How To Explain Anxiety To People Who Might Think You’re Lazy
I’ve been trying to write this post for about half an hour before I could stop staring at the wall hoping my fingers would go on autopilot. For weeks on end I’ve watched my depression and anxiety get worse but have been wiping it away and putting on my 'Happy Jess' face to carry out my duties of campaigning for mental health. The truth is, I'm suffering.
The warning signs have been noticeable and weirdly enough I tend to fall into my low mood after I’ve received good news. That’s crazy right? You’d think good news would make someone happy? But no, good news makes not a difference at all. Good news makes it worse because why on earth should I deserve any good news? Or anything good?
I received the all clear from my physiotherapist yesterday which means I am able to run again. Except, I have zero motivation to run. In fact, I have zero motivation to do anything. I just about managed to force myself to write this post because I am desperate to get out whatever it is I’m feeling, or at least put my emotions into words. Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve seen a sudden decline in my mental health. My low moods have become unbearable, my anxiety intolerably difficult to manage which in turn increases my feelings of loneliness. It’s like one big vicious circle.
You know those days when you think of physically admitting yourself into a mental hospital just so you can get the help you need? Those days where you think none of the coping mechanisms you’ve worked so hard on don’t work anymore. The days where you can’t find the energy to turn on the TV or so much as finish a paragraph in a book. Those days where you look at the big pile of laundry that’s been sitting there for weeks with a big sigh. Those days where you wish you could just stop being a person. Yeah, I’ve had a lot of those days. And as much as I try to pick myself up, put on a nice outfit, style my hair perfectly and draw on perfect eyebrows, I never feel enough. Deep down, I’m hurting and it’s impossible to shake it off.
After attending the Mind Media Awards on Monday, I was thinking about how much of a wonderful time I had had. I was surrounded by inspiring people who are working so hard to spread awareness surrounding mental health, meeting various people with stories to tell, yet even after such an enjoyable evening, I was feeling incredibly low. That’s the thing with depression. No matter how much fun you’re having it’ll always bring you back down to earth to make you feel worthless again. It’ll make you feel as if you don’t matter in this world. It makes you feel that no matter how hard you try you are never good enough.
But it’s a catch 22. I’d love to go out and socialise like I used to - the party girl - and come home feeling on top of the world but the idea of talking or even being around other people terrifies me. It’s shocking and I kinda look at myself and think - what is going on Jess? Are you alright mate? You’ve done this before, it’s alright seriously - but it’s like my mind thinks the complete opposite. It reminds me of Dr Jekyll and Dr Hyde. Two conflicting personalities constantly at war.
With depression, and I’m sure with a lot of mental health illnesses, is that yeah, you will be constantly fighting against yourself because you know what you’re capable of without this debilitating hindrance but it holds you back like it’s punishing you for something. And you begin to ask what is it you’re being punished for.
What did I do? Am I really that much of a bad person? I pay my taxes, I’m kind to people, I think, have I said something? Do people hate me?
Anxiety, however, is the body’s natural response to danger, an automatic alarm that goes off when you feel threatened, under pressure, or are facing a stressful situation. It's constant and incredibly overwhelming, especially when it interferes with your relationships and activities - it stops you being functional. Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve found myself finding excuses not to leave the house. I’ve found excuses to avoid social situations because the thought of it terrifies me. So when you have a job to go to how do you explain this without being seen as lazy? Mental health conditions are invisible and that’s why it is so frustrating. Naturally people look for physical disabilities. It’s hard to feel sympathy for something you can’t see.
My parents last night were confused as to why I came home from work sobbing my eyes out. My dad in a state of shock kept asking me what had happened, as if someone had died. In reality, I was feeling as though I was dying. I couldn't pin point anything in particular other than the fact that I was scared and I couldn’t control my wailing. I couldn’t control the explosion in my head, the dizziness, my pounding in my chest. All I knew was that I just needed to be held. I needed to know that I wasn’t alone.
So I had to take a day off today. I hate taking sick days and I hate cancelling plans that I have been looking forward to for ages. But how do you explain that you physically can’t leave the house due to fear? Obviously it isn’t realistic to have months off work until you feel better but just the odd day off to feel sorry for yourself in bed surrounded by copious amounts of tea and biscuits is almost enough to ride it out with.
With feeling sorry for yourself you are faced with the fear of loneliness, the lack of sleep, the constant absences by staring into space of nothingness, the inability to engage in any form of face-to-face conversation. It’s all-consuming and until you take the time to recover by taking those days off to recharge and recoup, you won’t be able to relax. We are battling something that needs treatment, deserves attention and needs bed rest.
It’s easy to shrug it off and say just man the fuck up but it’s more than that. Hannah Gale said in her post that we need to cut ourselves some slack and change this idea that anyone suffering from depression or anxiety is about to jump off a building or is just throwing the word around because they are having a bad day and she’s right. We need to change this attitude because it’s only making us more anxious. Let’s ask people how they are, let’s make more of an effort with them, and even though people might be smiling on the outside let’s stop trying to assume how people are feeling just from what they put on their social media and just be kind to each other.
So for those who are reading this post, perhaps you can offer advice on how to manage it? It would be good to hear from you to share some thoughts. It’s easy to isolate yourself and it’s easy to keep yourself hidden away from everyone but deep down we need support, we need help and we need love. It’s important we help each other in times of need and to not get ourselves caught up in a midst of self loathing.
Do not suffer alone. Mental health conditions can be extremely isolating so please reach out if you need help and support. If you'd like to know more about mental health conditions or would like to seek help for yourself or someone you know, please follow the useful links below and keep talking. Your supporting community is bigger than you know.