A friend like me.
It might seem a little freaky to you, like I'm part of some weird lil Anxiety Club (the WLAC), but a LOT of my friends and relations live with Anxiety. Like A LOT. I have more friends who live with a mental illness than I do who live without it.
Now obviously I don't know why this is. I used to think that mental illness affected pretty much everyone and that that explained it, but such an inherent lack of empathy and understanding has convinced me I might be a little off in that assumption.
Maybe, because of my illness, I'm drawn to highly empathetic people... maybe makes you more susceptible to being anxious in the first place...
Who knows... what I do know is that having friends who also live with mental illness adds another level to your relationship; one of depth, trust and safety.
Obviously, I would never wish mental illness upon any of my friends. I wish them nothing but health and happiness; and illness provides neither. But it's true that there is some comfort in numbers, and it does make living a little bit easier to know that they understand me somewhat.
Here's what the ultimate thing that my anxious friends understand that other people sometimes don't: Anxiety is not one of my personality traits. It's a fucking illness.
It's not somehow OK for me to have "an anxious day" because I have them semi regularly. It hurts.
You can't see the pain that someone with a physical condition is living with and yet you choose to believe in that, so don't you dare assume that mine isn't there just because it's "invisible".
When you live with mental illness, it's terrifying and exhausting how much you have to correct people who just make assumptions about you. As if you're somehow not putting in enough effort to WILL your illness away. (Like good job, Pal, you'd be a treat in a hospital)
We seem to have progressed ever so slightly in the last few years. Most people accept Mental Illness as a "real thing" now, but, in a Daily Mail esque twist of events, if you're not fitting into society's definition of coping, you're not doing enough Yoga.
(Nothing wrong with Yoga. Yoga is lovely. It's like a very mobile nap - at least the way I do it)
I spent years convincing myself that 'coping' without medication was something to be commended. Just like I spent years telling myself that I had to fit the media's definition of perfect body type, I convinced myself that there was also like an ideal mind weight or something (and it certainly wasn't mine).
This fear of meds is something I'm STILL working on. The idea of taking medication makes me anxious, but the fact that I live unmedicated seems to make me "less ill" in the eyes of society.
It's unbelievable that people still treat me with suspicion just because I admit to having anxiety. Unfuckingbelievable. Fuck off.
Why is it that you are more uncomfortable with the idea of me talking about how an ILLNESS that I LIVE WITH affects my life, than you are with the idea of thousands of people suffering in silence with nowhere to turn and FOR WHAT?!
My friends don't live in that bullshit world. We are honest with each other. We are accepting of each other. We want to know about each other's health and we try our best to UNDERSTAND what others are going through.
That's not because of our mental illnesses. That's because of who we are. But maybe, just MAYBE, being friends with someone who has been through some of the things that you have been through can help a bit.
Not having to constantly explain your symptoms is bliss. We both already know that indigestion, palpitations and shitty short term memory are par for the course, so we can just skip it and move on to the normal friendship stuff like pizza, goats and Gilmore girls.
Also though, when one of us is having an anxious moment or day or week or even longer, we use our knowledge of the condition to help each other. One of my friends swears by stopping Anxiety dead in its tracks with a walk, one of them is the world's best listener, I have a friend who is really into visualisation and breathing techniques and one who can change the topic of conversation SO EFFORTLESSLY that even when I know what she's doing, it works!
The main things though is that there is no judgement. I have my anxiety routines, so do they. I have my triggers, so do they. No one bats a bloody eyelid. We all just eat pizza and look at goats and watch Gilmore Girls saying "How can I help?" Over and over again until it's time to go to bed and lie awake all night.
Let's be friends.
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Peace and love.