Trying to explain what it’s like to live with anxiety can be really difficult. Often people just don’t get it. They simply do not have a point of reference. However certain things can arise, that makes explaining this awful condition a little easier. That is what I am going to try to do.
A Sense of Dread
With everything that is going on in the world at the moment, no one can be blamed for feeling anxious or nervous. Covid, the war in Ukraine, so much to worry about and seemingly so little to be done. The underlying sense of dread is palpable and can at times feel inescapable. It can feel that it is always there in the background.
However, with hope, it is likely that in time, it will pass. Things will return to normality. Imagine they didn’t though. Imagine having that overarching feeling of dread all the time. If you are able, just for a moment, then you may come close to understanding what living with anxiety is like.
The big difference with anxiety is more often than not there is nothing to tie it to. At least, not when it is in control of your life. It’s this big intangible thing that just hangs above you. Something, just out of reach, in the corner of your eye that is impossible to identify. It’s illusive and scary. It is that, that can really make life unbearable.
It is fear, worry, anger, shame and terror all rolled into one. Every second of every day you feel just a little bit of each of these things. So much so, that you can never truly relax, can never have a decent night’s sleep and never escape the ever present sense of alertness. With it all that is happening in the world many will be feeling a little of this at the moment. So maybe, just maybe they can relate to those whose lives are dominated by anxiety
At the moment we can find ourselves scrolling through the news cycle, looking for glimmers of hope, light in the tunnel. Reassurance. Sometimes we find them, we can rest easy. Other times we don’t, the worry continues. We are always looking for that knight in shining armour to appear and save the day.
Be that in the form of a vaccine or international diplomacy and reason. In one form or another, in the end, these things always make an appearance. As the old adage goes ‘hope springs eternal’
When you are suffering from anxiety, unfortunately that rule does not apply. Until you reach out for help, which can be so incredibly difficult. You just don’t feel any hope. There are no lights in the tunnel. No scrolling through the news channel as there is nothing to look for, nothing to pin hopes upon or explain those horrible feelings you are having to cope with.
What is even worse. There is no one to relate to. With everything going on at the moment, you may tell someone else how you are feeling and in all likelihood they will tell you they are feeling the same. That’s reassuring. You are not alone. That sense of camaraderie can be such a comfort and do so much to get through it all. This sense of ‘we are all in this together’ is incredibly powerful in times of adversity.
With anxiety, there is none of that. You can feel totally isolated. I know there ARE people out there, who do understand, totally understand and will be there to support. But as mentioned before reaching out is easier said than done. Until you do, you are alone and have to find some kind of solace within yourself. Which can be unimaginably difficult as often the most challenging confrontations you have to face are with yourself.
No way out
At the moment we can all appreciate those experts on hand to guide us through things that really challenge our understanding of the situation. They break things down, make them manageable for our comprehension. When you are struggling with anxiety there are no experts on hand to explain things to you.
You are left to figure things out for yourself. This can be nigh on impossible sometimes. Especially when you have the anxiety getting in the way to cloud your judgement. Thinking rationally and coherently is so difficult, with any attempt often ending in you feeling all the more confused. It can feel like there is no way out.
I realise that it may be indelicate or even crass of me to use the current situation as a way to highlight what it is to struggle with a mental health issue. If I am wrong in doing that, then I apologise. Yet with the huge rise in the number of people struggling with anxiety over the past couple of years, the more awareness and understanding we can raise the better.
Empathy and Compassion
If by taking a little time out just to imagine a life, lived in with all those feelings that may have started to appear in the last week or so for many people. Then I think that can do nothing but good. To raise people’s empathy and compassion for so many others, who may be struggling. This is not to take anything away or belittle the current world situation or people’s feelings toward it. It is just to open their eyes that little bit wider.