Anxiety is a highly debilitating illness diagnosable by a doctor/mental health professional. Being a worrier and having a serious mental illness are two completely different things. This wave of every second person claiming to have anxiety needs to stop, it does not make you interesting, cool or more relatable. A person with generalised anxiety can experience episodes of extreme anxiety at everyday occurrences, have panic attacks and find it hard to leave the house/get out of bed/socialise. Having anxiety will usually have a huge impact on every aspect of the person’s life, everyday is a challenge and there is no simple off switch. Worrying and feeling nervous about certain social situations, public speaking, the struggles that come with life is not the mental health condition that we call Anxiety. Claiming to have anxiety when it suits you or when you need an excuse to get out of something is just unfair to people who actually have it. Those with anxiety have enough to deal with without having people say “Oh you have anxiety? Me too I’m always worrying about stuff, just take a rescue remedy, I swear that totally cures mine” or “Have you ever thought of trying mindfulness?” I’m pretty sure they have tried everything at this stage kindly quit your bullshit.
I’m sooo OCD
Saying anything along the lines of this. Just stop please. Cleaning a lot, keeping things tidy and being particular about how you organise and arrange things is not the same as having a chronic condition, caused by a mix of neurobiologic, genetic, and environmental factors resulting in unwanted intrusive thoughts and repetitive behaviours that is treated with medication and/or behaviour therapy. I’ve explained Obsessive Compulsive Disorder as best I can here. No one gives a shit that you like to colour code your wardrobe. This does not negatively impact your life in anyway, having intrusive thoughts about attacking someone however, does.
Pretending you understand mental health to seem like a better person
I’m going to make up a pretend person and call him Tim to explain my point.
Tim does his bit, Darkness Into Light walk every May, wears a green ribbon, changes his profile picture in aid of suicide awareness while always making sure to “copy & paste for Mental Health Awareness to show you care” to his “wall” with a suicide hotline number only available in America despite living in Tullamore all his life. All in all this is actually great (except maybe the copy/paste job) and most people that do these things genuinely care deeply but not Tim. Tim has a brother with Bipolar disorder and Tim thinks his brother needs to just get on with his life and stop making a big deal. Tim attends the funeral of his school friend who died by suicide and wonders if he could have done anything to help. Tim once told his ex-girlfriend to go kill herself after an argument. Tim agrees we need more mental health awareness. Tim makes fake accounts to post multiple personality jokes in the comments section of articles I write about Schizophrenia. Tim posts a selfie with the hashtag “it’s ok not to be ok” when there’s a movement going on. Tim takes the piss out of the person with BPD saying they need to be carted off to mental ward.
This all might seem a bit dramatic. All of the above are actually real life examples of people I have met who have done all of the above. It’s sickening really and there are a LOT of Tims. I’ve even met a few Tim-like people who are mental health professionals. This is my number one annoyance when it comes to the stigma around mental health. I find this attitude more annoying than those who those idiots who think mental illness isn’t even real. Those types are just ignorant fools but I find the pretenders are worse.
Reducing the stigma around mental health is an ongoing battle. Yes, we have come on leaps and bounds since the days of it being a completely taboo subject. However, there is still a long road ahead.
So let’s please try and move forward by leaving some of this bullshit behind us a we enter 2018.
I hope the year ahead is good to you all. I think we put an awful lot of pressure on ourselves to make every year “our year”. Less of the new year new me crap. You will never get a new you. But we can all work on being the best version of ourselves that we can possibly be and learn to love ourselves. If you don’t like something about your life, try to make some positive changes but don’t put yourself under any unnecessary pressure.
For a change I’m actually looking forward to the year ahead. I had my fair share of ups and downs but a lot of good came out of it all. I got married and had an amazing honeymoon. Became an Aunt. I got to go to London, Orlando, Austin and Dallas. The documentary I was in came out and because of that I was then on The Late Late Show, some radio shows, Gogglebox and more newspaper articles than I could count. Definitely the most stigma busting year I’ve ever had!
So here’s to 2018!
And keep shining on