I recently reached out to members of the Afro-bloggers group to ask how people manage to strike a balance between pouring out and not over sharing. Wearing my heart on my sleeves is something I have always struggled with- mostly as a defense mechanism. “Why should I share so much with anyone and everyone? Why should people get to know me that well?” – are some of the thoughts that flood my mind whenever I try to be open and vulnerable. But, I digress … In the conversation with other bloggers, a handful of people shared how being able to write about honest experiences, weaknesses and vulnerabilities was a courageous stance that unknowingly helped to heal others and pave way for the much needed conversations about life and living.
In light of the foregoing, I thought I should start an unlimited series of random honest posts which I will call : Honest Musings. In these sessions, I will share real life experiences and struggles from a lived or closely noticed perspective. The delivery will vary and I hope to collaborate with or feature some other amazing bloggers and their stories.
For the first part, I’ll talk about something I’m way too familiar with- ANXIETY.
You can play this song in the background as you read this musing (P.s for sensitive readers/listeners, please excuse the french):
What is anxiety?
The dictionary definition of anxiety is, “a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease about something with an uncertain outcome”. Studies show that anxiety disorders are the most common form of emotional disorders and can affect anyone- AT ANY AGE. When one has anxiety, the feeling of excessive, irrational fear may be with them all the time. It is an intense and sometimes debilitating feeling.
From my lived experience, I agree with the dictionary and scholarly excerpts of anxiety shared above. Though I should add that no words can accurately describe the intensity and irrationality of the fear and worry that comes with anxiety. It’s for this reason that I embedded the song by Selena and Julia as I feel that their description is the closest to express what having to battle anxiety for me has been like. “I’ve got all these thoughts running through my mind, all the damn time and I can’t seem to shut it off.”
Anxiety and Me.
What’s weird is I can’t pin-point when exactly I started having my panic attacks and anxiety. Growing up, I know I was usually unconsciously WORRIED about the smallest things. Like, when I accidently broke water glasses in my mum’s kitchen or when I was told to present something in primary school. I always just felt excessively apologetic and sad for the smallest things and much worse when things didn’t go my way.
The older I grew, the more intense these feelings got. The pressure of excelling academically and the detriments of the lack thereof did not make things any better. I remember one time in High school, I did not perform well in my end of term examinations- I spent hours behind some classroom blocks, shivering and crying. A friend who found me attempted to talk me out of it by highlighting how “others were having it worse than I was“.
But, that’s the thing with anxiety, it defies logic. It presents all the things that could go wrong so VIVIDLY and casts a shadow on everything else that could go well. It’s not as easy as “snapping out of it”. Professionally, it requires therapists to properly manage and spiritually (from a Christian perspective), it requires studying of the scripture and praying against it. That is the magnitude and intensity of anxiety.
Myths about anxiety & how to “do better”.
From my experience, there are a number of myths associated with anxiety which I find to be offensive. Understandably though, they usually come from people who genuinely do not know how to do better. Some common myths include:
- Anxiety is rooted in lack of gratitude. I have had people in the past always list things that have gone well in my life whenever I’m having anxiety about some unknown outcome. They seem to suggest, if I was grateful for the previously surmounted fears and worries, then there would be no logical reason to be “beaten down” by whatever hurdle. Such a perspective is as flawed as it is insensitive, regardless of the noble intentions that may be underlying. A better approach if found in a situation were you’re required to be there for someone battling is to acknowledge that there feelings are valid and walk them through how that particular situation can not lead to the outcome they are worried about or just assure them that you’ll be there for them and with them regardless. After all, “we all need somebody to lean on”.
- Anxiety can easily be shut down. Drawing from the lyrics of the embedded song- “I’ve been told I could take something to fix it, damn I wish it- I wish it was that simple“. It must be understood that anxiety is an emotional disorder that affects one’s mental health, it needs as much attention and care as any physical ailments one may have. Being empathic about it is one way to definitely do better.
- One can’t be happy and have anxiety. If you ever thought in these lines, please think again- it is very possible for one to be generally happy in their lives and still battle with anxiety when it comes to certain aspects.
How to cope with anxiety.
As narrated above, anxiety is not the easiest to “snap out of”. It is a continuous process of adhering to carefully crafted copying mechanisms. This much I know. We live in a very triggering world- now more than ever. Everything around us is so uncertain; this means that more people are battling with anxiety now more than ever.
Depending on the intensity of the anxiety, some coping mechanisms that have worked for me and that have been recommended by experts include:
- Improved wellbeing. This is very subjective, but in simple terms it can be said to just do more of what you love- a “breather” or an “escape” . My escape is usually music and poetry. I literally get lost in words and find myself there.
- Regular exercise. I love taking walks when I’m overwhelmed, I find it very relaxing and good for the mind. Others may run, do yoga, or swim whichever exercise seems to be for you- do what you can to take care of your mental health.
- Therapy. Cognitive behavioral therapy and psychotherapy are recommended by experts.
- Medication. These should only be taken as and when they are prescribed by doctors.
Closing remarks: For anyone who has been battling with anxiety, please know that your feelings are valid. You are not alone and you are never without a friend. Sending love and light!