A few weeks ago I shared a post on Facebook about my anxiety and depression.
It was the first time I had opened up in such a public setting, and the first time a lot of people would have been made aware of my situation. I debated for a while before posting it. Worried what people would think, worried who would judge me, worried who wouldn’t understand. But I hit send anyway, because, well, that’s just the kinda rebel I am.
Following the post I received an outpouring of love and support, which was amazing. As I mentioned, I had questioned whether or not to post something for a few weeks. I didn’t want to come across as attention seeking, and I didn’t want to receive unhelpful advice from anyone like “just don’t worry so much!” and “it’s all in your head, just get over it”.
One thing that did happen a lot was the use of the word ‘brave’ from some of my friends to describe my actions. But I am not brave. I’ve been dealing with anxiety for nine years now, with the last few months the worst I’ve ever experienced. It’s taken me a long time to get to the point where I don’t care if people know or not, and I’m sick of hiding it (even though, I do that so well, seriously, give me a medal!)
I am not brave, just ready. I’m ready to share my experiences and war stories with people who want to listen. I don’t want to be described as brave because the last thing I want is for people who aren’t ready to share their problems with the world to consider themselves as not brave. Because when you are living with anxiety and depression every single day, you are the bravest mother-fucker out there. Even if you don’t get out of bed. Or sit in your pyjamas watching television till the worst is over, you are brave. Because you’re living it.
Here is the post below for those that missed it.
“Ok here goes nothing. For the last four months I’ve been on the hellish road battling with severe generalised anxiety with a sprinkling of depression. It has consumed every part of my life, to the extent that my husband and I had to cancel our overseas trip (I should be in New York right now, also, I’m sorry if you’re one of the people I lied to about why we cancelled, I wasn’t ready to open up). I’m not posting this for sympathy, but to let people know it’s ok to come out and talk about what you’re going through with a friend, family member or a professional, especially where mental illness is concerned.
As a society we like to think that the stigma and taboo around mental illness is improving, but we still have a long way to go to not judge those with mental illness, and to better understand what someone might be experiencing. It would be great if it was acceptable to post a status about mental illness as regularly as we post about The Bachelor, or the Kardashians, or the paleo – vegan cookies we’re consuming J
My journey isn’t over yet, as I continue to work with doctors, specialists and mental health professionals to get on top of what is going on. It is incredibly hard and scary. And it’s ok to admit that. I know there will still be dark days ahead, but I’m fortunate enough to have the support of my incredible husband, family and friends to make those days a little brighter. I hope that by posting this, someone experiencing something similar will know it’s ok to seek help and talk about your problems. You are not alone. X”
I heard a great quote the other day, which I think adapts perfectly to my situation of late. I don’t remember it word for word, but you’ll get the idea. Since June this year, I’ve constantly felt like a duck, paddling its feet like mad under the surface of the water trying not to sink, but appearing cool and calm to any onlooker, gliding to its destination with ease. For me, with practice, it’s been easy to hide my anxiety. I could lock myself in a toilet cubicle at work until I could breathe again, or curl up in the corner of my couch and watch repeats of Homeland until I felt ok to go to a friend’s place for dinner. But in saying that, hiding anxiety is another daily game that I don’t want to play anymore. Because it’s just like hiding a part of who you are. I am Steph. I have anxiety. I am a fucking glorious duck.