I didn’t used to curse. Then I went through an era of the broken heart where I was so anxious about uncertainties that uttering “Goddammit” in tune with Eric Cartman gave me a feeling of relief my many “Peter, Paul and Mary” and “son of a biscuits” simply could not. For those of us who experience anxiety—its intoxicating, overpowering state of body and mind—it can perhaps best be summed up as a “witch with a B.”
There’s a stigma out there on anxiety. It shouldn’t be talked about. Keep it hush hush. If only people were more open to talking about their problems. We might realize we’re not alone.
Anxiety is, in fact, the most common mental disorder in the United States, affecting anywhere from 18-30% of the population. It is often coupled with depression and OCD, two other disorders that aren’t talked about enough.
In today’s society, declaring imperfections is taboo. The fact that one suffers from an all-consuming mental health disorder is not information to be shared with co-workers and friends. Our honest emotional state is supposed to be brushed under the rug, instead masked with what society deems “publicly acceptable” and “professional.” Our insecurities are meant to be quieted, not voiced.
What if we changed what society tells us? What if we stood up on our soapboxes, shouting our imperfections and embracing who we really are? What if we appreciated that we’re human; we’re imperfect; we’re emotional; we’re beautiful.
When I was in sixth grade, I was diagnosed with depression and a minor case of OCD. A decade later, anxiety crashed into my life like the proverbial bull in a China shop, dismantling my stability and crumbling my securities. It lifted both my feet off the ground and has left me scrambling ever since.
A part of my anxiety stems from growing up: the bills, the expectations, the life choices and adult decisions. Another part of my anxiety is caused by relationships with others, even when they’re not my own. Anxiety also fights its way into my life when I try to fit into the cookie cutter lifestyle I simply don’t thrive in.
Travel cures me. Or at least alleviates the struggle. And it works so much better than any pill I’ve ever popped. I’ve learned to wrap my arms around my fear of uncertainty, to book one way flights, to wake up one morning not knowing where I’ll lie my head at night.
Theatre is my remedy. I focus my mind on line memorization, creativity and imagination. I shed my unwarranted fears before I step onto the stage at night. For a few hours, at least, I am a character in a dream world brought to life. My anxiety is irrelevant.
Exercise is my mental and physical fix. When my heart starts racing, I encourage it. I put on my running shoes and step out the door. My anxiety comes with me. It never really leaves. But it is put at bay.
Talking about it helps me cope. I visit counselors in different cities I move to. I bounce advice off of friends to ease me away from a panic attack. I lean on people, because that’s what humanity is all about.
It’s exhausting spending our lives running from something. It’s so much easier to accept it, understand it, and welcome it.
You might never have known the battle of epic proportions that goes on in my head if I hadn’t told you. Those of us who suffer from mental health disorders are often happy people. But even happy people are not without their hardships. Forty million Americans suffer from anxiety.
And it’s important that we talk about it.