There’s a huge stigma around anxiety disorders, through uneducated people making the assumption that the term refers to just feeling a bit anxious or shy. I’ve heard it all! ‘We all get anxious it’s not a mental disorder’. Yeah, we go all get anxious because anxiety is a human emotion we all go through when something uneasy happens or we are worried. But, anxiety disorders are a state of mind that takes over my own and millions of lives. The stigma around anxiety disorders is a bit of a joke, with so many people suffering but no one believing it’s a true problem.
There’s a big difference between feeling anxious and having an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders relate to OCD, PTSD and social anxiety. Many don’t realise this, thinking that when someone says the word anxiety they’re referring to some vague feeling of being worried. That’s a load of shit to be honest because anxiety disorders are very real and are ruining lives already without people stigmatising them and claiming they’re not real. Try telling the suffering ex-soldier who experiences daily struggles of PTSD flashbacks that anxiety disorders aren’t real, because they’re definitely real to him. While it’s all too easy to self diagnose with anxiety disorders, people really need to understand the difference between feeling anxious and having an anxiety disorder.
I have Panic Disorder and have experience with PTSD. Although not as bad now, panic attacks took over my life at one point where I couldn’t really leave the house without it being a huge deal. My panic disorder came out of no where initially, suspected to have been brought on through the lifestyle I was living and a particular traumatic event which I witnessed (which I won’t talk about, I just want to outline what can bring on panic disorder). It started with one panic attack when I was out with friends, I had never experienced a panic attack in my life before I genuinely thought I was dying. The best way I can explain panic attacks is the feeling when you’re falling, that flutter you get in your chest of worry and your whole body shocks. It’s that feeling over and over and you can’t think about anything other than panic. The whole world stops around you and you can’t even channel in one what’s going on around you. The first time this happens is absolutely terrifying especially when you’re just out socialising, I thought I’d been spiked or something it didn’t feel natural. But not I know what it is, what triggers it and how I can work through them – I’m in control again.
Although I’ve kind of learned to laugh about it now (it’s how I deal with it) I was absolutely terrified at the time. It literally came out of no where, there’s nothing that provoked me or worried me for it to happen I just had a full on break down in public and i probably looked crazy. It happened once and didn’t happen for a while after that, I pushed it to the back of my mind and tried to forget. Big mistake really because after that, panic attacks came almost regular. They came hand-in-hand with social situations and being out in public, where if I was walking outside on my own I was constantly on edge about having a panic attack. For so long I dreaded to leave the house because even the idea of someone just looking at me would send my heart racing into panic.
I don’t have them much anymore because I identified why I started having them, I can date back to the exact time and event which triggered this chain of events. The truth is, mental disorders start from somewhere. We aren’t born with anxiety disorders. At some point we pick up these issues and problems and they only worsen when we ignore them. When I ignored that first panic attack I was doing the worst possible thing, I carried on what I was doing before my body said it was enough and starting putting me through panic attacks regularly. You can’t ignore things like this or they’ll just make your life hell. I rarely have panic attacks now in fact I haven’t had one in ages because I learnt to deal with it and I know now what was going wrong. My first panic attack I had an absolute melt down and people were literally staring at me like I was crazy, now I can feel if ones coming and I could not look calmer. Anxiety disorders are shit because they’re so difficult to over come, we kind of just have to learn to live with them and the horrible stuff that comes with it for a while because the process to completely over come them is just so long. But that’s exactly what I do now, even me writing this and labelling my disorder is a massive deal to me because I’ve finally accepted it as a problem rather than just me being a weirdo.
Living With Anxiety
Although I say I am on top of things now and I am on my way to a less anxious mind, of course I still have bad days. I’ve learnt to live with Anxiety as part of me now and I know it’s not going to go anywhere in a hurry. It still ruins my life daily but I won’t let it control me anymore, I let people in on it and I can (try to) explain to them why I act certain ways or what I’m feeling, rather than just ignoring it and allowing people to think I’m a full blown weirdo.
Daily, I have intrusive anxious thoughts. If someone says hello to me a little different I think they hate me, if someone looks at me for even a millisecond I assume they think I’m ugly and god forbid if someone says something to me in a negative way I think the world has ended. Intrusive anxious thoughts can go beyond this though, they are evil. They can almost talk you into dark places and make you feel worthless. Constantly I tell myself I’m not good enough or I’ll never be able to do something. No body could possibly put me down or insult me the way my own mind does. It’s not normal how much I critique myself and how many negative things I tell myself in a day. I literally convinced myself that my family and friends hated me and didn’t care about me at one point.
It really annoys me how much panic disorder has changed and taken over my life. Things I used to love doing have been taken away from me because I can’t face being in a crowded place or being around certain people, or I can’t drink alcohol because I know my mindset won’t agree with it at the time and I’ll have a panic attack. Battling anxiety and panic attacks can be so exhausting because you have a heightened worry about everything already and then you need to worry about when a panic attack is going to occur.
What it Looks Like
The truth is, you can’t see these types of disorders. I look like a normal person fine with life when I’m freaking out inside my head trying to fight off a panic attack. I might be quiet sometimes, but that’s part of my personality and not my anxiety disorders. Anxiety can affect anyone. It doesn’t matter who they are or what their personality is like. These disorders can be triggered so easily; I know that now after identifying where mine began. One night and one event and panic attacks crept into my life, it’s bizarre to me how it happened but it did and I now have to deal with it. It’s so important to deal with it and not let it ruin your life even more.
That’s why it’s so important to just be nice to people. One person looking at me the wrong way or saying something to me could have sent me over the edge when I was struggling with panic disorder the most. It’s impossible to see what someone is going through so just be kind. When people hear the word panic disorders they probably picture me running around screaming my head off when now, I look normal when I’m having an attack. They’re everywhere. I was so shocked at how many people I knew had panic attacks and anxiety disorders, it’s knowing this that gave me the confidence to talk about it which has helped me so much in terms of recovering and getting better. Writing about it lifts a weight off my back and helps solidify it into my brain that it is only a disorder and I’m not messed up. So many people feel the same so I don’t need to isolate myself anymore. I’m so lucky to have the friends I do because I can talk to them about it and can relate to them about it because we go through similar situations, it’s the conversations about mental health and how we are all doing that I enjoy the most. I hate small talk and talking about pointless things I want to know what’s going on in people’s minds and lives, I love to see people talking about it because i know how much it opens doors to a better life.
Be Nice, Be Considerate
The reason i wrote this was to point out the difference between anxiety and anxiety disorders. If I open at least one person’s eyes on what it’s like to struggle with anxiety disorders then that is incredible to me. I’m sick of hearing people say that they’re not real. When you’ve struggled daily and went to hell and back on your own, can you imagine someone openly saying that what you’re feeling doesn’t exist and you’re lying? For ages I thought I was just weird because I didn’t think anxiety disorders were real. They are and they ruin lives. But there is a way out and how we feel is temporary and is not weird. There’s reasons behind every feeling and once you educate yourself on it and find a way out, life is so much better. I have a long way to go but where I am now compared to the past year is amazing and I am so proud of myself. To some people walking to the shop or going to the gym is normal and you wouldn’t even think twice. To me and many others it’s a massive challenge when our mind is fighting against us every single day telling us we’re not good enough and we shouldn’t get out of bed in the morning. Anyone who can live life through this is stronger than you could ever imagine and we should all be proud.
I don’t care if you’ve never experienced this before, you could one day. I was so ignorant to mental health issues until it happened to me. I didn’t expect it and it creeped up quicker than you could imagine, it took over my life and nearly ruined it. Everyone needs to educate themselves on it and realise it’s happening and it always will happen. Ignoring awareness and not informing yourself on it will only make it scarier if you experience any of it. Open your eyes, understand that everyone has demons and start realising that not everything is what it seems. But if it does, never think that you’re weird and never think you don’t have a way out. Because you’re perfectly normal and it does get better.
-Beauty by Disaster x