Anxiety is to be stuck in the past and lost in the possibilities of the future.
Depression is to lose all sense of time. It is to be trapped in a darkness not caring what month, day or time it is. The world moves on around you while you are trapped in your own thoughts, in your own mind, in your own unwanted world of darkness.
You are not given the time or opportunity to live in the present, in the now.
It makes you waste away your time worrying and fearing, making you unable to do the things you truly want to do.
Your time is spent merely surviving, not thriving and not truly living.
The outward appearance is deceiving. How we appear on the outside is not always a true reflection. The battles of our minds are fought in silence. But behind peoples eyes lurk shadows both dark and deep. An infinite sea of thoughts.
Mental illness is a storm that emerges with the malice of an enemy. This storm is the ultimate unknown, an unknown that we most fear.
Within this storm is anxiety, a thunder that becomes louder and louder with each passing second, until it becomes cacophonous. Each thought is a lightning bolt, vying for attention, wanting to be heard as it pulses along with each beat of your heart.
It is a sea of thoughts that continues to roar, a monster awakening within its depths.
Anxiety is a storm that allows you to survive but stops you from thriving.
As the storm rages on, it becomes unyielding, deadly, merciless.
This storm of worries has no escape.
It becomes harder and harder to breathe. Your body begins to tremble, as your teeth chatter uncontrollably. A fist clenches your chest tighter and tighter. Imagine your breathing becoming more and more rapid until you feel like you can no longer breathe, you are drowning in this sea of worry that wishes to consume you.
For those who are fortunate to have never experienced isolation or do not know the extent of its impact may wonder what it feels like.
What is isolation?
Isolation is when we are separated or feel separated from the people and things around us.
Depression can lead to isolation. It is one of the most destructive and devastating things a person can experience.
Isolation gives you too much time to think, to be stuck in your own mind, lost in your thoughts. It makes you feel everything yet nothing.
Isolation is to be wholly present in the moment and yet go unnoticed, to talk and yet be unheard, almost erased from existence for a time.
Isolation gives us the superpower of invisibility, without truly being hidden.
It is to be separated from the people and the world around us. It is to feel alone in a world full of people. You may be surrounded with people yet you feel alone, unheard.
Dichotomous thinking, otherwise called black and white thinking, is a symptom of many mental illnesses. It means you only see the extremity of things and never the middle.
Mental illness is black.
Black is the drowning fear, dread and anxiety that rarely allows you to breathe.
Black is the demon of sadness that wishes to consume you.
Black is the shadow that follows you everywhere, that makes you believe you are alone in a world of darkness.
Black is the depression, the darkness bearing down on you.
And it is white.
White is the cleanliness and perfection that comes with OCD, the checking, the cleaning, the exactness.
White is the safety of staying at home because you are too anxious to leave your house.
White is the hope in you that wishes to thrive rather than merely survive.
We all have light and darkness inside us.
Anxiety, a friend or foe?
Anxiety is an emotion that everyone needs. It tells us when we are in danger or should expect something unpleasant to happen.
Anxiety begins as a friend that wants to protects you. It warns you when something is wrong, long before your conscious mind is aware of it. It keeps you safe, stopping you from taking unnecessary risks and warning you about the situations you should fear.
As a friend it knows your weaknesses and strengths, hopes and dreams.
It understands who you are.
Anxiety makes you believe it's always right. It makes you believe you can't handle different situations. It's a friend that prevents you from experiencing things that may harm, embarrass or worry you.
But it's a friend that protects you from one world but introduces you to another.
To a world of negative imagination, a world of worry.
It makes you see the bad rather than the good.
What will happen?
I am going to embarrass myself.
Everyone is looking at me.
They think you are stupid.
I can't do this...
You can’t just get over it
Those who are suffering with a mental illness would like nothing more than to simply ‘get over it’ but it’s easier said then done. Mental health may not always be physically seen, compared to let’s say the flu or a broken arm, but it is still wholly as present as any other issue. If everyone could just ‘get over’ their mental illness more people would be worry free and happy, but that’s not our reality because mental health is everyone’s reality at sometime or another. We must remember without the sadness that everyone feels at sometime or another, we would not know what happiness is.
What is stigma?
Stigma is defined as a mark of disgrace which discerns one person from another.
Mental health stigma is apparent through the discrimination, stereotypes and prejudice surrounding mental illnesses and are believed by many in our society. Such stigma includes social exclusion as well as negative views such as those with a mental illness are dangerous, dramatic or overly sensitive.
Stigma still surrounds mental illnesses due to people’s lack of knowledge, understanding, negative attitudes and discriminatory behaviour.
How does stigma impact mental health?
According to Mental Health Ireland, there are 450 million people world-wide suffering from a mental illness. 450 million, yet mental health is still attached to a social stigma and ignored by many.
This stigma leads to isolation, people feeling devalued and it also leads to people concealing their mental health difficulties. Many are afraid to get the help they need in the fear of what people will say or in the fear that no one will understand or help due to the stigma experienced not only in society but among peoples’ friends, family and employers. We must remember people don't ask for their illnesses, learning to manage and live with a mental illness becomes more difficult when someone must also continuously fight against the prejudice and stigma pushed upon them by society.
Labelling is a large part of the stigma surrounding mental health. These negative labels include psycho, weird, insane and unpredictable. These negative views and stigma attached to mental health largely influences the belief that we should not talk about our mental health.
Many people believe those with a mental health problem should simply ‘get over it’. Such views exist because mental health is an issue that it not always physically seen, it can be invisible in comparison to a broken arm or leg, so it is easier for people to pretend it does not exist.
What is a panic attack?
Panic attacks are a type of response to fear.
It is a sudden overwhelming feeling of intense fear or anxiety.
Panic attacks can be triggered by particular places, situations or activities.
What do panic attacks feel like?
Imagine being scared, not knowing how long a panic attack will last or what’s going to trigger it.
It is a sudden feeling of panic that seems to come out of the blue.
A feeling of needing to escape, to get out of whatever situation is making you panic.
It becomes harder to breathe…
Your whole body beginning to tremble, as your teeth chatter uncontrollably.
A fist begins to clench your chest, tighter and tighter.
Imagine your breathing becoming more and more rapid until you feel like you can no longer breathe. It is almost like being held underwater with no way of coming up for air.
In the short story, “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas”, author Ursula K. Le Guin describes Omelas, a seemingly prosperous utopia whose happiness and serenity depends solely on the misery and torment of a single child. While most remain ignorant, sacrificing this one injustice for their happiness, a mere few choose to walk away from Omelas.
Much like Omelas, we live in a relative state of comfort and happiness today, even with the knowledge that there are people in this world living in extreme torment, suffering and poverty. We live in a country that remains ignorant to homelessness, oblivious to 3,333 children who were without a home in 2017. We live in communities replete with elders, who paved the path for our generation, who are now being forgotten and seek support for a simple conversation. We live in a nation where a new international study has criticised Ireland for its lack of reform in the mental health sector.
According to Mental Health Ireland, there are 450 million people world-wide suffering from a mental illness. 450 million, yet it is still attached to a social stigma and ignored by many.
Ireland is being chastised for its lack of rectifying the mental health sector. Prejudices surrounding those with a mental illness are fuelled by our ignorance and shows our unwillingness to understand. We are surrounded by people who fail to be considerate of those suffering from a mental illness, who fail to acknowledge the worry, the dread or every ounce of courage it takes just to initiate a simple conversation or to be in the presence of people in any place or situation. People who fail to imagine what it is like second guessing, questioning every word spoken, every answer received, every action taken, every look given at any given time.
What is social anxiety?
Social Anxiety is the fear of social situations that involve interaction with other people. It is the constant fear and anxiety of being negatively judged and evaluated by other people. It is to have a stronger than usual desire to make a good social impression.
To have social anxiety means that it takes almost every ounce of courage just to initiate a simple conversation or to be in the presence of people in any public place or situation.
Social anxiety is to dwell on a social interaction for much longer than necessary, second guessing every word spoken and every action taken out.
What does social anxiety feel like?
Imagine the constant dread and anxiety leading up to and during any social situation.
What will happen?
I don’t want to do this.
I can’t do this.
I’m going to say something stupid…