According to the NHS anxiety is “A feeling of unease, such as worry or fear, that can be mild or severe.” This makes it sound so simple, that perhaps a nice hug and a “hang in there kitty” poster will make everything better. When in fact, it is so much more complicated. My definition of anxiety is slightly less hopeful “A feeling of dread in the pit of your stomach, most likely accompanied by apprehension, nausea, rapid heartbeat and restlessness.” That’s more like it. An honest definition can go a long way in helping others understand anxiety.
I don’t recall the moment I first felt anxious, perhaps because I didn’t know that the feeling had a name. However, on occasion I will remember something from my late childhood that I suppose you could say was an indication to my anxiety. I’ll remember moments when I would actively try to avoid people while at Secondary School, by choosing to go off to library or to go home during lunch. I never had a mass amount of friends, not for any reason other than I just didn’t try to make many. I was close to the ones I already had. Although eventually I just stopped talking to people in general and I put in less of an effort, even with the friends I did have. I guess I would say that solcialising was exhausting and it still can be.
Now as an adult, anxiety is a daily battle and I don’t always have the motivation to win. I usually navigate from A to B wearing my earphones so that people won’t want to start-up a conversation with me. I tend to either look at ground or look straight ahead just to avoid accidentally making eye contact with someone. The very idea of being outside among people can make me feel sick to my stomach and my heart will beat faster, my palms will sweat and I will start either tapping my fingers on my thumb or chewing the inside of my lip. It’s a nervous habit that I have become accustomed to and at home I have different habits to deal with my anxiety. My feet, for example, never stay still. Seriously, never. Even in my sleep my partner tells me they still move. If I am feeling especially anxious I’ll bounce my leg like you would if you had a baby on it. Just constant moving.
Somedays are different. Occasionally I’ll be a bit braver and I’ll do something were talking is required. For example, maybe I’ll pick up a prescription, or make a phone call, or perhaps if I’m feeling really brave I will get my hair done. These might seem like simple things that you might just do without thinking, but to me, it is a lot and afterwards I am exhausted.
There are great deal of problems that occur due to my anxiety. Some days my self-hygiene will be completely overlooked, my hair will not be brushed and my clothes will not be “fresh”. My health will sometimes suffer because the anxiety is so crippling that I will avoid going to the GP or the Optometrist. These are only a few of the obstacles I face on daily basis because of my anxiety.
Chances are that someone in your life is suffering from anxiety, although you may not know it. My advice is just to be there for them when they need you. Don’t pressure them into doing anything that could make the anxiety worse. Be mindful to their emotions wether they are being rational or not (usually not) and just be a good friend, mother, father or sibling. Get yourself educated on anxiety and just be there.