Anxiety, defined simply as ‘a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease about something with an uncertain outcome’, everyone deals with it at some points in their life, some more frequently and some more extreme than others, but overall I can guarantee that every single person you know will have dealt with a feeling of worry, nervousness or unease. The definition of anxiety in the every day sense of things is easy to understand, when it comes to anxiety in terms of mental illness it can take form in different ways and effect everyone uniquely. Anxiety disorders are one of the most commonly diagnosed mental illnesses, it can range from phobias to OCD, social anxiety to body dysmorphic disorder, PTSD to panic disorders. The most common diagnoses would be GAD or general anxiety disorder, this is very broad and simply means you have regular and uncontrollable worries in your everyday life, this is something I struggle with myself.
I knew little to nothing about the word anxiety until I was a teenager, but even before I understood the term and its meaning I was battling anxiety and these worries everyday from a very young age. My first memory of anxiety is back when I was about 12 years old, when getting dressed having to put the left thing on first, so my left sock or shoe, my left arm into a shirt first, if I didn’t do this I was absolutely convinced something bad would happen. If I had put my right shoe on first before leaving the house I would spend the rest of the day frantically worrying in my head, imagining the bad things that could now happen, playing out different scenarios in my head, believing my mum would be hurt now and it would all be my fault because silly old me had put my right shoe on first. Other little things I would for example, if I hit my left hand on a wall I would have to go back and hit the right one on the wall so I could balance it out and make it symmetrical, because again, if I didn’t I truly believed that something bad would happen to me or someone I loved.
These little anxieties have continued on throughout my life and I still struggle with them on a daily basis, it is easily controllable because all I have to do is make sure I put all the left things on first or make sure i touch both my hand on a particular door, but it’s not right, it’s not rational, I shouldn’t think and feel that way. Although things like this seem tiny, when you add all the little things up that I worry about it becomes big, it becomes something unbearable, something that isn’t easy to live with yet most people would think I’m being ridiculous.
As I grew up my anxiety developed and took form in other ways, it’s revolved around things I never really thought it could. The past few years I have dealt with huge anxiety in relation to the way people think and perceive me, my mind is constantly full with worries that I’ve done something to upset a friend, or said something wrong to someone and annoyed them, or thoughts that my family is disappointed in me. I constantly think about everyone around me and am forever thinking about their thoughts, always trying to work out what it is they think of me and conjure up a million different ideas to how I could’ve possibly upset or hurt them. Sometimes I lay awake all night thinking about these things, wondering how I can make people like me and I lay there convincing myself I’ve upset however many people that day.
I think nowadays people are becoming more aware of mental illness in general, especially disorders such as depression and personality disorders, but I do still think we have a long way to come, especially in regards to anxiety. In my perception a lot of people still don’t see anxiety as an issue, they see it as something not that serious that can be easily pushed under the carpet and got rid of, I was once told to “just stop thinking so much” and it’ll go away (very sound advice there). I really don’t think people that haven’t had to deal with anxiety frequently in their lives understand exactly what is, I don’t think they get how debilitating it can be, how it can take over someones life.