A Change of Heart
I’ve been writing this post on and off for so long that it’s ancient, it’s verging on being an artefact, all my paperwork and post it notes are tinged yellow with age and the coffee stains don’t even smell like coffee anymore. (Disgust-eng).
So, I had a change of heart, I’ve been drafting and screwing up papers whilst trying to think about the title and I’ve decided against putting the word anxiety in the title because even today, people are still confused and freaked out by it. But then I thought, no. People need to hear this.
When I first wrote this draft, I was, ironically, anxious. I’ve always had a love for writing, I write everything down - I’m nearly 21 years of age and I still write a diary every night, I have a log book with a weekly planner in, and if I‘m ever really angry with someone, I genuinely write them a letter explaining my frustrations so they know that I’m really, really mad. (Weird, I know). I was just scared to put this out, because people are so cruel when people try to open up about their mental health.
This post is about anxiety. Straight up.
But, this post isn’t written for people who suffer with anxiety, this post is for people who don’t suffer with it, or just haven’t been diagnosed with it, (as I’m a believer this day in age especially, that everyone has experienced anxiety in some shape and form). And I am aware there are so many important mental health issues that need to be addressed, but because anxiety is something I suffer with first handedly, I feel this is the only subject I can really speak out on, as I’ve experienced it myself.
Maybe a loved one close to you, has anxiety, and they’ve mentioned it to you before, and you’ve been like ”um, come again?” Or maybe they’ve been acting out of character recently, and you just can’t seem to figure out why.
Well, that’s why I’m here.
When I started opening up to people about my anxiety, most people were confused.
”Just calm down, there’s nothing to freak about”
”You didn’t talk to us for the entire time, why were you being so rude?”
”You’re not the person you were yesterday!”
”How can you freak out over nothing?!”
The list is literally endless.
And when you do finally pluck up the courage to speak out on it, you feel yourself sounding like a crazy person. And then you spend ages and ages regretting opening up at all.
What I found mostly hard to deal with, was that the people closest to me just didn’t get what anxiety was, and that’s what made me feel even worse. I felt totally alone, I felt alienated, even when I was surrounded by people who loved and cared for me.
So firstly, what actually is ”anxiety”?
The dictionary definition of anxiety is, “a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease about something with an uncertain outcome”.
Anxiety can, of course, vary from person to person, and there are so many different triggers that affect different kinds of people.
For example, my anxiety flares when I am around too many new and unfamiliar people, but sometimes they can be completely random flares - I’ve had different reactions to all kinds of different scenarios so pin pointing them can be quite tricky.
However, general conditions of anxiety tend to be, zoning out in conversations and maintaining eye contact can be a struggle for many people who suffer with it. A person who has anxiety can actually seem super, super confident, and be totally not-ok in the inside, and that’s something really important that people should understand. I have had anxiety attacks and people have had absolutely no idea I’ve had them, they just think I’m being quiet and rude, which really is not the case, because in my head my anxiety is telling me not to speak and nobody really knows why. Physically, anxiety is sweating, it‘s not being able to sleep, and it’s walking past a group of people, who you’ve never met in your life and genuinely have nothing against you, getting jelly legs and thinking they're laughing and making fun of you for doing absolutely nothing other than making your way past.
In friendships, but especially relationships, my anxiety has been the worse it’s ever been, and other people I know seem to have the same problem too. People with anxiety tend to “push people away” as they are in fear of being too close to someone, in which we know we have to be entirely vulnerable and honest with your partner or friend, still, anxiety tells us they will leave. But on the other hand, we’re attached to that person so much, that it borderline obsessive, but it still has the same outcome with pushing the other person away. It makes us panic, thinking that your friend or partner could easily find someone better than you, and our minds torture themselves with thoughts like this daily.
In the past, people I’ve been in relationships with, have genuinely not understood me, and they did not try to understand. However, because I did not make peace with my anxiety, I channelled it as anger, frustration and it started unbelievable amounts of arguments- it was SO frustrating for me when people didn’t understand what I was dealing with, which just made me want to isolate myself even more, as I just started to accept the fact that nobody would and nobody could ever understand.
But now I realise that I was not surrounding myself with supportive people - people I could talk to about anything that was bothering me,
someone that would just sit with me and listen.
(If you’re still reading this blog and you don’t suffer with anxiety, but someone you love does, and you’re reading this to gain a better understanding of how to comfort them, you are precious and deserve all the love in the world)
This is all I wish I had, and people underestimate the power and effect that one single supportive person can have on someone suffering with anxiety.
When I was in school, I had counselling for anxiety. At first, I was embarrassed to tell people, because kids in school can be very cruel and I was worried that people would think I was handicapped, which scared the hell out of me. Still, the counselling helped very much, but I didn’t reach out to get help, I had to be confronted by one of my teachers who recommended it to me.
However, when i left school - they just stripped me of my counselling sessions and I had nobody to speak with once again. So I took matters into my own hands, and bought every self-help book under the sun. I started studying psychology, to help understand the human mind, to keep myself attached to science and to stop my mind “running away from me”. I also started becoming obsessed with self care and mindfulness. I started writing in a notebook which went by the name of “The World According to Jodie“ to which then became Blondepedia. And here we are today.
One of my personal struggles with anxiety, is the totally overwhelming feeling of self doubt. I know this is a relatable topic for many of my readers, and I really do sympathise with it because it is so degrading and can really bring you down. This is where self love has really helped me, and the main thing, for me, was understanding that love comes from within. I would always go by peoples and define myself with other people’s opinions of me, and base my self worth on that, and I would never “big myself up” behind closed doors. I’ve gotten a lot better by teaching myself self love, and it has really helped with my anxiety, I know there is still a long way to go but thats why I also spend time writing my blogs, to highlight its importance. I want everybody to know how essential self love really is.
How can you help someone who suffers with anxiety?
Firstly, understand that you will never ever ever, understand their thought process.
They don’t even understand it themselves, they just learn to live with it, and combat it. You cannot mind read. So don’t try to. Nobody is asking you to save them or cure them.
You are not Batman.
And the person who suffers with anxiety, will not ask you to try to “get in their mind“ and you are really wasting your time, and will get super frustrated if you try to do this.
When my anxiety was at it‘s worst, in September 2018 (so serious that I had to take a whole month off from work, I almost lost my job because I was too scared to set foot into work), all I really wanted was someone to sit with me and say “it’s okay. I’m here for you.”
This anxiety episode sparked for me, after I’d spent a couple of days away, with people I wasn’t really familiar with. I really lost it and f***ed up. But you don’t get a say in when anxiety strikes. I just woke up in the night after I got home, and I had indescribable palpitations and I couldn’t breathe. I actually thought I was having an asthma attack, rather than an anxiety attack. The people around me at the time, thought I was being over dramatic, but I really felt like I was going to flat line. I took a month off work, and had to meet my manager outside of work to discuss either leaving my job, or setting up a return date.
Secondly, understand that anxiety sufferers will struggle to open up, and when they do, they will feel scared and vulnerable when doing so. If they seem distant, or seem less talkative as perhaps normal, just put your arm round them and give them a squeeze, let them know you are there and offer them a shoulder, because thats all you can do. And thank them for opening up to you.
What shouldn't you do when someone is having an anxiety attack or they are having a “down day”?
One thing that can really affect an anxious persons mood, is how you approach them when they are feeling anxious or having a “down day”.
I’ve spoken out about my experience when I had a severe anxiety attack, and when I confronted one of the closest people in my life about it, they just said I was being rude, and embarrassing. Even if you can’t understand, don’t put them down for something they cannot control, it is not their fault. I know It wasn’t my fault now, but back then, I beat myself up for months thinking I’d been impolite when in reality, I didn’t do anything wrong.
Furthermore, just be constructive. Have you ever heard the saying: “If you’ve got nothing nice to say, say nothing at all”? Then apply that, always.
Still, if you actually want to help make a difference, then just be there, be present. Show them that you are a consistent person. Show them you care. Be the person they can call if they need.
But, doesn’t everyone need someone there for them? This is where I say, everybody has experienced or displayed behaves that connect to anxiety . It’s not something to be ashamed of and doesn’t make you a nut case. The world is a big and scary place, and that is very daunting. It’s scary not knowing whether you’ll get that dream job or dream house. It’s even scarier not knowing what life has in store for us, the obstacles we will have to over come.
Be proud of who you are. These days, I try not to say ”I’ve got anxiety“, because to me, I’ve accepted I have it, and I also accept it is a part of my personality. It’s part of who I am, and it makes me myself. And I’m okay with that. You should be okay with it too, the struggles are real but surround yourself with caring and supportive people and you’ll be on a great upwards journey in life. Build each other up and it will genuinely change the world, little by little.