Anxiety something I’ve lived with for most of my life. So, I'm writing written this post to highlight what effects mental illnesses, including people’s attitudes about them, can have on a person.
To give you my background: though I’ve always had low self esteem and confidence issues, anxiety didn’t really start until my teens. During my teens I would retreat to my room and sit in what I assumed was blissful solitude. When family members would visit they would ask “why’s he up in his room?” without ever asking why. I would never attend family get-togethers, and again my family would never ask why, they would just assume it’s my low self esteem or would never approach me and ask me what’s wrong.
During my school years, of all the challenges I faced the one I never expected was bullying, both inside the school and out, which formed a big part of my mental state for years. Without even realising it had affected me in ways I couldn’t imagine, whenever in town my muscles would tense in what I would assume was an ensuing fight, my fingers would tap the palm of my hands as part of muscle tenseness (though I would refer to this as playing the neck of a guitar) and it wasn’t until I got away from the group of particularly dressed people that I would calm down.
During my time at college I became ever more retreated into myself, the friendships I had formed I told myself would last and wouldn’t end on the final day of the college. This however did happen and I found m self even more isolated. Once I had finished college it was time to search for work, I couldn’t imagine the stress and anxiety I would come to feel. It was during this time that anxiety fully took over: I had no social life, and the only source of relief I found was in films, TV shows and books. Daily job searches and dealings with the Job Centre, it felt like I had taken on the weight of the world. I had no idea how much my mental health was suffering I didn’t talk about it to anyone.
It was during this time that depression crept in as well, my view of the world had become so bleak I couldn’t see a way out. Any time the idea of medication would come up I would shut it down immediately. With no one to talk to, I isolated myself from family and my view of the world became ever more dreary. Then after four years of job searching I decided to sign off JSA and onto ESA, it felt like the weight of the world had been lifted and my view of the became a bit more brighter. Alas, I couldn’t remain on it forever I was forced back onto JSA and although I had been to two group CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) courses, I felt like I could barely cope. The pressure became too much and I started taking medication to deal with it.
I have even tackled thoughts of suicide. This just reveals how messed up my thoughts have become. I have faced stigma around these thoughts – just because people don’t understand what you’re going through doesn’t give them the right to question the sincerity of your thoughts and feelings.
I have also faced stigma around the other mental health challenges I’ve faced with comments like “you have nothing to worry about”, “just let things roll off your back”. Clearly they don’t understanding what it’s like for me; what they assume is an innocent comment actually hurts deeply as they just don’t understand what I’m feeling despite my best efforts to explain anxiety to them.
This isn’t the first blog I’ve written about my mental health experiences, I have found them a great help to write as not only do they help my family to understand me better but also they allow me to show others that they are not alone.
I've written this because attitudes towards mental health need to change. Just because we experience these thoughts and feelings doesn’t give people the right to make comments about something they don’t understand. However, writing and talking about mental health can be a great help. Don’t hide it away from people who can understand. It’s time to change!