If you haven’t experienced anxiety as an illness, please read this

By Lucy Nichol

This was originally a thread I posted on Twitter one night about the reality of anxiety as an illness (hence the strange snippet like style!)

I don’t know what a heart attack feels like. But I’ve had palpitations. I don’t know what a broken leg feels like. But I’ve had a sprain.

Please don’t assume you know what an anxiety disorder feels like when you’ve had fleeting anxious thoughts.

So many people talk about anxiety these days. And we live in an anxious society. So you’d be forgiven for thinking  it’s just a response to life. Isn’t that what we all deal with day to day?

Thing is, an anxiety disorder isn’t often relative to life. Traumatic experiences can be a trigger, but anxiety disorders are not always driven by trauma.

Anybody can experience an anxiety disorder. It doesn’t make you a weak or nervous person.

In fact, many anxious people are so terrified of being taken advantage of that they’re the last people you want to mess with! Don’t underestimate us nervy types – our nervous energy is driving our strength as well as our weakness.

But you can’t see it can you? Not like with a broken leg or a rash. And as anxiety as a feeling is something we have all felt from time to time – you’d also be forgiven for thinking that you know what it feels like.

But anxiety as an illness isn’t just a bit of worry about buying a new house, taking an exam or giving a speech.

Anxiety as an illness can create terrifying panic attacks. Where in that moment, you genuinely believe you are close to death. You HAVE to wake your husband because you’re scared nobody will find your lifeless body until morning.

You’re desperate to escape your body and your mind but terrified of not being in control of them. Your limbs are tingling, your stomach empties its entire contents in a matter of seconds and your heart is pounding erratically.

You were once the life and soul of the party, but never felt a part of it. All those eyes despising you, hating you, pitying the sheer pathetic nature of you. So you downed the drinks and snorted the false confidence. It helped for a matter of hours. Then you were close to death again – in your head, of course.

Even your friends spend time with you out of pity. You know they’re thinking you’re not on the same level as a kind, intelligent or interesting human being. And your colleagues know you’re a fraud. An imposter. Each and every day you put on that front but you know you’re not good enough.

Christ – even your therapist knows you’re a fraud. There’s nothing wrong with you. You’re just a weak, failed, personality.

Then the next day you’re weird and scary and insane.

Either way – you’re feeling too boring or too crazy for your therapist and you KNOW they can’t wait for you to finish up your 6 sessions.

Your brain is a mashed up mess of chaos. You can’t sleep. Your restlessness is so severe and you can’t sit never mind lie. You awake early. And the first thing that hits you is catastrophe. And your brain speeds back up and you sit almost catatonic because everything’s so fast you’ve not idea how to keep up. So you cry.

Then there’s a lump. A rash. A bone that you never knew existed. And the end is close again.

But nobody retweeted this – what does that mean? My friends and colleagues saw this – they’ll call me an attention seeker. Why did I do it? Why did I share this?

I shared this because I need you to know, that it isn’t attention seeking. It isn’t fun. And it’s highly inconvenient for me, never mind you. I don’t want this anxious fool on my back.

And when I’m recovering, it doesn’t mean I’m 100% well. It’s a journey I am on. I just don’t wear any signposts that say I’m a mile from being well again.

We know it’s not sexy, we know it’s not endearing. We didn’t ask for it. We only ask that you try to understand. We’re not weak. And we don’t want sympathy. We just want understanding.

Lucy has written a book on mental health stereotypes and stigma called A Series of Unfortunate Stereotypes. Order your copy here 

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