I am and have always been somewhat of a social chameleon. That is to say, I adapt to the people and situations around me to fit in. This is probably a result of being an only child; you know how we’re desperate for attention and all. Perhaps though many people are the same, and few of us show our “real” selves to those around us. Sometimes though, wouldn’t it be nice to come clean? To confess something about who you really are? Well the truth about me is….. I have an anxiety disorder, and arguably I have had for most of my life.
I’m not sure that if you asked the people around me they would be surprised, appalled or nod and say “that makes a lot of sense.” We all like to think that we hide our faults and problems well, but perhaps this is just a dilution we all agree to buy into. I try very hard to keep my disorder reigned in, struggling everyday to keep it an internal battle , instead of an external one. I think that I fear that the more it creeps out into the world, the more I won’t be able to handle it, or keep it under control. There have been a couple times in my life when I felt I lost control of it. Both times I sought medical advice and was put on medication. Both times I promptly stopped taking the medication and told myself to “smarten up”. Whether this is the right approach or not, it’s one I’ve decided to stick with. The medications are hard on your system with MANY side effects, and they take a long time to make a difference. I’ve been told a lot of the side effects go away after long periods of time, but I never stuck it out to find out. Now by no means am I saying that the medication doesn’t serve a purpose, I just found it not to fit with me. I had more anxiety about taking them, and therefore suffered more while on them.
What does it mean to suffer from anxiety, you may ask. I’m sure everyone has heard of the fight or flight instinct. Well in very simple, non medical terms, my body and mind spend most of their time griped in this instinct. So I feel an inner turmoil about most situations, where my stomach tightens, my breathing is shallow and the muscles in my body are tense – at the ready to fight or flee. It’s really a need for control and an inability to handle not having it. Of course in life there are lots things out of our control, so you can see the problem this generates. You also worry as a result of this. Worry about everything. Sometimes this results in anxiety attacks. This means you are paralyzed by your anxiety, so that certain tasks (usually the ones you are most worried about) become impossible to perform. Or as in my case, you find that all your usual symptoms are amplified.
Living with any disorder is hard. The stigmas attached to mental diseases are cruel, dimeaning, and often impede the individual. I know this is one reason why many people hide their disorders. It is a source of shame. Let’s hope that recent campaigning to change this preception, allows more people to be honest about their conditions. For me it really is about how I can best take each day.