Invisible illnesses and disorders are very hard to notice and can be really well concealed. A lot of which are spoken about more now but they’re not things you can tell when first meeting someone. To some people with invisible illnesses, it doesn’t feel well hidden. You don’t trust yourself to hide your anxiety and it feels like your body has been painted with sweat and blush that truly expose the anxiety; when really that’s not how it seems to the person you’ve just met. It’s really bizarre but even when you know truly that it works like that, it’s still the same nervousness and adrenaline that peaks inside you when meeting a stranger.
Anxiety is a broad term as well. People will describe their emotions as anxious, generally when something goes wrong or might go wrong, when they feel scared or unsure of what could happen. It’s the emotion you tend to feel before an exam or before telling someone a big secret or before going on stage. However this is normally quite a human emotion that people only feel for a small amount of time. An anxiety disorder however is much different. Psychologists normally separate anxiety-based disorders into 6 common types – Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Social Anxiety/Phobia, Specific Anxiety/Phobia, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder/OCD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder/PTSD and Panic Disorder. I also believe that a lot of other anxiety, panic and stress related disorders can fall onto the spectrum or that symptoms in other ‘mental health disorders’ can be anxiety-related. For example, it’s extremely common for people to suffer from both generalized anxiety disorder and moderate-severe depression. It is the most common mental disorder in Great Britain with 9% of people meeting symptoms and criteria.
I cannot talk for all of these disorders, all of the symptoms or all of the emotions that are involved with all of these. I have never had PTSD as far as I am aware, much like some people can have OCD or panic disorder but never really feel the effects of a social anxiety disorder. But I can share the perceptions of generalized anxiety disorder. Most websites, including the NHS, will list generalized anxiety disorder symptoms as:
- Feeling ‘On Edge’
- A Constant Sense of Dread
- Concentration Problems
- Feeling Like Everyone’s ‘Against You’
- Trouble Sleeping/Insomnia
- Easily Fatigued/Feeling ‘Drained’ After Big Tasks
- Muscle Tension
All of these can be very overwhelming and almost emotionally painful to someone who deals with generalized anxiety on a day to day basis. Of course there are some people diagnosed who will only have some of these symptoms in certain scenarios or once in a blue moon. But a lot of these symptoms can be stressful and since anxiety is hardly an obvious illness; I’d like to shed a light on what it can be like. Like most mental disorders, you don’t get the obvious, ‘oh-no-something-is-wrong!’ symptoms like a physical disorder or illness. It can be aggravating when your anxiety is giving you a rough time and people respond to your symptoms like you do them on purpose.
“You only got 2 hours sleep?! That’s your own fault.”
“I’m not mad at you!! Stop apologizing, you’re getting on my nerves!”
“Your head hurts? Just take a paracetamol, you’re overreacting”
It can feel like a heavy weight on your shoulders throughout the day because sometimes the anxiety becomes more and more prominent as you do stuff throughout your day. My main example is when I have anxiety at work. I can go to work feeling like a Disney princess ready to sing with nature and smile at everyone, and come home feeling like everyone hates me, that I’m going to get fired because I missed a spot cleaning up, feeling on the verge of tears and feeling like I haven’t slept for at least a day. Sometimes you don’t even see it coming, sometimes it’s there when you wake up. Like I mentioned in my previous post, it’s like a little monster that follows you around. I am definitely trying to learn to love my little anxiety monster because it’s a part of me, and I am happy when I go through days with it being calm and content. I am proud of myself on those days. I feel in control and feel like I have made progress.
I try to avoid calling myself strong when my anxiety doesn’t hit me, because lately I have learnt that it’s not a switch I can turn off at my demand. When I wake up on a random day with the dizziness and shakey hands and the feeling that everybody’s staring at me. I definitely can’t just switch it off, although I’d like to. But that shouldn’t make me weak.
I hope this sheds some ideas and light onto emotions you may be feeling, if you haven’t been diagnosed with anxiety, you think you may have it or you’ve just been diagnosed. I remember when I first got diagnosed I thought it was me being a massive baby, but it was very heart-warming to realise it was a thing other people my age deal with. My anxiety monster doesn’t make me weak, if anything I am strong for carrying my anxiety monster around with me everywhere, trying to get it used to life. Those times I’ve taken it with me into shops I’ve never been in before, or the first time I went to a gym alone, or the first time I phoned someone important/of authority before instead of getting my mum to do it, my first tattoo, applying for university etc., I’ve had to literally drag the monster as it grips to the floor screaming to go back to my comfort zone and I’m glad I did it. It’s calmed the monster down little by little and I think even the smallest achievements with anxiety monsters are things to be proud of.
How do you picture your anxiety? Do you have any memories of being proud of something you’ve done that you wouldn’t expect your anxiety monster to let you do?
Let’s start a conversation