Today is World Mental Health Day.
(It’s also Columbus Day here in the U.S., but until that gets changed to Indigenous Peoples Day, I won’t be celebrating that one.)
In “celebration” of World Mental Health Day, I am writing a post of all the things about anxiety that seem so obvious to me, but that people without anxiety–or with a different form than me–don’t get.
What I Wish Everyone Understood About Anxiety
Lots of people don’t need a reason–good or bad–to be anxious.
“What’s wrong?” a well-meaning family member will ask.
“I’m anxious,” I’ll reply.
“Yes, but why?”
And round and round we’ll go.
One of the hallmark symptoms of generalized anxiety is free-floating anxiety, anxiety that has no specific source that you can put your finger on.
Telling me “don’t worry” won’t work.
Because my anxiety often (though not always) doesn’t have a specific source, I’m not really worrying about anything in particular, and there’s nothing for me to stop worrying about.
I can’t just “think happy thoughts” or “look on the bright side” sometimes.
Getting mad/frustrated/upset with me will only give me something to worry about.
I get that my anxiety can be annoying to those around me, especially those I love. And trust me, that fact only increases my anxiety. Please try to be patient with me, and with others with anxiety. Even if you’re not mad at us, we’re probably already worrying that you are. If you are mad at us, we’re likely in agony over it.
Anxiety can be physically exhausting.
Generalized anxiety disorder can cause fatigue, muscle pain, headaches, and insomnia. Social anxiety makes meeting new people harder than running a marathon. PTSD messes with your sleep like nothing else. Having a panic attack can drain every drop of energy from even the most enthusiastic person.
Even if you can’t understand how someone with anxiety is exhausted at the end of the day–they didn’t even do that much today!–doesn’t mean that they aren’t tired deep in their bones and in every last neuron in their minds.
Anxiety can be physical. Period.
The mind-gut link is strong, and I can literally make myself sick to my stomach–or colon–with anxiety. There’s a strong correlation between functional bowel disorders and anxiety disorders, and no one is really sure if one causes the other or if a third factor causes both.
Also, see above.
Anxiety manifests itself differently in different people.
Yes, this post is all about what I wish everyone understood about anxiety, but other people might have different things that they wish everyone understood about their experiences of anxiety.
So let me know–what do you wish everyone could get about your anxiety? And if you don’t have anxiety, then what do you wish people understood about your depression/bipolar/schizophrenia/personality disorder/ADHD/OCD or any other mental health problem?