I am not ashamed of my mental health. I don’t feel like I need to hide it. I actually enjoy advocating for more honesty about our experiences, so we can all understand each other a little better. Although, admittedly, unless someone initiates the conversation I don’t usually feel the need nor completely comfortable with opening up about my MH. That comes down to stigma, judgement and stereotypes.
While my anxiety doesn’t define me, and some days it’s nowhere to be found, I can’t pretend it’s not a small part of who I am – – a part I can continue to manage but still need to accept.
Not every day is going to be a good one, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t appreciate each day. At the end of it all, you are alive and breathing.
From the outside it’s easy to think that somebody’s got it all figured out. Because my hair is done and my cheeks are intentionally flushed – I must not have a care in the world. As if it were expected for my demons to be worn like a scarlet letter pinned to my chest, they assume if you cannot see it then it’s not really there. As if pain does not exist unless you’re bleeding or slung in a cast or staggering with a limp. But sometimes the most painful demons are the ones they can’t even see.
What does anxiety look like for me? The tricky thing about anxiety is that it can often sneak up on a person in the form of physical symptoms before the mind can catch up with it. A racing pulse, stomach aches and insomnia have all been friends of mine followed by, irrational ideas of me or someone I love dying, emotional breakdowns, and in extreme circumstances, panic attacks.
Anxiety almost never speaks the truth.
Over time, I’ve learned coping strategies to help me deal with the things above, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t still affect me. For example, if I go on the motorway I’ll still be gripping the wheel and holding my breath, praying I get off at the correct exit.
Anxiety can’t be cured but there’s a lot we can do to overcome it. One thing I have learned this year is that it’s okay to ask for help.
If someone asked me if I could take my anxiety away, would I? Absolutely. But that doesn’t mean I don’t recognise how much it makes me a fighter.