Recently, the term ‘mental illness’ has been tossed around a lot. It is an interesting subject, which evokes a variety of emotions. Some people embrace the topic, wanting to discuss it at length and bring better awareness to it. Others, however, are not too keen on it. Regardless, it seems to remain a frequently called upon term. Personally, I think mental illness has a negative connotation to it. Rather, I choose to define it as mental struggle. The struggle of the mind to keep in positive homeostasis—a consistent state of calm. The truth, is that millions suffer from mental and emotional distress to the point where it disrupts their everyday life. This struggle manifests itself differently; however, a common one is through anxiety.
Much like the misunderstanding with mental illness, so too there seems to be a misunderstanding with anxiety. Anxiety itself can come in different forms and degrees of severity. Personally, mine shows up most readily in decision making, or lack thereof, being outgoing, and performance pressure. I am already an introverted person, but sometimes the fear of a new event, where I will be forced to navigate to an unfamiliar place and mingle with unfamiliar people, is too much to handle. In fact, the other night I was supposed to attend trivia. I knew the host and some of the potential people going. However, I really wanted someone to go with me. I asked a couple of friends, but no luck. So, I attempted to build up enough mental courage to go alone. Just when I was getting comfortable with the idea, the host informed me everyone canceled. So, essentially it would be the host and myself and a bunch of strangers at a place where I had never been. I left work, I even changed clothes still thinking I could handle it. I got in my car and at the stop sign I could choose to turn left and head home or right and head to the bar. I switched on my blinker and turned left. My anxiety bested me.
To most people, this situation isn’t scary at all, it’s just another day. For others, myself included, it’s a nightmare. What’s worse, is I drove home feeling guilty, frustrated, and weak. Honestly, I was looking forward to doing something out of my routine. Yet, the second the plans changed I became anxious to the point where I couldn’t recover. The worst part, is trying to explain this to people. If you haven’t experienced it, then it is hard to understand that a simple change in plans can through off an entire evening. So much mental preparation goes into performing daily tasks, and the truth is it is exhausting. You constantly feel overwhelmed. Even simply greeting someone good morning can be a challenge, and if you accomplish it, you feel like you just ran a mile or did 100 pushups.
Anxiety is a difficult topic both to understand and combat. Yet, platforms like these allow people to share their stories and know you are not alone. It may be tough to deal with, but it can be beat.