July 13, 2017

“Trying to explain to someone that I have social anxiety whilst pouring drinks in a busy bar feels like a lie. People struggle to understand.”

Conditions of the mind can be incredibly hard to describe. How do you actually define anxiety when we live in a world of individuals who will experience the same things differently? This can make it very hard for other people to understand as well, for if something can't be described how can someone know what it is? In my opinion, this is one of the greatest problems those experiencing mental health problems face. The day after my manic episode was one of the hardest days I've had since my current condition began. It wasn't because my symptoms were particularly bad or that I had a lot of triggers that day, it was because I went from feeling like the most confident person on the planet, back to my 'normal' self. It was that all the people that saw me on that day perceived me to have shown drastic improvement, when in reality I displayed another symptom. I was disappointed and it hurt.

The topic of this post is about the ups and downs of mental illness. The good days and bad days, and how it affects personal relationships. When I find out that someone has depression, anxiety or has schizophrenia or some other condition, typically my first ingrained reaction is; "but they seem fine". Then I look at myself and wonder; "how do people see me once they know about my conditions?" I've worked as a barman for over three years, and not one of my customers ever knew prior to my telling them. When I work, I force myself to function and normally I don't have to try all that hard. I feel safe at work and I have a job to do. However, when I have a day off, what then? Well I'll probably go out drinking with a few friends to occupy my time, and to be that confident person beer allows me to be. Then there are the bad days. The days where I don't know if I can cope with people. The days I go to the supermarket only to walk straight back out because it's just too much. The amount of times I've made excuses for not going somewhere simply because I was having a bad day is ridiculous. The need to lie and make something up is upsetting to say the least I'm sure everyone can relate to this to some degree, but at the time I can only think I'm a liar and a coward.

The problem with the cycle of good to bad days is that when the bad days come, I don't feel that I can tell people. I'm so used to just getting on with things and trying to not let it bother me that when I do hit a wall, I can't tell anyone. How can I, the guy who talks to everyone on a night out, the guy who readily strikes up conversations with patrons with a smile suddenly turn around and say: "but people scare me"? At some point I began to ask myself; "Well which one is me? Am I confident or anxious?" I feel there is this person everyone sees, and there's another that shakes in a corner, praying not to be noticed.

Trying to explain to someone that I have social anxiety whilst pouring drinks in a busy bar feels like a lie. On the flip-side, when I'm anxious I desperately try to explain that this is not who I am, that really I am very confident. Again, I am still lying. In truth, I am both of these people. It is this dual personality that I hate, and that other people struggle to understand. Yes I have a condition, but it does not dictate my behaviour, except on bad days, then it does. Luckily, I do have some very good friends and family that are acquainted with both sides. However, it’s the people that are not, that are the ones that I struggle to talk to.

A tricky subject to talk about for me, but one that I feel should be addressed. Of course, the extent of this problem varies from person to person but I'd like to hear from you. Do you distinguish between a 'Normal' side and an unwell side? Do you ever question whether you really are ill or just making it all up? Do you ever feel guilty for having a good time? I know it’s not the most comfortable of topics, but then the point of writing this was to talk about the things that are not talked about enough. Leave a comment below!

You can read more from Jack over at his blog, A Jackals Voice

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Comments

Hello, I think it's normal to

Hello, I think it's normal to feel anxious at times. Growing up I did get frightened of things, but fear is normal. Why medicalise it? As a teenager I did sometimes deliberately not go to the disco as I didn't feel like it. I knew I wanted to go, but I sort of wanted to see if anyone would notice if I didn't. So I expect that was me being depressed. I just think I was stubborn. I remember being too afraid to go upstairs and brush my teeth as I had just read a spooky story and another time when I was stuck because a spider was blocking my way. I think I just felt fear as I have a vivid imagination. I also got afraid in shops asking for help and would get my little sister to speak for me. Fear is normal and shows you are intelligent. It is how you overcome your fear that sets you apart. Accepting that you get frightened and working out the cause is helpful. With things like the supermarket at present I worry that everyone there knows me and all my deepest darkest secrets. Logically I know they don't (unless they read all my mad Facebook ramblings!), but I do have to psych myself up at times. I just try to behave like Charmaine on a good day all the time. Sometimes that is hard work and I try to work out what is normal for me in any given situation rather than just being instinctive, but I know that nobody can see my internal struggle so it doesn't matter. I bet they've all got their own little struggles going on. So basically, fear shows you're intelligent/imaginative and coping strategies can be learned so why consider it an illness/problem? Embrace the fear, explore it, analyse it, deal with it. Coping strategies become second nature over time and with practice. Don't let the fear take over though. After all, there is nothing to fear, but fear itself!

Yes it was scarily accurate

Yes it was scarily accurate to me. The duality is weird one, it's almost worse than just knowing okay l feel s***. Sometimes if I'm honest l don't know which one l am, l can be severely depressed Alex , lying on my sofa , to suddenly happy and wow you look so well things must be great. What l found is that Ye lm kind of in between there somewhere. That often my mask is the reason for the duality and learning at a young age to hide emotion and make people laugh is often a behaviour l have to watch out for , am l doing this because lm scared or do l actually want to have a laugh now. Anyway yes without getting to overly analytical , thought the blog was really interesting and can relate a lot.

Fear

I couldn't say a real name because I fear someone will see it and know me. But if I were on a good day I'd want someone to realize who I was and try to be more comfortable with this battle we face. I wish I had enough courage to help at least one person on my good "days" if it lasts long enough to be a day. How do I go from having drinks and picking someone's brain, to shaking and wanting no social interactions. Wishing that I just never was brought into this world, even with all the hate I hold not wishing this empty feeling towards my worst enemy. I try and drowned it out at the bottom of a bottle of liquor, sometimes it works long enough to fall asleep, other times it keeps me awake and I don't sleep for 30+ hours, only to hear I look like s*** from the people around me,and attempt to find the will to keep going at the end of the next bottle. I hope I can continue to find the strength and keep pushing....it always catches up and becomes too much, this has been the longest run I've had at it, since the first attempt. I just hope my next good day pushes me to get the help I deserve.

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