A beautiful friend of mine wrote this about her experience with anxiety and depression. She has agreed for me to share it anonymously…..
Don’t read the comments.
That is the advice I am firmly giving myself as I start writing this post.
Because it’s about mental health. Mine, to be more specific. It’s a purge of a few thoughts and reflections about navigating a world as a person who seems to feel everything at a level of intensity that is both a gift and a curse.
RUok Day has passed for another year. Facebook was filled with well-meaning people, a lot of whom operate in the realms of anxiety and depression themselves, asking that question: Are you ok?
There is no way in hell I would respond honestly to any of those people with my honest answer, as much as I want to. The main reason? My answer would probably scare the bejeezuz out of them.
In general, society just doesn’t know how to tolerate the realities of ‘difference’ very well. We have a long way to go. I’m just as guilty of this as the next person, I know that. All I can do is listen and learn I suppose. And admit when I fuck up. And learn from that. And continue to live by the mantra, “Curiosity, not judgement.”
Some harsh lessons lately, for me. Yet another wave of people seem to be moving away and out of my life. And I know – it’s a good thing. But at times, the loneliness is physically painful.
Anxiety is a paradox. The more you need physical interaction to improve your mental health and wellbeing, the more you tend to be repelled by it. The more honest you are (when you finally feel safe enough to share) the more you see people recoil from your company. The more social events you can’t do, the less you are invited to future gatherings – and the less likely it becomes that people will accept your infrequent invitations.
Look, I can’t claim to represent everyone. This is my unique experience. In the past I have been diagnosed with moderate to severe anxiety and depression – and it never truly goes away. It continues to hover around the edges of my life. And I am dealing with things in my own, unique way. And learning to be ok with feeling uncomfortable and sitting with that feeling until it passes is a big part of my life now.
And if I could give any advice to anyone who is trying their best to support someone they love, it would be: Don’t leave. Stay connected. Text now and then. And learn to sit with discomfort. That friend who is just ‘too much’ and ‘too intense’ and ‘overthinks’? They don’t choose that. And trying to stop that can cause so many serious mental health repercussions, that to request that they just ‘stop’ can cause irreparable damage.
I am of the firm belief that connection is the balm. It can allow desperate people to feel humanised and safe.
Then you might be able to stop asking, once a year, “Are you ok”.