I need to talk about the ‘C’ word. No, not that ‘C’ word, although I do like the idea of dedicating an entire blog post to my love of the word C U Next Tuesday.
I need to talk about the word ‘cured’.
More specifically I need to talk about the word cured and the lived experience of anxiety. I’ve had anxiety for almost a decade in one form or another. It hasn’t been present every single day of those 10 years (thank God!), but it’s probably been hanging out on the back-burners of my mind since I was born.
During my 7-month long anxiety battle for the better part of 2015 I became desperate for any kind of relief from those anxious feelings, both mental and physical. But for the longest time, nothing seemed to work. At the point where I was experiencing consistent jaw chattering, tears, vomiting, endless ‘what ifs’ and the strongest feeling that the world was ending I would have done just about anything to be ‘cured’. If someone had of knocked on my door and said “I have the cure to anxiety, all you need to do is swallow this pill, run in a circle naked 10 times during a full moon, eat nothing but kale and chant Katy Perry lyrics loudly as the sun rises each morning for a fortnight” I would have responded with “where do I sign up?” So yeah, I was desperate.
In the real world, I do hear and read a lot about ‘anxiety cures’. And I get so mad when I read these articles because of what I’ve only been able to fully grasp since my anxiety has, for the most part, subsided: there is no cure for anxiety.
I know, if you are experiencing soul-destroying anxiety right now, this is the last thing you want to read. And I’m not saying it to upset anyone. I’m saying it to empower everyone.
I think it’s irresponsible for anyone to say there is a cure for anxiety, or that they have cured their own anxiety. A false sense of security is established when you think you’re cured of anything, and then when it returns, as anxiety often does, heartache ensues.
I had a four year period right before it all went to shit in 2015 when I could have said “I’m cured” but I knew deep down that anxiety was a part of me. There are triggers for people with anxiety that can never really be controlled. It might not be overwhelming every day, it might disappear for years on end, that doesn’t mean it’s never coming back. And I think once we can accept the fact that our brains work a little differently to others, and that anxiety might visit from time to time (as much as we wish that fucker would just leave for good), then we are in a better position to deal with it when it does rear its ugly, worrisome, irrational head.
I like to think about it relative to what non-anxious people are more susceptible to. My husband has very fair, Irish skin. He’s more prone to sunburn than most. Due to genetics, some women have a higher risk of breast cancer and require more regular screenings than other women. Some people are more prone to allergies. And me and my little brain? We are more prone to anxiety.
Maybe some people with anxiety would like to rid themselves of that label because of the associations that come along with having a mental illness. And I totally accept that. The stigma is real and we don’t want to be thought of as crazy, padded cell-living, irrational, no-hopers, because we’re not. We are just like everyone else, we have jobs, kids, hobbies, and we binged Stranger Things just like the rest of you! Here’s how I see it: I have fingernails. I am not fingernails. Just like I have anxiety. I am not anxiety. It doesn’t define me.
While I don’t believe there a 100% guaranteed cure for anxiety, fear not, all hope is not lost. In fact, we are lucky that in today’s society we have so many options to help manage our anxiety. For me this involves daily medication, regular therapy, a few sneaky glasses of wine here and there, and other activities that help relax me like yoga, writing, reading books and listening to podcasts. While these are not cures, they definitely help keep anxiety at bay. And now when anxiety comes to visit, I’ve learned, through therapy, to accept it, and use different tools to cope. And most importantly I know (although I do have to remind myself from time to time) that the horrible feeling associated with anxiety will pass.
So instead of focusing on this elusive cure, start focusing on what you can do to make getting through the anxious times a little easier. Maybe that means confiding in a friend, or a psychologist or a doctor. Maybe it involves medication, or cognitive behaviour therapy or mindfulness. Or hell, maybe it does involve chanting Katy Perry lyrics when the sun rises. And that’s ok. As long as they can hear you roar.