I haven’t posted since Easter (like 2 months ago), and I’ve felt I needed to but I wasn’t sure what I really wanted to say or what I felt safe to say.
Going into this blog I never experienced it to be easy. I was mute for 15 years (all of my childhood). Putting my words, even just written words, out in the public forum was never going to be the safest thing. Yet I knew I wanted to be an open book in the off chance my own story helped a single person who is struggling with mental illness. And I’ve been pleasantly surprised, I’ve had amazing feedback from my posts and have been able to share my story in national media. But there are still many times when it feels too unsafe to post what I want to say on here. More because of my anxiety disorder (and the irrational thinking it creates), but also because I’ve talked to people about such things in real life and not had a supportive and safe experience of it (one of many reasons I was mute most of my life).
Anyway, after mulling over whether to say anything at all as well as what overall message I want this blog to have, I came to the conclusion that regardless of what people reading this think I need to feel capable of being real and communicating what’s going on inside my head. If I don’t have that capability then it’s majorly unhealthy and harmful for me.
This post isn’t what I was planning to write, it was a reaction to something currently affecting me. The title draws on the many articles from magazines and social media that claim to give insight into the reality of “depression” and “anxiety”, but rarely depict the true illnesses and instead suggest that everybody who experiences some periods of sadness or worry can be lumped under those two medical labels. Those articles really bother me. Not because I think my experience of mental illness is the only true one, I don’t. But I do find they take away the severity, seriousness, and life limiting affect that the medically recognised diagnoses of depression and anxiety.
Get this straight. All people have periods of sadness, but not all people are depressed. Depression is a medically recognised set diagnostic criteria, where a person experiences unreasonable amount negative emotion or numbness that is not necessarily linked with a negative life event – i.e. Clinical depression is not a response to a bad grade or relationship problem for example, although it heightens negative reactions to such events.
All people will experience brief periods of worry or nervousness, but that doesn’t mean all people have anxiety. Anxiety is worry that is beyond that which is reasonable in a situation, or which continues to persist after the trigger has gone – i.e. Anxiety is not the same thing as worrying about exams or money or being nervous around people because worry is a reasonable response in those situations, but anxiety in those examples would be having panic attacks during or even at the expectation of such situations. Having an anxiety disorder may mean having panic attacks even without an obvious trigger, and feeling on edge every second of every day, to the point it prevents you from functioning in everyday tasks.
In real research figures; 4 in 10 people meet the recognised criteria for depression, while 1 in 4 have experienced panic attacks. In the age group with the highest rates of mental illness, 18-34 year olds, only 20% had negative mental health whilst 73% of people had average mental health (7% had above average or positive mental health).
I have had severe and persistent anxiety disorder since I was 5 years old. I grew up so anxious that I was physically unable to speak or communicate properly until I was 16. I will get panic attacks over simple things or even plain imagined things. I’m unable to work full time, or live independently without support. I will likely be on medication my entire life.
Depression and anxiety aren’t labels we should be using as fashion statements. They aren’t cool, or glamorous. Truly they are ugly and life destroying, and given the choice I would not wish them on my worst enemy.