What I've learned about Anxiety: Final thoughts (part 4 of 4)
I want to share what I have learned about living with a long term mental illness called generalised anxiety disorder. In this final Part 4 I try and crystallise things I have learned about myself, what this means for my relationships with others and also the impact other's can have on those with chronic anxiety and opportunities for change.
What I've learned about myself...
I’ve learned from others who suffer from anxiety that I am not alone.
I’ve learned that chronic anxiety often plagues those with intellect. People who think a lot, well, think a lot.
People who are often anxious often care a lot about, well everything. This is not all bad.
I’ve found out first-hand that anxiety is not all in the mind. That even if it was, the mind is part of the body, new connections between which are being discovered everyday.
I’ve learned it’s not surprising I felt isolated, ashamed and misunderstood if like so many others I kept my pain to myself and tried to will it away or bury it.
I’ve learned that our brain thinks literally thousands of random thoughts each day and that is the same for most people. The attention that those with anxiety and obsessive worry give to certain random thoughts is what causes me pain and feeds my illness.
I’ve learned that I am actually good in a practical crisis and that my anxiety although a learned (generalised) response is best kept at bay by taking charge and focussing on what I can control during stressful situations.
So I’ve learned that even the chronically anxious can learn to respond and not always react first but that this takes a lot out of me and means it takes me time to adjust to external events, both good and bad.
I’ve discovered that identifying and using my strengths helps me to balance out my negative emotions with plenty of opportunity for positive ones. And it helps me create meaning in my life as I focus on what I am good at.
Without my lived experience of mental illness I wouldn’t have developed my skills of empathy, compassion and interest in others’ wellbeing in the same way. The fact that I wouldn’t want to change these qualities about myself means that on some level I am appreciative for my lived experience as a resource.
I’ve come to accept that only by being open about my lived experience of anxiety and mental illness can I better shape it’s future impact on my life as I achieve meaning through helping others.
What I've learned about others...
I’ve discovered I am quite good at spotting a fellow anxiety or depression warrior.
I’ve found out that my friendships and my relationships are more authentic now I can be open about having good and bad experiences with my mental health.
I’ve learned that having generalised anxiety is not the same as being fearful of everything and everyone, and that even with a diagnosis those close to me will struggle to understand or believe how much I battle daily.
It makes some people uncomfortable that I openly share my experience of receiving ongoing medical care and support for my anxiety and my mental health.
I’ve learned that for some people it is difficult to understand that I refer to my anxiety as an illness at all. We all get anxious after all. And now with the pandemic we all have something to feel anxious about. This crisis will hopefully will make understanding easier and remove the them and us for all of us (me included).
I’ve realised that some people need to experience their own crisis before they feel able to acknowledge that mental health is something common to us all and indeed precious and worth fighting for.
If you have appreciated this collection of articles on anxiety and want to get in touch, please comment below or contact me on email firstname.lastname@example.org.