Some people (who clearly have never experienced a mental health problem) believe that those of us that suffer from a mental illness are attention seekers. Of course, this isn’t true. As someone who has experienced anxiety, the last thing I want is for the attention to be on me.
“What do you mean you can’t (insert activity most people do daily without a second’s hesitation)?” They would boom, shortly followed by the ever so ineffective, “Stop letting it get to you, if you didn’t think about it you wouldn’t be in this mess.” No matter how hard I try I just can’t explain the chaos that roams around your head like a toddler throwing a tantrum. There’s no logic in it whatsoever, so we just suffer in silence, wanting to scream at the sky. It’s hard: how can you possibly begin to explain something that you can’t even understand yourself?
I’ve tried my hardest to confide in family and friends but the second they hear the word “anxiety” I’m usually overcome by eyerolls and have even had a family member say to me in annoyance, “anxiety doesn’t make you throw up, are you sure you just don’t have something else.” Like yes thank you Doctor, I’m quite aware of my own body. (UGH!)
It’s incredibly isolating and at times I wish those I have chosen to talk to about my mental health wouldn’t just brush it off as though I’m just telling them some make believe story and that I’m overreacting.
I find it sad that people care more about those around them when they have the flu then when they have a mental illness. “You have a cold? my goodness wrap yourself up immediately, drink plenty of fluids and get some good rest.” “You have a mental illness? Well who doesn’t? Go and take a walk in the fresh air and you’ll feel a hundred times better.”
It’s not entirely their fault, they just don’t understand these things as much as those of us who have experienced it for ourselves. But a simple, “How are you today? Is there anything I can help you with? I’m here if you need me, take some time for yourself.” Is sometimes all that is needed, just to feel like there’s somebody that cares.
Having anxiety can feel very lonely at times and can also feel a little embarrassing, which is why I think for a lot of people, saying “I’m fine” is a lot easier then opening up and feeling judged. Maybe you’re reading this and know somebody who is suffering from a mental illness, but don’t quite understand how to help them and that’s okay. You don’t have to have a degree in psychology, you just need to listen. We know you won’t be able to fix us. We know you won’t be able to cure us of this heavy cloud that threatens our own existence. But your understanding can make a huge difference.
If you feel unsure on how to assist someone, speak to your doctor or even a quick search on the internet will soon advise you on the best way to help them through it, and it will also give you a better understanding because believe it or not, we’re just like you. Our mental health does not change who we are as individuals.