OCTOBER 10 is World Mental Health Day. I wrote this post for Bupa, because speaking up about anxiety matters to me.
Anxiety is more than you might think. Behind the facts and stats, are the real lives.
Do you know someone who lives with anxiety? Have you ever taken the time to really try and get inside what this means for them? Have you asked them what it’s like on a day-to-day basis?
Maybe you have wondered all these things yet not felt you were brave enough to ask, or struggled to find the words.
Let me take you inside, and then share some of the ways that you can really be there for someone like me, someone who struggles everyday with anxiety.
It is a constant, although it does vary in intensity. It lurks and there really is no controlling when or where it will make itself felt. As someone who has lived with anxiety for more than 20 years, I can reliably assure you that it is not simply ‘all in my head.’ It is not something I can snap out of, and telling me to ‘get a life’ is not helpful. (yes someone told me this once!)
The concept of joy is at the heart of my blog and my life, this does not mean that I am under any illusions that joy comes easily for everyone. Or that joy can be found in inspirational quotes, self help books or by meditating alone.
All of these things play a part in living a life with joy; there is no magic potion though. Especially for those of us who have to fight for our joy, and wrestle daily with the mental illness that threatens our natural state.
I honestly believe that we are all born with a natural sense of wonder and that it is our right as humans on this crazy ride to experience joy. Obviously there are genetic and environmental factors that affect the way we feel, and these range from small to monumental on the scale of impact for each person living with anxiety!
In my case it was the monumental end of the scale, a turn of tragic events that triggered lifelong mental illness including depression, anxiety, panic, PTSD and suicidal thoughts. It has been a long road to living well, and it never ends. I think some people will never accept that it is real, that it is not an excuse, and that it can change everything for a person.
It doesn’t mean that I am crazy, unlovable or an outcast. I like to believe that it is quite the opposite!
“THE MOST BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE WE HAVE KNOWN ARE THOSE WHO HAVE KNOWN DEFEAT, KNOWN SUFFERING, KNOWN STRUGGLE, KNOWN LOSS, AND HAVE FOUND THEIR WAY OUT OF THOSE DEPTHS.” (Elizabeth Kubler-Ross)
If more people knew the facts about anxiety, and took the time to really be there for their family and friends, I honestly believe that our rates of suicide could be reduced, and more hearts would know joy.
In 2015, 3,027 Australians took their own lives (ABS most recent release), more than 8 every single day. If this statistic does not motivate every Australian to care more, do more, say more .. I am not sure what will!
Over the past few years I have lost a lot of friends, my circle has slowly shrivelled. I know that it is frustrating to invite someone somewhere and then at the last minute they cancel. I know that it gets boring, and that you feel there are only so many times you can check on someone, or rely on them. The truth is, people are taking their own lives, and those that are still here are struggling every single day.
There are only a handful of people in my life who accept that mental illness is real, that it sometimes means I am a crap friend, but who choose to love me anyway.
I have lost count of the friends who have chosen not to take it into account, who are no longer around. It is tough to deal with anxiety in others I know that, but it’s not impossible.
Having the tough conversations, venturing into the darkness with someone and offering your hand and heart is one of the most beautiful acts of humanity.
The effects of not caring and not having the tough conversations are something you may not have thought about. Let me tell you about the effects of not having friends or family who will love you anyway, even when you’re broken and hard work.
Most days you wonder why nobody has called or checked in, you realise how many years it has been since you’ve seen some of the people you once considered close friends.
On your birthday you see all of the lovely Facebook well wishes, yet you ache for phone calls and someone to make a fuss in real life.
Some days you exhaust yourself trying to figure out what you could have done differently, you analyse events and friendships that are so far in the past your memories are patchy.
As a parent, you wonder why more people don’t take an interest in the most important role you have ever been given, and some days you wonder how on earth you ended up being responsible for another human being!
I invite you to be the person who forgives, who realises that those of us living with mental illness are about as far from perfect as it gets but this does not change how amazing we are. Find the words to reach out and be there. Wake up and realise that you can play a part in potentially saving a life, you can be the light for someone.
All of these ideas come from someone who knows anxiety better than most:
♡ Send a regular text
♡ Call and leave a lovely voicemail
♡ Turn up with a meal or some groceries
♡ Say “I am here for you” more often
♡ Organise a lunch together or a one on one outing
♡ Remember their birthday and ask what they’re doing on that day
♡ Take an interest in their daily life, this is where it can get really lonely
♡ Drop a little package at their door of things you know they love like magazines, tea, a candle, DVD, a new book, chocolate
♡ Keep inviting them to celebrations, never stop including them even if they are often unreliable
♡ If you see a meme or an article about anxiety that is positive or potentially helpful, send it to them
Thank you in advance for being the light for someone like me, and for everyone else who lives with anxiety.
Please share the facts and the stories.
(IMAGE SOURCE: quoteawayy on Instagram)
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Yes sometimes I get paid for my writing, I value my time and my skills and consider this a part of my purpose and work in the world. My opinion cannot be purchased, every word I share comes from the heart.