Second of all, please leave me be. Just for a minute.
I know that I’m not alone here in suffering from anxious moments, but it really can feel alienating, bewildering and frankly out of control to not know what’s happening from one moment to the next.
Sometimes you need to write a letter to toxic people in your life to trick yourself into expressing things that you didn’t realise you were feeling. Well, this is no different. I’m hoping that there will be more to this letter than just me complaining. Even if there isn’t, it will still be productive because we all need to get talking about mental health more. It isn’t enough to work to merely de-stigmatise it.
We need to normalise it.
In fact, more than that, we need to actively engage with it. It’s not enough to just blink and look both ways politely when someone is suffering from an anxiety attack.
But keeping your distance isn’t always the way to go, particularly when a person is spiralling and just needs confirmation that they’re still on this mortal coil. It can seem like your life is drifting out of control or slipping away down a drainpipe. That’s when you need people most, and that’s when they can really let you down by being MIA. Maybe they have their own needs, issues and personal boundaries. That’s okay.
But you do need to be aware of your own needs. You aren’t a burden, and even if you are asking something of someone, you are within your rights to do so. If you are in a relationship or friendship or they are close family, as long as you are reciprocating prioritising the relationship, you deserve the proper attention.
This isn’t something to be meek and mild about, truly.
You owe it to yourself to ensure you are surrounded by the right people who are educated and know you well enough to look after you.
These are the types of contingency plans and mindset that you have to be aware of when you suffer from anxiety. It’s not just overthinking and panicking in public spaces, trust me. My life would be much less complicated if it were. It’s constantly feeling like the world is watching you when you enter a room. Or having heart palpitations start in innocuous circumstances and suddenly you’re on the floor and can’t breathe. It’s feeling suspicious and paranoid that everyone only tolerates you out of some misguided pity or social service. In essence, it’s feeling out of place, restless and fatigued at once, and a million other things.
Everyone gets it slightly differently.
Moreover, it jars differently with each person’s individual personality. It’s difficult to diagnose young, particularly in girls as it manifests in much less typical ways than people generally know to look for. It’s limited attention span, inability to focus, constant need to fidget – you can’t sleep, you spiral, basic tasks become impossible. The feeling as though you have constantly forgotten something. Or like you have a To Do list as long as your arm and no way of making an in road to it. It can be ultimately summed up as the feeling of your stomach dropping on a rollercoaster. Except you aren’t convinced that you will ever reach the bottom and level out again. That’s the terrifying thing.
It’s not just mental, emotional of psychological, either. It manifests physically in a big way. Twisted stomach, indigestion, vomiting, an all manner of bladder-related complications. These are things that we learn to live with as part of life – we never stop to think of them as symptoms that manifest as part of anxiety – something that might be treatable. Something that the everyday person doesn’t have to think about – it can consume us.
As with all forms of mental health, it deteriorates, often without reason or cause, and that can be the most frustrating. When you look around yourself and on paper, life is good. You have a job, a partner, a selection of hobbies that you’re pretty sure satisfy you.
And there will always be an ‘and yet’ in the distance. Constantly threatened. Always at risk.
My letter to my anxiety, therefore, is short and simple:
I am stronger than you. Maybe not now, and maybe not always and forever. But I can learn about what makes you tick, and what keeps you healthy. I can also accept that I won’t always be able to control you.