Like with “The Friendship Breakup” and “Why I Didn’t Report“, I’m going to be answering commonly asked questions that chronically ill people often receive because people seem to think that we “don’t want to get better”, or that we aren’t doing everything in our power to get better, because there seems to be a large portion of people that assume if you’re sick, it’s a choice.
This series will be filled with help, tips, advice, and just general information, to help both people who are suffering from a chronic illness, as well as hopefully provide information and support for carers, families and loved ones who have to support a person who is chronically ill.
These posts will also tie into the Mindful Journey posts (Broken Shards of a Shattered Dream). As always, there will be a list of mental health and physical health services at the bottom, and you are always welcome to contact me.
I think, on some level, I have always suffered from minor anxiety. However, as I’ve mentioned before, due to a bout of unfortunate circumstances, I ended up with clinical depression and a severe anxiety disorder, although I don’t know if that’s still the same, as I was more recently diagnosed with PTSD.
Anxiety, on any level, is not an easy cross to bear. I’m sure you’ve all experienced it on a minor level: Confronting your crush and your heart is on fire, waiting for their response. Preparing for an exam you aren’t sure you can pass. Going for your driver’s license – you know you can drive well, but the moment someone said ‘test’, your palms started sweating.
Anxiety plagues everyone – usually, for most, in fleeting, minor doses, something that is good and healthy.
However, for those like me, anxiety is neither fleeting nor minor.
Here are five ways anxiety is worse than you think.
5) Basic Tasks Are Harder to Complete Than You’d Think
For me, sometimes leaving the house is a struggle. For some reason, I’ve come to fear the grocery store. I don’t know why, but I find it hard, if not impossible, to go – instead I have my groceries delivered (yay for the 21st century and first world problems!).
The only connection I can make (in regards to my fear) to grocery shopping is that once an ex-friend verbally attacked me whilst I was shopping. Despite no longer living in the same town, it wasn’t the first time I was attacked whilst out in a public area. Perhaps the grocery store has just become a conditioned response. I don’t know, and I don’t want to make that the point or focus.
Regardless, my point is that seemingly simple, every-day tasks, can be so much harder to perform than you think, and can extremely debiliating. It’s incredibly easy to say, “Just go to the grocery store”, but it’s very different if your body is acting like leaving the house is tantamount to dying (a feeling that tends to happen when you suffer from panic attacks).
For those that don’t have an anxiety disorder, imagine the most anxiety-ridden moment you’ve ever faced. The clenching in your stomach as you fear the unknown; the increase in your heart rate that makes you feel as though your last breath is being stolen from your body; the overwhelming desire to be sick or to faint (or both).
That’s just the beginning of how it feels to complete some of the most basic every day when you suffer from a severe anxiety disorder.
Imagine feeling like that – and worse – every single day.
Does going to the grocery store sound as easy when you put it like that? Because that’s the reality of what people with extreme anxiety disorders are faced with. Things that you might not think twice about, things that you can’t understand how or why they’re a problem – they’re like a tornado ripping through someone else’s life.
4) You Want To Be With Friends … At The Same Time You Want To Be Alone
I can’t tell you how many times I simultaneously want to go out with friends … and be left alone.
At the exact same time.
I want my friends to come to my house, because in my mind my house is ‘safe’.
Yet, at the same time, I hate it because I can’t fudge some excuse about wanting to leave early when everything becomes too much.
I get it. It’s confusing.
But imagine how confusing it is for the people that actually feel this way and can’t understand why. Imagine what it’s like to be lost, afraid, alone.
Imagine what it’s like to be unsure. You definitely want to hang out with your friends, but because you have an anxiety disorder, you’re also wondering if you have any friends. And as soon as that thought enters the mind of a person with an anxiety disorder, it tends to spiral.
If you cancel, will people forgive you?
If you go, but you’re too scared to speak, will you get invited back?
What if you make a fool of yourself?
Say the wrong thing?
These thoughts go round and round and round, spiraling further and further, making it terrifying for the person with the anxiety disorder who’s wondering if they’re going to be abandoned by loved ones, while simultaneously draining people around them, because it can be tiring and difficult to reassure someone whose brain is playing tricks on them.
3) But What If People Don’t Like Me?
One of the biggest fears that I have is that my anxiety will have a negative impact on my friendships. Like I said in Five Ways Being Chronically Ill Is Worse Than You Think, I’ve already lost people I assumed were good friends – some of which I loved dearly.
As a result, in the past, I was often scared to speak out, especially since learning just how deeply some of those betrayals went. After all, what if I’m judged the way I was before? Will people view me differently? Will they judge me when they discover I struggle to go the store – let alone anything else?
Will I lose even more friends?
I’ve had some amazing people stand by me. Some of the people who abandoned me surprised me just as much as those that stayed.
Regardless, it makes you question everything and everyone.
If you’re the person on the receiving end, try not to take it to heart. It’s the anxiety speaking, not necessarily the person. Try and remind the person that you love them, and try and work out a code that you can share with that person, because you need downtime too, and it’s not your responsibility to make the person you love feel loved 100% of the time. Just try and focus on what you can do to change the situation: Is the person’s questions reasonable? Are you, in any way, contributing to that person’s anxiety and pain, and if so, how? If you aren’t, what is a kind way to remind the person that while what they’re feeling is very real and very valid, that doesn’t give them the right to take whatever they are feeling out on you. And lastly, is there anything you can do to help the person or the situation?
These are great mindful questions that can be asked, to help you assess how to move forward.
2) Panic Attacks
Panic attacks are very real, and very serious.
However, it’s important to remember that panic attacks are different for everyone, and manifest differently – not just for unique individuals, but even in the same person, at different times, reacting to different situations or events.
Sometimes I sit and cry and struggle to breathe so much I literally vomit – the type of panic attacks you commonly see on TV and in movies.
Sometimes I stop talking. Literally. I make no sounds, no noises. I go blank. I can barely hear if someone is talk to me. I don’t respond. I go completely numb.
Panic attacks are different for everyone, and can strike at any time, for any reason\
1) People Judge What They Don’t Understand
People will judge you. Even the sincerest and most meaningful people will judge you at different times – even if they’re incredibly supportive and they’re trying their hardest. It’s a harsh fact but people have a tendency judge what they don’t understand.
This also includes people who have anxiety, or have had anxiety (more the latter than the former).
When people overcome something as serious as an anxiety disorder, they sometimes have a tendency to naturally want to help by telling others how to overcome theirs. Sometimes, during this process, they become so determined to help that they forget how hard it was themselves, or that everyone is different, and the reasons behind their anxiety disorder aren’t the same as the reasons behind your anxiety disorder.
The reason behind a person’s anxiety is different for everyone.
Some people have reasons.
Some people have triggers.
Some people don’t.
It’s important to understand – even when you don’t actually understand – that anxiety and overcoming anxiety isn’t easy. The process is different for everyone.
For some, medication and/or therapy works.
For others, they swear by a change in diet and exercise.
For a few, nothing really seems to work, and they have to take everything day by day.
If you’ve overcome your anxiety disorder, I’m incredibly happy for you. I’m also open to suggestions, though I’ve found practicing mindfulness to be incredibly helpful and beneficial for me, even though I’m certain I rolled my eyes at the idea the first time it was mentioned to me (it seems exactly like the type of thing I’d do).
But you also need to be open to the fact that what worked for a few doesn’t mean it works for everyone.
And, more importantly, if you don’t suffer from anxiety, try not to judge what you don’t understand. Try to remember how scary and overwhelming everything must be to that person, and to try and find a solution that works between you and your loved one who is suffering. However, please remember that you can bring a horse to water, but you can’t force it to drink, so as carers and loved ones, please don’t let someone deplete your emotional reserves. It’s important you take care of yourself as well, and if you need to, make sure you set healthy boundaries that are fair on both of you.
In Emergencies: 000
Lifeline Australia: 13 11 14
MensLine Australia: 1300 78 99 78
13 HEALTH (QLD)