Anxiety is a silent killer and a frighteningly large amount of people don’t see it or don’t understand it. Or at least, no one ever talks about it. While gay marriage is (rightly) protested for at every point, mental health issues are brushed under the carpet. At the worst of times, it can make sufferers wish for some tangible disease, something they could get printed onto a certificate and brandish it around so they wouldn’t get told to simply “toughen up.”
I have anxiety littered throughout my family, in many cases without too much impact. But that’s not always the case. A young person close to me had their anxiety triggered by something seemingly insignificant in class that resulted in a long hospital stay and a long, slow recovery afterwards. Still, they have to be careful to manage it as it threatens to bubble over at the silliest things. It is something that is hard to live with, but they have to learn to at a young age.
This person was told to name their anxiety so that it wouldn’t seem like it was some disembodied being inside of their brain that couldn’t be told apart from themselves. Named Ralph, anxiety was shown to them to be a part of their lives but not a part of them.
If the world is built on an institutionalized religion of calm and quiet, then Ralph is the relative antichrist, at least within someone suffering from anxiety. Instead of staying quiet, anxiety can strike at any time and in many different ways for people. It can manifest itself in obsessive compulsions like mine does, or in panic attacks or constant fear or PTSD and many others. Sometimes it can stay hidden until triggered by a certain event.
Someone once told me that anxiety was like having the niggling doubt that you’d left the oven on, and it never ever stops. Simply put, Ralph is a twat.
Anxiety is much more common than many people think. For many, people around them tell them to “harden up” or trivialize their worries out of accidental ignorance. They mean the best, but what do they expect? ‘Yes, I’ve had anxiety for years but I never thought I’d try just calming down. Well done, Einstein, you should be a doctor.’
A lot of people are naturally anxious or nervous people. The difference between them and people suffering from an anxiety disorder is that sufferers can’t turn fear ‘off’. It’s just there, and mostly irrational. That’s why it can be so difficult to talk yourself out of; it’s not following a logical thought progression, so you can’t explain it away.
People with anxiety can feel like they aren’t alone in their own thoughts because Ralph is there, always, setting shadows where there should be sun. The solitude of a mindless thought can seem impossible as every thought leads down a dark alleyway in their mind. This is not the case for everyone, however.
For me, I know that my fears are irrational and stupid. They are ungrounded. But sometimes that just doesn’t cut it for helping me feel better. I have become so used to my little ritualistic behaviors that I can’t break the pattern because every time I try I feel like there is some unnamable thing hanging over me – some huge, dire consequence that I can’t quite place.
Personally, mine gets the worst in times of stress. My year 12 exams, for example. I would sit down to read my notes and just go into overdrive to the point where I couldn’t do anything, couldn’t think.
I count to 48 in my head pretty much all the time. I also twitch my right ankle and wrist whenever I get nervous, which is a lot. There are these behaviors and certain things I say to myself and others that make me feel better. If I don’t say “see you tomorrow” to my family I worry that something horrible will happen to them and it will keep me up all night.
My advice to people with anxiety (as if I’m qualified to give any) is not to get caught up in these kind of behaviors, unlike me. They give instant gratification but just contribute to the problem eventually. They snowball into a whole way of life.
I don’t have a psychology degree. If you want to learn some facts or look into coping mechanisms, go onto those super legit looking sciencey websites. I tried, I don’t understand a word – best of luck to you! I can’t tell you how to help yourself or others around you suffering anxiety. What I can do is tell you that it’s something that can be dealt with. You don’t have to be scared and you’re definitely not alone.
Anxiety shouldn’t be a silent killer. It should be spoken about, not brushed under the carpet. It could help you or others. It could save lives.