100% real things people have said to me before.
“Anxiety isn’t real”
“You wouldn’t be anxious if you trusted God”
“All you have to do is change your mindset”
“If you work hard there’s nothing to be anxious over”
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you a quick snippet on what the stigma around anxiety looks like. People don’t believe in it. They don’t believe that it is an issue and can be treated by just “calming down.” If it were only that easy. No one goes and thinks “hm I want to be anxious so I’m going to act like that today.” It’s never a choice.
Let’s talk about a myth. There are many myths about anxiety, but this post is going to talk about one. This one myth may be one of the most annoying things I have ever heard in my life. It’s a common phrase and this is how it goes “there’s a cure to mental illness.” Done laughing about how outrageously dumb that is? Here’s why that piece of information is wrong.
Mental illnesses can happen for a couple of reasons: trauma, brain chemistry, or a certain amount of stress at once that leads to overwhelming the body and brain. Those are the most common reasons I have heard of, but there are many more. Since it’s so different for each person and can be caused by multiple things there are a bunch of different ways to treat it. Everyone chooses a plan that best fits their needs.
Therapy is used by people who do have a mental illness and others who don’t. It is meant to help with everyday life. Medication can be given for a little bit of time or the rest of someone’s life. There are loads of coping skills and exercise is a great one because of the happy endorphins that get released in the brain. Just because someone stops taking medicine or attending therapy doesn’t mean they are “cured”, but rather just doing better. Mental illness is an ongoing process. Nothing will ever be truly “fixed”.
Anxiety has been a big part of my life ever since I could remember. When I was properly diagnosed, most people thought if I worked hard enough I would get over it. My anxiety isn’t just being stressed about meeting a new person or taking a test. It will never go away and everyday I wake up and try my best to be okay. I do a lot of things to decrease my anxiety and am constantly looking for new ways to cope. There will never be a moment where my anxiety is no longer with me.
Anxiety is so much more than just stressful thoughts and it’s hard for others to understand if they don’t experience it. I get that it’s hard to understand something if you don’t experience or know much about it, so I never expect anyone to. That doesn’t mean I don’t find responses offensive or annoying, I just get that some people don’t know what it feels like. Instead of saying “anxiety isn’t real” or “just learn to cope” here’s a list of things that are good to say.
“I’m always here for you”
“What you’re feeling is valid”
“Do you want to talk about it?”
“Thank you for sharing something that can be hard to say”
“Doing your best is enough”
Mental illness is real. Anxiety, depression, OCD, eating disorders and so on are all real. They are invisible and hard to get ahold of. Do not tell someone to get over it or to try harder. Do not tell someone that they are just making it up. These things aren’t fun to have and everyday people fight an invisible battle.
Support your loved ones whether you understand or not. If you struggle with an invisible illness know that you are not alone and your feelings are valid. We are fighting together to end the stigma.