I have anxiety. My sister has anxiety. Half of the known Universe has anxiety (and probably the rest of the unknown part). Yet still many people don’t understand it. It’s like ignoring something that’s been staring at you right in the face all along. Anxiety is real. And it’s not going away – for anyone.
CAUTION: When I write, I do so with the understanding that not everyone will understand my words. I write to try and get out something that’s been stuck in my brain, but it’s important to note that how my brain works is not the way Joe’s brain works which is not the way Ben’s brain works and so on. Everyone is different. If questions arise in your different brain after reading this post, please reach out to me. I’d be happy to talk with you.
Now, back to what I was saying before – anxiety is a thing. And it’s a thing that also works differently for different people. But one thing that is the same throughout is that anxiety never truly “goes away.”
I hate the word “recovery” when it’s used to describe someone with anxiety and the road they’re on. (Which, by the way, how does one get on this virtual road? Are they driving, walking, running away in terror – what? Ah, language.) Recovery is a word that sounds so final, yet virtually everything we use it to describe is infinite; anxiety never truly goes away, someone can always be struggling with sobriety, back pain can come back – hence the name “back pain.”
I feel like not many people understand the need for different language surrounding mental health. It’s nice to refer to someone you truly care about as “recovering from ___” instead of “struggling with ___” or “dealing with ___” or (my favorite) “suffering from ___.” In this comparison, “recovery” sounds like great word choice! But in my personal opinion, there is one large reason why “recovery” is so problematic – it puts a lot of pressure on the “recover-er.”
It is impossible to truly make anxiety “go away” in the long run, yet that is what we hope for our loved ones who are experiencing it. Put yourselves in their shoes for a moment – to have a disorder that you can never get rid of while you know that everyone wants you to get rid of it – is counting on you to get rid of it – would in fact be very upset if you can’t get rid of it. The disappointment felt in that fact alone is enough to send me into a panic just typing this blog post! Obviously, we don’t want those whom we care about to suffer. But pushing that want onto them in the form of a “need” to get better is, in effect, only making the problem worse and not better.
People experiencing anxiety feel bad enough about even having a disorder in the first place. They’re made to feel even worse every time someone they love: makes a joke about them being sad even though they have “everything they could ever want”; speculates as to the “realness” of their anxiety; wonders how they can be having an anxiety attack without hyperventilating all over the place; gets mad when they can’t be helped out of an anxiety attack; gets confused when medicine doesn’t help a “brain disorder”; accuses them of faking an anxiety disorder/attacks just to get medicine; gets embarrassed when they’re having an attack in public; etc. etc. etc.
I could go on and on about how people experiencing anxiety are put under unnecessary pressure, but I think I’ll stop at the most devastating thing on the list: people experiencing the unbeatable disorder are made to feel at-fault/broken/ostracized when they can’t beat it.