Generally, there is much misunderstanding of mental illness in the world. Mental illness doesn’t receive the same support and sympathy as other ailments. I suffered from severe anxiety for most of my life, as did my mother and my maternal grandmother. for which, we as a family received little support or understanding. It is partly that I grew up surrounded by anxiety, that it seemed normal, that anxiety seemed to be a part of me. It was wonderful to discover that anxiety wasn’t a part of me, that it was simply an illness and it wasn’t something I had genetically inherited.
I fortunately managed to to self diagnose and work through a solution to this chronic anxiety. I still get anxious from time to time, because anxiety is a natural part of existence. It is perhaps for this reason that people don’t understand anxiety or such conditions as depression, because there is a perception that people are simply wallowing in it or using it as an excuse. Most of the time people with such conditions aren’t behaving that way out of choice, they fervently wish that they were healthy.
One of the issues that I struggled with in overcoming anxiety, is that often people don’t understand what it is like to recover from such a condition, to become ‘normal’ [by normal I mean mentally healthy]. It’s like being re-born and you realise that there is this whole world of social interaction that you can now participate in fully. That the people who like you and you share positive experiences with are no longer confined to people who suffer from debilitating conditions themselves. you no longer find the need to seek out the vulnerable to find people to be open and honest with. The issue has been for me, one of being more open with ‘normal’ people. Being open with ‘normal’ people is great, it’s only a problem if you open up about your past anxiety, because ‘normal’ people don’t understand it.
It took me quite a while to appreciate the difficulty of discussing anxiety, an issue the other people have scant understanding of. It’s kind of a taboo subject, something people don’t want to think about. I can completely understand this taboo, as it’s like the fear of trying to understand the motivations of a terrorist or a serial killer, the fear that this mental condition could happen to you, the fear that you may contract anxiety and not have the skills and knowledge to get out of it easily.
It was especially problematic for me as I didn’t know anyone else who had overcome anxiety, to ‘compare notes’ and to realise that I wasn’t the only person in the world who this had happened to. I kind of needed some reassurance that not being anxious was really a good, healthy way of being, that I could just stay not being continually worried. Also the people who had encouraged me to be more confident and less paranoid, were people I couldn’t thank properly, as they didn’t understand, that what happened to em was more profound that simply building up confidence and experience of situations; even as an anxious person I still built up confidence with experience of situations.