People always tell me to write what I know, but that made me think: what do I know? And that’s when it struck me. I don’t know sh*t! It seems we know what we need to know, like how to cross the road, or even to write words that may or may not make any sense. But this is all basic common sense. So when you know that… what do you need to know next?
As I sat pondering what to write, I finally landed on a story. I began to write about things that I don’t know, and realised that really, it’s just my opinion. But my opinion is what I know and yes, it could be wrong from your perspective, but opinions can’t be objectively right. Nevertheless, it’s easy to worry that people might not agree with my opinion, or perhaps they simply don’t care. And the worrying part is what leads me to my story.
I pretend to not care deeply about things because I’m scared that others may disagree with what I have to say, and that I could therefore be perceived as a failure. And this is just a tiny part of the struggles I face dealing with an anxiety disorder. The NHS website defines anxiety as “a feeling of unease, such as worry or fear, that can be mild or severe.” I believe this is a somewhat good definition, but I can’t help but think that there is so much more to it than just this “feeling”.
When I go to family parties or social gatherings I feel like I’m a snail; I just stay in my shell. The thoughts crossing my mind tell me “I don’t fit in here”, and ask me “what do I talk about?” or “does this outfit look weird on me?”. And the most frequent question I ask myself is “when can I leave?”.
Unfortunately, some people who do not suffer from anxiety find it hard to understand, and it can feel like people think that it’s something you just need to get over. They tell you to ‘mingle’ or to ‘get yourself out there and ignore everybody else’ and ‘you’ll get over it’ (this is the worst of them all). They don’t quite understand that this is not a winter cold that will go away in a week or two.
Not everyone suffering from anxiety deals with the same struggles, but as for me, I tend to shy away from social activities. An example: I’m walking down the corridor to my lecture door, and I can feel the physical symptoms of anxiety begin to arise. My hands are often shaking, so as I walk I clench my fists to somehow hide my anxiety. Another example: I’m talking to someone I don’t know, far beyond my comfort zone, and I feel myself begin to sweat. I can feel my hands as they grow clammier, which makes me even more nervous to then shake someone’s hand, hug a friend, or even doing the simple task of writing on a piece of paper.
But what truly bothers me about the shaking and the sweating is judgment from other people. The outward symptoms of my anxiety led me to think others would think I was ‘disgusting,’ and I’ve often felt closed off, or an outsider socially.
So how do I battle with anxiety? There’s certainly no perfect solution. My advice would be to write it all down! Write out your thoughts: all of your insecurities and fears, the small tasks you conquered that day or even the things that you wish you had done. I write these things down in a book, away from others, and just for myself, which relieves my fear of judgment.
And to those who don’t suffer with anxiety, I urge you to refrain from judgment. Don’t tell someone to ‘just get over it!’, as it’s not quite that simple. It’s a phrase that can be misleading, and can cause pain a lot deeper than it might seem, and so as a collective we must be aware of the struggles others are facing.
We live in a world where the idea of ‘perfect’ is pictured all over social media. To be accepted in the world you need to have washboard abs, acne-free skin, be exercising every day and only eating salads. And when influencers paint this picture, arguably sometimes it can inspire you, but more often than not it can make you feel inadequate. In recent years awareness for anxiety and other mental health conditions has increased, yet the prevalence of anxiety has also increased, which I think is because the world is so focused on being perfect, when in reality nobody is. I believe we need to stop painting this picture of perfection, and realise that everyone is different, and just maybe that will help people with anxiety to be a little more confident in themselves.
Instead of letting anxiety win, maybe we should be ‘perfectly imperfect!’. By showing our imperfections and talking about them, we can help others do the same and accept their differences. We can become someone who accepts their flaws, and embraces what they have, instead of what they wish they have.