I wrote ‘It’s okay to not be okay‘ a couple of months ago, where I spoke about my personal experiences with anxiety and panic disorder. It’s something I have suffered with for many years and at times it’s worse than others. Thanks to my therapy sessions and the various changes I have been making, I’m feeling good and so much better than I did at the beginning of the year. It’s not something that ever goes away but it’s how you incorporate it into you life and deal with it that makes the biggest difference.
At the moment it feels like a LOT more people are sharing their own issues and experiences with anxiety or other mental illness, which in a strange sort of way is great. It makes it much less of a taboo subject, gets us all discussing tips and coping techniques and makes the whole thing feel like you are not alone which is so important.
I recently ran a Wellbeing session at my work and was amazed how quickly everyone started to open up and how in one way or another most of us had suffered from something similar.
Why is this, though? Is it because of what we have to deal with in our modern busy lives that we all eventually burn out? Is it because more and more people are talking and so other people recognise symptoms and are able to confirm what they have also been dealing with? Or is it finally becoming something we can all speak about openly without feeling embarrassed or ‘weird’?
Whatever the reason it’s pretty awesome that the world is becoming much more accepting of illnesses and struggles that not everyone can physically see. There is a long way to go in lots of respects but it’s a vast improvement from where we used to be.
There is a bit of a dark side to it though and that’s what I wanted to talk about in this post. Where things become shared more and more and even celebrities start to speak out about what they suffer with, you get those who simply (and I hate to say it) ‘jump on the bandwagon’. And for someone who genuinely suffers, I cannot even comprehend why anyone would want to ‘pretend’ that they do too.
There is nothing glamourous about feeling sick from panic or feeling like you’re about to pass out several times a day. Worrying about going to a meeting for longer than 30 minutes because ‘what if you need to get out and people ask why?!’. Or having to catch a train somewhere for what seems like a seemingly easy trip to everyone else but takes every ounce of strength you have to make yourself get on that train and stay on it. Every single thing you do in day to day life is affected by your overwhelming worry of what might go wrong. Even the nice things that you’re supposed to enjoy like nights out and family parties. Or chores like going to the supermarket become the biggest battle and feel impossible to overcome.
So why on earth do people say they have anxiety when they really don’t? Cause trust me, if you knew for a second how it really feels and what it does to you as a person then there is no way you would want to feel this way.
A ‘celebrity’ recently posted a video of herself having a ‘panic attack’ in a car whilst in a traffic jam in London. Now, who am I to say that it wasn’t real? I of all people should know that it’s something you can’t judge people for or know how they genuinely feel inside. What I do know is, and I’m very qualified to say this if you are really having a panic attack the LAST thing you would want to do is film it. Now you might film yourself afterwards if that’s what you do, eg a YouTuber who is Vlogging might want to include that as part of their day to share with their viewers but during the attack, no. It wouldn’t even cross your mind to pick up a camera.
She is not the only person though and that’s what worries me. For people to accept the seriousness of illnesses like anxiety, panic disorder, depression and whatever else you might be dealing with in relation to those, you can’t have people who simply think it’s ‘on trend’ to say that they suffer from those things when they likely don’t at all.
It’s a bit like the ‘boy who cried wolf’ story. If you have ten people who say they suffer from something and then start filming it and glamorising the symptoms then the one person who really does suffer will struggle to get across how damaging it really is. And how in reality you can’t just go about your day and do everything you normally do whilst feeling absolutely fine.
So let’s keep talking and helping each other. But somehow we need to make sure it’s only the real sufferers who get their voices heard. The ones who use up a lot of energy every day by just trying to feel and act ‘normal’ and not those who jump on the ‘illness of the moment’ just to get their face in the papers and glossy magazines or just for general attention seeking.
How do we do that? I have no idea. Sadly the world of celebrity and PR means that things are never quite as they seem. But in this very real world with these very real problems, something needs to be done about promoting people who are treating a serious illness like a trend because it gets them noticed.
Anxiety is so much more than that.