It’s easier to admit to having anxiety than it is to admit to suffering from depression. I don’t know if this is your experience, but it is mine.
It’s like, anxiety has become a normalized expression. It’s literally at the point that so many people say they suffer from anxiety, that I feel the need to distinguish myself by saying, “my anxiety is really, really bad.”
I need people to know my anxiety is bad, because, if I need to leave work, or rush to the bathroom or I just need space, I need to feel safe doing so. I need to know that people will respect that. I need to know that it’s okay if and when I’m not okay.
If I’m in a meeting and I need to leave, I need people to understand that I had a reason for leaving. How often do I actually do this? Well, rarely ever. Maybe never at all. But I need to know that if the time comes that I need to, that I can feel comfortable doing so.
If I’m having a bad day, it’s not uncommon for the people who are around me the most often to hear me say, “my anxiety is bad today.” I say this because I need those people to know that I’m not feeling myself. It’s a lifeline. It’s not an excuse. It’s a way for me to just let people around me know why I’m a little quieter or a little not myself.
Again. I don’t pull out this line, unless it has really gotten to a point where I’m losing a bit of my control. Or I’m feeling quite terrible. Most days I can handle, and deal and I’m fine. And even when I find myself telling someone, “my anxiety is bad(high) today,” I’m still pretty much in control. I just want those around me to be informed. I don’t want to have to hide who I am. And I don’t want to struggle alone.
Been there, done that.
With the reduction in stigma many people are becoming more open about their experiences with mental illness. And that’s amazing! That’s my goal. That’s why I write these things. But there’s also, I think, almost a trend going around for people to self-diagnose themselves as being anxious.
My anxiety doesn’t come on because someone hasn’t texted me back, or because I can’t figure out what shoes go with my dress. Nope.
My anxiety is a medical diagnosis that I can’t manage on my own without medication. I’m really not trying to undermine your experience or your lived experience or your struggle, but I mean, it’s a little difficult for me to just tell people, “I have anxiety” and sometimes be taken seriously.
In a way, that’s kind of great. It makes admitting to it less terrifying. But at the same time, I kind of feel like, please don’t say you suffer from anxiety if what you’re truly dealing with is typical worry. Does that make sense?
I want it to be okay to say I have anxiety, but at the same time, I need my anxiety disorder to be taken seriously. When I read some posts that go viral on the internet about what it’s like to deal with anxiety, I worry that we are putting anxiety and the typical worries that everyone deals with in the same basket. And we need to be careful of that.
And I’m not saying that someone might have severe anxiety trying to get dressed. Because, hey, people have anxiety over everything. But if it’s not debilitating, and it happens only on a rare occasion caution yourself against diagnosing yourself with an anxiety disorder.
And if it’s bad, get yourself to a doctor and figure out what’s happening. I have a friend who literally put everything down to anxiety when in fact she had a heart defect. I mean, this stuff is serious.
Now, admitting to having depression is a whole other story. Whenever I write that I experience depression, I take a gulp of air into my lungs and still feel shame. A deep shame. I’m embarrassed by it. Yes, very embarrassed. When you guys write to me and tell me that I’m brave for opening up about this stuff, you know, that warms my heart. This stuff is so far from easy to talk about. Shame over these illnesses is still entrenched in the very blood that runs through my veins.
I still wonder why me. But I’ve decided to try and turn this around. Maybe it’s me because the universe knew I’d talk about it. Who knows?
Anyway, saying I experience depression is like admitting to, somehow, being damaged. I worry people think I’m a bag of emotions, that I’m going to bring everyone down, that I’m sad and mopey, and blue and just I guess the kind of person who will bring a room to the floor.
And that’s just not the case. That’s stigma. That’s what stigma is. The misunderstanding of or belief of what depression looks like. A belief based on prejudice, essentially.
The aforementioned description couldn’t be further from the truth in how it relates to my life.
I’m upbeat, outgoing, funny, I have a pretty large personality. I rarely cry. I wouldn’t cry in public unless I was at a wedding or a funeral. I’m all about having fun. And I shake depression off or I just live with it and I carry on.
There are so many more layers to me, and to everyone who manages these mental illnesses. I’m not depression or anxiety wrapped up in a package. I’m Mandy. First and foremost.
And you, you’re who you are. If you have cancer or diabetes or hyperthyroidism, that doesn’t mean that’s all you are. It’s just something you deal with. Something that sucks but something that’s part of your life whether you like it or not. And you deal with it as best you can.
I don’t know if it’s harder for you to admit to anxiety or depression. But for me, admitting to anxiety makes me feel like, ah whatever. I can say it and unless I specify how bad it is, I’ll be perceived as, and I hate this word, “normal.”
When I admit to experiencing depression, I worry people are like, “oh god.” I just feel like it makes me appear like I’m not healthy, or I’m weird or something.
So, I guess anxiety is easier to admit to because it’s more normalized and depression is harder because it’s more stigmatized. And that’s great! We need to end the stigma.
But at the same time in reducing the stigma, I think we need to remember to be weary of diagnosing ourselves or overusing these labels.
As they become normalized, or less stigmatized rather, it’s important that the significance is still attached to what we are saying.
When we say we are anxious or depressed it’s important that we feel comfortable saying so and at the same time the importance of these words and what they mean medically and for us personally are not lost on those around us.