Monday, March 13, 2017

Anxiety VS Anxiousness

There's a difference...

I'd like to try and explain something that makes me feel a little insane every time I come across it. Mental health is a huge issue and luckily just lately it's getting to be made a bit more public. People are being a little more understanding and accepting, but still, there are massive misapprehensions of what people actually go through, how they feel and why. Not to mention, terrible, terrible advice.

I recently read an article called 'Ways to beat anxiety' and it was clear that the person writing it didn't really understand the difference between anxiety the illness itself and simply feeling a bit anxious. The advice to someone feeling nervous was great, but to an anxiety sufferer it was the same old suggestions from someone that clearly hasn't been there, or know someone that has.

As anyone that suffers with anxiety will know, it is a stupid name for it and always annoyingly but understandably so, confused with simply being a little anxious. Now obviously, there are connections and in some ways yes you are anxious, but there is a significant difference between suffering or being diagnosed with anxiety and simply feeling a little anxious. Going for a job interview you will no doubt feel a bit anxious about, anxiety however is a whole other ball game. Trapped in your own head from something you can't control. It may well stem from an event or activity, but sometimes when it's bad it pops up from absolutely nowhere to bite you in the ass with no prior warning or logical reason.

I ended up leaving a job last year partly because the management didn't understand this differentiation and it drove me so crazy I just couldn't keep explaining myself and unfortunately it got the better of me in the end. I was told to go in, face my fears, talk about what I was anxious about and I felt hounded for answers I simply couldn't give.

Anxiety for me is a physical reaction to a situation. I don't generally have a thought process or any particular worries but my body will physically react in a negative way to a situation with shaking, inability to breathe, pounding heart, tight chest, cold sweats,  dizziness, sickness etc etc. These reactions are not normally in addition to any thoughts or worries and simply a fight or flight reaction to whatever or wherever I may be.

Occasionally I feel the normal nerves and anxiety about every day situations which is totally normal, but I know the difference and really hope I can explain it. My anxiety has been noticeably bad since having children, I think having people to look after can inflict a lot of extra worry so it's only natural for that to evolve at times. Alf had an accident as a toddler and for me, that was a huge trigger, though it has taken a long time to realise that it had stemmed from anything.

At times with things like claustrophobia when in a small space, I get these reactions and this is anxiousness, I feel trapped even when I know I am not, I feel like the air is non existent, so in that case yes I am feeling anxious about the situation. On the opposite side, a supermarket can have the same effect yet I have no worries, I enjoy shopping, I never go at stupid times and I'm not afraid that the sausages will jump off the shelf and strangle me, yet for some reason my body will react to this - this is caused by my anxiety.

Someone that suffers with anxiety doesn't necessarily actually feel anxious as such. We don't need people making suggestions to make us feel better or talk about what makes us anxious - it's a totally different thing, it's a problem in our brain and it's not something we can control. If only we could.

We have an illness much like any other and it's just like telling someone with a broken arm to 'think positive' or not to worry about it and it will get better. No. It needs time to fix itself, we need to get better in whatever way works for us and I just wish it had a different name. If I tell people I have some kind of brain problem they would give me all the sympathy in the world, yet call it by the name 'anxiety' and suddenly it's a joke, not considered real and we even get told to stop being so silly. 'Everyone has anxiety and depression nowadays' is something I hear far too often and I do think that maybe it is misdiagnosed quite often, nerves and the anxious feelings are normal and natural and I think you definitely know when it has reached a point that isn't quite so normal.

Aside from the unknown feeling of dread, there is the feeling of almost caring too much, the feeling of danger everywhere and not always being able to focus on why. There is often a feeling of self loathing, guilt for no reason and not feeling good enough for your family/friends/the world.

Before judging someone with anxiety, people really need to understand what it is, know that we aren't just scared of everything and that sometimes that it just comes from nowhere with no reason or rhyme. It's frustrating as hell, it makes life extremely hard and unfortunately,  as with any illness it can't be controlled with positive thoughts alone, I really wish it could. There is help available though from places like BetterHelp, with counsellors on hand to help guide us through.

With anxiety we overthink things, we imagine scenarios, outcomes and sometimes crave perfection or think of every little thing that could happen.

So how can you help someone with anxiety? Someone suffering from anxiety can't always explain their thought process or if there is any, so for that reason it's really important to not pressure for answers, not to make them 'face their fears' or embark on any activity they aren't comfortable with. The best thing you can do is be kind, give them time and just understand that sometimes everything just gets a bit too much and we often just need space. There is lots of help out there from CBT to medicine and heaps of support groups, so if anything, point your loved ones in that direction with your support.

Do you suffer from anxiety? If you have anything to add or any coping strategies, please let me know in the comments below.

Images from Healthy Place