Things that make me anxious, part 7: Clouds.
Today my brain broke.
A heavy cloud descended on my brow and darkened the world. It was probably my own fault, I've been ignoring that little "you have 63 updates waiting" box for far too long and forgetting to shut down and restart.
And so my head has yet another fog in it. This one is very different to that mysterious derealisation cloud I spoke about on Wednesday. This one is sinister and chaotic and made of anger, sadness and injustice. It is full of hot rain and rage and it sits right on the front of my forehead, weighing down on my thoughts. It is stormy, invasive and blinding and every attempted distraction is futile.
I am lucky to have a usually sunny outlook. Anxiety and depression so often go hand in hand, but for me that hasn't been the case. It must take up so much energy to fight them both at the same time - this one Sunday is crippling to me, but the temporary nature of it keeps me mostly calm.
It's important to recognise that not all anxiety means an Anxiety Disorder and feeling depressed doesn't always mean you have Depression. A dark day can really take it out of you though, and that's OK. The things that make me feel better won't necessarily work for you, because we are all individuals, united by - but not defined by - our struggles.
We all have different sunshines. We all have different clouds. We all have different Sundays: mine feels like a Joy Division song.
I've mentioned before (in fact, see me talk about it in THIS YouTube video), that anxiety as a "feeling" or "emotion" is a totally normal part of life, that you'll all have experienced. It's a side effect of the alert system that kicks our body into action when faced with danger. A lot of the symptoms of anxiety - the heart racing, nausea and breathlessness is caused by adrenaline - which is a hormone that is released to prepare our bodies for physical exertion (i.e. "fight" or "flight").
I know that it's natural to strive for success - passion drives ambition and, if there's something that you're driven by, it's natural to want to make a "success" of it. The point I'd really like to drive home here, is that success does not make someone immune to mental illness and its symptoms. Success is nice, sure, but it doesn't necessarily equals happiness - and until we recognise that, we're going to continue to stigmatise ourselves and others.
It can take a long time for someone to come to terms with a mental illness diagnosis. It’s also difficult to accept how hard it is to access talk therapy and counselling and waiting lists are long. Symptoms can be debilitating and learning to live with them is draining. Finding the right medication and best dosage is a process that can take months or even years. There’s still stigma and judgement and a lack of awareness, meaning that people living with mental illness can be mistreated, even by the people they are closest to.
Dear person reading this letter,
I understand that life can be difficult and I hope that this letter finds you well. There are so many obligations and obstacles in life, it’s absolutely OK to feel exhausted and fed up. It’s to be expected.
So your friend* has Anxiety Disorder (or another mental illness), and you're unsure of how you can help? Step 1 is to make sure that you are being kind and that what you're saying is sending a message of love and support, as opposed to one of criticism and judgement.
There are some posts that are really scary to write/publish, even for someone who writes and talks about mental illness ALL THE TIME. This is one of those posts.
It's so important that people are as open about their bad days as they are about their good - it helps us feel better understood and less isolated.
I couldn't really do what I do, without being completely honest with you.
I wish more than anything that mental health support was available to everyone. Every one of us has mental health, whether or not we’re ill, and learning how to nurture our own is critical because here’s the thing: you can really damage your own mental health by not taking care of it.
The reality is that by neglecting your own mental health, you could potentially make yourself more ill.
I’m not suggesting in any way that you are responsible for your mental illness, that is totally beyond your control - and I really do feel your pain. I am suggesting that you are responsible for your mental health, as far as that there are things you can do to help it along.
I've been very unwell lately, and wanted to give you all a little update on where I'm at emotionally and with my mental health.