting through your anxiety for that moment, day, week or however long you feel like it’s consuming you. This is simply my opinion from my own experience (I’m no doctor, okay? Except when it comes to lipstick- because dissecting their many benefits is something I am an expert at).
Exercise, diet, and having all my devices turned off for at least one day per week is how I cope and it makes a big difference. For others it’s listening to a CD compilation of owl noises or playing Xbox for 4 hours a day, shooting dragons and big slimy aliens. For others, it’s stuff that probably isn’t physically good for you and recognising that is also important.
I don’t know about you, but I personally find that with everything that’s going on in this thing called life, having to worry about responding to someone tagging me in a meme comparing me to a chicken nugget is a waste of energy I would rather save for something more important. I choose instead when to engage and I don’t feel bad about it. I will engage, however, if it’s comparing me to Wonder Woman because she’s hot, and has monstrous strength.
With social media now being a big part of our lives, people automatically expect you to be more available too, which adds to our anxiety. If we don’t respond within a certain time frame, our friends think that there’s something wrong with us. When social media didn’t exist, such assumptions would never have been made and you never felt like you were always letting someone down or keeping someone waiting.
After pondering all of the above, I feel it’s safe to say, that spending more time doing things that make you smile is a step in the right direction. So is taking a minute to listen to others who just need to get stuff off their chest. I won’t tell you to stop worrying or sweating the small stuff because that’s part and parcel of this bitch called anxiety, and we all know that bitches sometimes can’t be reasoned with.
Hey! You know what? I think I even saw a Facebook meme about that somewhere.
If you need help or someone to talk to Call Lifeline 13 11 14