Okay, so someone mentioned I could make a new topic about anxiety if I felt the need to. At first I was like: no, that’s pathetic. But now I’m thinking it might help… So I might be deleting this topic in a few days if it doesn’t work out or it still feels pathetic.
A few days ago I felt the need to write. I was reading some things in Twitter and stuff and I felt the urge to explain what was going through my mind. So that’s what I did and it actually felt pretty good to write it down! You might recognize some things I used some quotes of other people that help me explain. Here it is:
My mental health
I am a real and pure optimist: I always see things in the most positive way! But… I have an anxiety disorder.
There are 5 major anxiety disorders:
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Post- Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Social Phobia (or social anxiety disorder)
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
I suffer from the last one, I have a Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Basicly this means that I have chronic anxiety. I worry the entire day about pretty much everything. It doesn’t take much for the anxiety to come up, sometimes it just happens, there is nothing to provoke it. I have good days too, it isn’t all bad. On the days I have to work (I’m a workaholic, so I always work hard) or when I am really busy with something, the thoughts don’t or barely come up. I’ll explain a little about the thoughts that cross my mind.
You know the cartoons where there is a small little devil that appears on a characters shoulder? Picture an anxiety as a small figure, standing on my shoulder.
When I wake up in de morning it starts talking: “yet another day to fill with epic failure, where to begin.”
When I’m looking in the mirror to put on some make up and brush my teeth and stuff: “whatever, you can stop trying, you’ll look like shit anyway.”
When I’m going downstairs: “you’re going to fall and break your neck.”
When I’m going to prepare breakfast (or lunch for work) and I grab a knife: “you’re going to cut yourself badly!”
When I get in my car or on my motorcycle: “you are going to get killed by some dumb ass driver.”
When I see neighbours, colleagues and even my friends: “you can act as nice as you want, he/she doesn’t like you. No one likes you.”
And so on and so on. My psychologist taught me how to convert these thoughts. But you can probably imagine that it takes a lot of energy to do so, because this goes on the entire day. It starts when I wake up and it ends when I’m finally asleep (which can take a while with all the thoughts that are going on…).
Most people who know me probably don’t even know that I have an anxiety disorder. Because you don’t see it on the outside. It’s all on the inside, inside my head. And because you can’t see if someone is suffering from an anxiety disorder, most people don’t understand what it is like. But we do need to talk about it. Compare it to someone with physical health issues.
Someone has back issues. He might think “Oh it hurts a little, I need to take it easy today.” Maybe it’s a bit worse then that “I think I should take some medicine, some painkillers.” Or it’s even worse and he thinks “it’s best of I go see a doctor, get checked up”.
The same works with mental health issues. When you feel physically okay, but you notice you aren’t okay in your mind you might think “I need to take it easy today.” Maybe it’s a bit worse then that “I think I should take some medicine.” Or it’s even worse and he thinks “it’s best of I go see a doctor, get checked up”.
You should take good care of yourself whether it’s about your mental health or your physical health. Your mental health is just as important as your physical health.
I only have to deal with the kind of thoughts that I described earlier. It used to be much worse, my anxiety disorder got me depressed. But I went to see a doctor and that was the best decision I could ever make. I got send to a psychologist who helped me get rid of the sharp edges of my anxiety: thinking I’d be better off dead. For many years, I used to think that it would be best if I just died. No one would miss me, no one would care. Ofc that is total BS, I know that now, but my anxiety disorder was standing on my shoulder. And it kept telling me that, every day, all day long. When you don’t know how to convert that, you will start believing that in the end.
Let me explain something. There are actually 2 types of suicide ideation: passive and active suicide ideation. Active suicide ideation is when you have thoughts of killing or harming yourself and have formulated a plan that you intend to carry out. I had passive suicidal ideation: I thought about suicide or harming myself, but I didnt had an actual plan to do so.
(NOTE: when someone does carry out his/her plan, please always say this person “died by suicide”. Only use the word “commit” when it’s about something criminal, sinful or immoral. Mental illness isn’t a sin, but a serious condition.)
So, as I was saying, I used to have more extreme thoughts going through my mind. But I figured I couldn’t keep on living like this and I got help. I was so tired of putting on a mask every day, pretending to be happy. Pretending everything was fine, that I was doing great.
Listening to all the demons who kept on telling me I was worthless, that it would be best of I just died. That costs a lot of energy… And then besides all that I had to put on a mask every day which also costs a LOT of energy… I just couldn’t keep it up. Eventually I think my parents noticed something was up and told me to go see a doctor. I was 16 or 17 back then. And as I said: that was the best decision I could make. I got rid of the extreme thoughts about dying (don’t get me wrong, they still pop up sometimes) thanks to EMDR therapy and because I talked about it.
The years after my first depression were better. But after about 8 years the anxiety got worse again. I couldn’t handle the thoughts I explained in the beginning. By the time this happend, I lived together with my boyfriend (who is now my husband). I noticed I wasn’t doing okay. I knew a psychologist helped me before so I figured I had to go see the doctor. I really didn’t want to, because going to a psychologist means you need to open up, talk about EVERYTHING that is going on in your life and all this just consumes all your energy… But I forced myself to go and the doctor send me to see a psychologist who is specialiced in depressions and anxiety disorders. This guy is a little odd, but he really knows what he is doing. I slowly kicked my second depression it’s ass and told it to never come back again! Ofc, I don’t know for sure it won’t ever come back to haunt me, but I’m trying hard to keep it as far away as possible. Now (a couple years later) I manage to keep on kicking anxiety’s ass by just letting him sit in my shoulder. I’m not fighting against him, cause I can’t win that fight. I let him be there, sitting on my shoulder. And I tell him every day that I don’t believe him That costs less energy than battling in a fight you just can’t win.
The thoughts will never go away, and that is why it is SO important that people talk about mental health. People with physical illness need help, but people with mental illness need help as well. They might even need more help, just because you don’t see on the outside that there is something wrong.
How can you help someone with a mental illness? Here is what you definitly should NOT say:
- There is nothing to worry about!
- It’s just in your head.
- Just take a deep breath and you’ll be fine.
- Other people have it worse than you.
- You’re just lazy.
- You’re just bored, go make some plans.
- Come on, cheer up!
- Don’t be so negative all the time…
- You are seeking attention.
- Just relax.
- You don’t look like you have anxiety.
- It’s not that bad.
- Get over it already.
- Stop complaining…
How you CAN help:
- Listen and (try to) understand.
- Acknowledge that the thoughts exist. (You can ask if they are realistic)
- Tell that you will always be there to talk to.
- Be patient. The thoughts might go away for a little while, but they will return. So you might hear the same fears over and over again.
- Ask how he/she is doing. When someone answers with “fine”, they actually aren’t. Keep that in mind.
- Tell that you care. Tell him/her that he/she matters!
I might be an optimist, but that doens’t mean I’m always happy. Most of the time I’m not happy. But most of those times I do enjoy life. When I say I’m happy, I truly believe I am as happy as I could be on that moment. And I do feel like that sometimes and I’ll never give up on those happy days, because those days are the best.