I was sitting in my psychiatric nurse’s office and I said: “I don’t want to have bipolar disorder.” At this point, I didn’t know what my diagnosis actually was. But her response stuck with me. She looked at me with caring eyes (you know because she’s a nice Portland person) and said: “Nobody wants to have anything.” It stopped me in my tracks. She was right. Nobody wants to have a mental illness. Nobody wants to have cancer. Nobody wants to have Alzheimer’s. Nobody wants to have a condition that causes them to feel bad. Acknowledging these things that we may have can cause you to feel depressed. Nobody wants to worry about their health to the point where they’re not living life.
With my anxiety disorder, I am constantly worrying about things. I am worried about people’s perceptions of me. I’m worried there’s “something wrong with me.” It’s seriously exhausting. Do you think I want to have that? No, I absolutely do NOT want to have anxiety. I don’t wish anxiety, panic or anything in that category upon anyone. It’s such a hard thing to live with. Anxiety is misunderstood, it’s highly stigmatized and underplayed. Anxiety is something that so many of us are afraid to admit we have. Why? Because to some people out there, anxiety means weakness. It’s not though. No mental illness is weakness and if you have one, it’s not a judgment on you or your character.
Nobody wants to have anything. They don’t, but unfortunately, we all have something. It might not be a mental illness, but it’s something. Life is extremely unpredictable and even writing this now causes me to have anxiety. What is going to happen to me tomorrow? I don’t know. Yeah, my anxiety is making another appearance. It never goes away that anxiety. I’ve come to the point where I’m not surprised by anxiety anymore. When it peaks its head out, I say hello and I decide at that moment whether or not I want to engage with it. Sometimes acknowledging anxiety is helpful and other times, giving anxiety the time of day is just feeding anxiety’s ego. It’s a balance and we need to find a middle ground, anxiety and I.
That’s probably true for many mental health issues. They’re always there, whether you’re “stable” or being plagued by a symptom. We are dealing with our “something.” Acceptance is a part of managing what you’ve been dealt in life, that’s a part of it. But I believe it’s also about understanding what you’ve got to work with. If you’re too afraid to face what you’re living with every day, you won’t be able to grow.
Right now, I’m working on not being afraid of my anxiety. It sounds funny, right? Anxiety is fear. But when I get anxious I am afraid of being anxious. It’s what they call “meta-anxiety.” I seriously wish I could stop thinking sometimes, but unfortunately, that isn’t how I was built.
However you were built, and whatever “something” you have, I hope you can embrace it!