Lately, I have been thinking about what it looks like when someone experiences mostly invisible illnesses, like anxiety and depression, and feels suicidal. Depression and anxiety are not always visible. People have expressed to me their surprise that I have dealt with chronic anxiety for a long time. But it's true, and I guess at some point I became really good at always acting like everything was fine. (Note: this post contains a trigger warning.)
Stigma of Mental Illness
Without acceptance as part of our anxiety treatment, the number of ways to treat anxiety, including meditation, medication, repetitive activities, and cognitive behavioral therapy won't work well. We are all different and experience anxiety in different ways. This means each anxiety management method has its own pros and cons for each of us, yet no anxiety treatment can be completely effective without one key ingredient: Acceptance.
Disclosing an anxiety disorder matters, because a lot of people feel they don’t. And you should tell the people that matter to you, the people that form the everyday backbone of your relationships, whether that's in the form of colleagues or more intimate members of family or friendship circles. Tell them because choosing not to takes something away from those relationships, because an anxiety disorder is a significant part of your life and some of the healing comes in accepting that.
You don't look sick! No, I don't. It shouldn't be an accusation, either. One of the worst parts of having an anxiety disorder, or any other invisible illness, is how hard it is to explain to someone when they don't have the first notion. It becomes almost a routine battle, feeling sick on the inside while knowing the world thinks you look fine.
Feel free to question my emotional competence but I'm not insane. For that matter, most people with mental illness are not insane. This may be obvious but for many it's not. Anyway, how many times have you thought, 'oh goodness, I must be really losing it this time' during the course of mental health difficulties? It's a common concern that can dramatically increase the amount of anxiety a person experiences. It may also inhibit their ability to trust, and to ask for help.
On acceptance, anxiety and guilt Life with mental illness isn't always fun. Not just because I have a real illness, and that real illness really does affect my life but because some folks have trouble accepting this. I'm not entirely sure why except they don't like the thought that someone with mental illness can "zomg, look just like them," and still be quite unwell. That's the thing about invisible illness: Once revealed, people around you may feel conned, manipulated, lied to. Even though you've done nothing wrong. Yeah, I'm guilty of being unwell in the general vicinity, of having mental health issues and having a life anyway. Sorry about that. Next time I'll wear my "mentally interesting" t-shirt so you can detect the crazy, before it gets in your Coke. *passes the tin-foil hat*
Anxiety and panic are so overwhelming, that even when you know anxiety isn't the only thing you're feeling, you can't name what those other things might be. You can't pinpoint them, and you certainly can't get to them, hold onto them, or catch them as well as you catch anxiety. Long story short: there's a profound difference between feeling overwhelming panic and feeling okay. And you can't cure panic or anxiety by thinking your way to okay.
On new habits, chocolate, and not always taking the blame I'm treating anxiety with copious amounts of Maltesers, and Greens&Blacks. Probably isn't going to help me relax (such as that ever happens) but it makes me feel better about the parts where I sulk and procrastinate because I have deadlines, and everyone else has a long weekend. Anyway, onto the topic du jour: Is 'my best' enough to stop anxiety -and what is emotional competence, exactly?
What do you do if you feel stuck, helpless, hopeless, trapped, or in a crisis state? What happens when the help you get isn't enough, isn't good enough, or just isn't available at that time? Why is treating anxiety often hit-and-miss? Why can't they cure it? Treating anxiety: Life is more than a 50-minute slot
Treating anxiety and my self-worth walk the same path, as much as I hate to admit it. When it comes to anxiety and panic - I don't want to see it. I don't want to feel it. I do want to fight it, and I do want to help, or at least find the kind of help that helps. But that is far, far easier said than done. When the way I'm treating anxiety fails, my self-worth falters, too.