Trigger Warning: Anxiety, Anxiety Attacks
Conversations around mental health are tough, there is a lot of stigma around it and it’s more than just unfortunate at this point. Most of us, including me, carry around a lot of guilt of having to go through every day with a condition like anxiety. I strongly believe, as uncomfortable as conversations about it might be, uncomfortable conversations are important. It is what leads to unlearning and change. There is no growth without uncomfortable conversations.
I have lived with anxiety for half my life and it’s been exhausting, to say the least. As a teenager, everyone brushed it off as “excessive stress” or “you are just a dramatic kid”. There was hardly any awareness growing up, anxiety was not a term in my dictionary.
Yes, we are aware that sometimes our thoughts are irrational and sometimes they are not. We are also aware that it might not be convenient for people around us. But here’s the thing, we can’t switch on and off, because if we could, believe me, we would always have it off.
Anxiety is not just “worrying”. It’s more than that. Can you think of a time you thought you were in danger? Your body clenches up, it goes through steps to ensure it can protect itself, your chest tightens, your brain starts going into stress mode preparing you for this battle. Now imagine feeling like that for no reason sometimes. The body and mind are reacting to an invisible but very real threat. We are hyper-aware of our surroundings and our own senses. It is constant overthinking. It’s feeling completely disconnected by everything around us. It’s having thoughts that make you question everything and anything, makes you question who you are. It’s a very isolating feeling.
At our most anxious moments, We feel breathless, we have stomach aches, chest aches, terrible migraines, there is memory loss on some level intertwined in all this, to an extent of blocking out memories. We feel dizzy and our bodies sometimes get numb, we become very sensitive to light and noise and these symptoms could differ or be more accelerated person to person. Everything’s blurry, everything’s too much, everything’s too overwhelming. We are aware it could be confusing for people who love us, honestly, it is very confusing for us too. Which is why, as hard as it may be, it is very important for us to recognise our triggers and make sure our loved ones are in the loop. This is why trigger warnings are insanely important. When you understand your triggers, not just what the trigger was but the whys of your triggers, it’s easier to reason with irrational thoughts. When you find out the source of the trigger it’s easier to address your emotions.
Last year, I took the conscious choice to seek therapy after dealing with anxiety for more than 10 years, and while I understand and recognise that I was in a position of privilege to be able to have access to help, and I’m very grateful, I will say with full confidence that therapy is one among the best investments I have made in life. It helped me understand my triggers, my emotions, me a little better. It helped me start this long journey of healing. Therapy is overwhelming, hard, and a long path to healing. Therapy is taking the good, the bad, the in-between of all of your experiences and trauma, dusting off each piece, analysing every layer of it. It is not a magical cure, there are no right answers. But when you see progress, it is absolutely rewarding. It took a long long time, effort, energy, tears, and self-reflection for me to reach here today, it took a long time for my close ones to understand my anxiety patterns and the severity of this condition I live with.
Understanding someone with anxiety means understanding that they can’t make sense of certain things themselves. Understanding someone with anxiety means learning to listen, learning to ask “how can I help?”. It’s accepting them and helping them accept themselves. If you are a parent, next time your kid comes and tells you “I have a stomach ache” don’t just rule it off as bad food that morning, please ask them how they’re feeling. Next time a friend or partner or family member confides in you and talks about mental health, don’t dismiss it, don’t ask them to “chill”, learn to say “I’m here for you.”
There are always good days, when we take a walk, we meditate, we exercise, we are productive, we laugh over chai and drifting conversations into the sea with our loved ones and then there are also days, we don’t have the energy to leave our bed, to eat, to shower, to breathe. We feel sick and everything is painful. There is a demon in our head that is not real and it keeps pulling us into this black hole, like a dementor sucking the life out of us on our worst days. It’s an endless tug of war and sometimes your anxiety overpowers. It drowns you with your own thoughts, it’s a hard battle, and getting back up after a harsh episode is draining.
We need to remember that there is so much more waiting for you on the other side of your anxiety.
You are not your anxiety.
Your anxiety is just a part of you.
Every day is a battle, one that we are involved in not by choice, but out of necessity.
I was a guest on the latest episode of The Sheeples podcast where we spoke about anxiety and the effects it has on us. These conversations, while heavy and at times uncomfortable, are what truly help us grow. Do give it a listen!
Link to the pod: http://bit.ly/how-anxiety-affects-us
This was Varshini Raaj signing out!