Recently, I have realised that many people have a misconception of what anxiety is. As a sufferer of such a destructive illness, I find it very insulting when people belittle it by using it in their day to day conversations. For example, I have overheard on a number of occasions, people making passing comments such as “you give me anxiety”, in a humourous light. I am fortunate enough not to suffer from a severe anxiety disorder which prevents me from executing my day to day activities, but nevertheless, it is extremely difficult to live with from which a variety of problems stem.
I had my gallbladder removed in January 2013 as a result of extremely unbearable abdominal pains, thanks to a great amount of “sludge” in my gallbladder which, over time, would turn into gallstones. Being in constant, severe and acute pain for such a long period of time can be unbelievably traumatic, which was the case for me. It took me over 6 months to recover from the surgery alone, and I have not fully recovered from the trauma I endured whilst in hospital. This is where the anxiety fits in. As a result of being in such severe pain for a long period of time, where painkillers didn’t make a dent in it, and where I was forced to endure some of the worst bouts of pain alone (NHS hospital visiting hours are ridiculous), I developed anxiety. I was, and still am, constantly worried that I’ll be put through what I went through last year, again. Although that part of my life is now long over, I am still haunted by the pain which will stay with me for the rest of my life.
This anxiety is also reflected in my daily and personal life. For example, I over-think and over-analyse the simplest of things, which lead to conflict, arguments and unnecessary tears and a lot of the time, others (outsiders of the condition) will not understand where I am coming from, which leads to more problems and disputes.
Since secondary school, I have suffered from very mild social anxiety, too. This somewhat worsened after my operations and society can undermine how troubling social anxiety can be; for example, simple things such as getting off the bus can trigger panic attacks and nervousness as you’re constantly paranoid about who is watching you as you make that small trip from your bus seat to the doors. Walking into a room full of strangers can trigger panic attacks as you feel as if everyone is watching you. Making new friends can seem almost impossible as you’re afraid of others judging you, hence why we see so many facades nowadays. Social anxiety should not be dismissed as a minor thing because, despite the fact that I don’t suffer from a severe form of it, it really affects your life in ways that others would not understand unless they experienced it themselves.
I have learnt that the most important way to deal with and overcome the problems that come about as a result of my anxiety is to have a strong support network. I have friends who understand my anxiety and help me through it when it gets bad, by getting to the root of the problem and then working my way out. By recognising the primary factor which has caused a panic attack or over-analysis of a situation. I am fortunate enough to have incredible parents who are there to listen to my problems if I can face them out loud, or just stay silent and stand by my side if I can’t bring myself to discuss it. They help me get to the bottom of what is causing my distress and help me come to terms with what is bringing me down. The relief you feel when you tell someone what you’re going through is unimaginable and I am so glad I told my close friends and family about what I was going through. If you think no one will understand you, you’re wrong; other sufferers can relate to you, and if you let in the right people, they will not judge you, only help you. I was terrified when I told my friend about my anxiety; I was afraid they’d never understand and label me as weak but they helped me out in ways I cannot explain. My parents did not judge me or write me off for feeling the way I did. And because I had such a strong support network, I will carry their advice, love and commitment to stand by me for the rest of my life.
Telling someone about a condition which is controlling your life will not make you vulnerable or weak or stupid. It takes strength to do so, and it makes anxiety a lot more bearable to live with.
And that is all that matters.