Let’s Talk About Anxiety

Let's Talk About Anxiety

There are many things I am proud of in my 22 years of life. Having anxiety doesn’t exactly make the top of the list, but it is what it is. Living with anxiety has been far from easy, but after 2 and a half years of battling it, I am finally comfortable enough to share my story.

I suffer from GAD – General Anxiety Disorder. While I used to be incredibly embarrassed by that fact, the more research I do, the more I realize that I’m not alone. Most people don’t see this as a big deal because it’s not life threatening, (thank goodness!) and because it can’t be “seen.”

Unfortunately there is such an unfair stigma against mental health. There’s so much more to it than what meets the eye, and I’m ready to share that without ANY shame. So, let’s dig just a little bit deeper shall we?

What Does It Mean To Have GAD?

Firstly, what does it mean to have anxiety? Well, to be honest, there’s a different definition for every sufferer out there. For me, having anxiety means chronic worrying, self-doubt, and over exhaustion of nerves. The simplest of tasks are daunting and we simply have no control over those feelings.

How Does Anxiety Start?

Theres really no concrete answer to this. Anxiety can occur at anytime to anyone, for any number of reasons.  Sometimes, anxiety is genetically inherited, other times it literally just happens.

My Story.

In my life, I experienced my first panic attack on my 16th birthday in Disney World. Disney freaking World….of all places! I was having a FABULOUS time and my family and I were waiting for dinner at Planet Hollywood, when all of a sudden, this overwhelming sense of terror consumed my body. At the time, I had no idea what was happening. All I knew was that I had to escape, somehow, someway. When it finally passed, I was exhausted, mentally and physically. I hoped to never experience that again.

Flash forward to February 2013 and once again, out of nowhere, I had the absolute worst panic attack of my life. It was a 2 hour ordeal and from that night forward, I was changed. What was once a rare occurrence became a daily battle. I went into hiding. I distanced myself from my family and friends. I lived in constant shame and self-loathing for having this medical condition. Anxiety was like the big bully on the playground, just lurking around every corner waiting for me. My biggest fear was people finding out what I was going through and judging me. I was way too embarrassed to ask for help, and I thought I could handle it on my own.

Unfortunately, I experienced two major tragedies in a short period of time and my anxiety became worse. It started to affect my health in ways I NEVER expected, and so, the time came for me to get some help and begin to heal myself. I began to seek counseling and start medication. That moment was the best decision of my life.  

For the first time in the LONGEST time, I could breathe. I could resume a normal, healthy lifestyle again. I could go out with my family and friends. I could do all of the normal things that I wanted to do. Don’t get me wrong, I still struggle with anxiety. Unfortunately, it’s something that doesn’t just go away overnight. However; I’ve learned to accept it. Anxiety and I are by no means friends, but we are no longer enemies either. There’s so much more I could say about this illness, but each and every person experiences it differently. I will say this though, the journey I’m on is unique. Anxiety will always be a part of it, but I know I can overcome it. I know I can survive it.

What I Want My Loved Ones To Know – What ALL Loved Ones of Anxiety Should Know.

  1. We will be frustrating sometimes.

    One of the hardest parts about living with anxiety is what it does to our relationships/friendships. I have a friendship in which anxiety has played a LARGE role in it. I often frustrate, annoy and upset my friend with my behavior. I often hear “stop dwelling”, “stop apologizing”, “stop explaining”, “why are you making a big deal out of this?” and more. It hurts to hear harsh words sometimes. Mainly because I know I dwell, over think & over analyze, but I know I can’t help it. I know it’s horrible for my friend to put up with and I know it’s both exhausting and sickening to her as it is to me. Here’s the thing: Our anxiety ridden selves find it hard to believe that we can be loved and accepted despite this. We are constantly torn between pushing people away, and worrying about losing them. We don’t want to lose the people we love. I know I certainly don’t want to lose my friend. But, our minds simply cannot help but worry over that. It’s frustrating, yes, but it also shows how much we care about you.

  2. We can’t do tough love. 

    Sometimes, people with anxiety can have pretty stubborn heads. It takes us awhile to understand something. It’s not because we can’t comprehend, it’s because we have 2 parts of our brain that are fighting to have control. It may be so easy to get tough with us – we know. But, please, know that harshness and tough love, doesn’t help, it hurts. It hurts a lot. It makes us sink further into self-depreciation mode. It makes us feel even worse about ourselves. Please try to be patient with us….we know it is hardly easy, and we know it’s just as rough for you. But, we appreciate your gentleness and sensitivity to us more than anything in this world.

  3. We don’t want/need pity.

    Yes, we realize that some people have it way worse than we do. While we need your tones to be gentle, we don’t need you to feel sorry for us. We don’t need to hear “I’m sorry” or “I know you are suffering.” Instead, we need encouragement, positive energy, and an occasional shoulder to lean on.

  4. It’s the little things that mean the most to us.

    Anxiety sufferers need to be reassured on occasion. We need to be reminded that we’re loved, cared about, and supported. Something as simple as a sweet text message, hug or affirmation can make a world of difference in our lives.

  5. Anxiety is a REAL diagnosis: 

    As I mentioned above, I’ve struggled with other health issues caused by my anxiety. Did you know that anxiety can raise your white blood cells? Neither did I until I had some routine blood work done, only to find out I had to see a hematologist to figure out the problem. I’ve never been so scared. So please, if you or someone you know is struggling with anxiety, encourage them to get help, or be a beacon of help for them. Don’t let them go through this alone.

  6. We are more than our anxiety: 

    Yes, anxiety is a part of us, but it’s not all of us. While we worry, regret, get emotional, and may be as confusing and complicated as Calculus, we have some great points. We have a huge heart that loves and cherishes you all dearly. We will always be there for you. We may not always be the best of friends, or family members, but that doesn’t mean we don’t love or respect you. That doesn’t mean we aren’t (or can’t be) a joy to be around. Believe in us….like we believe in you.


Allison AcquavivaAbout the Author: Allison Acquaviva 

Allison is a 22 year old Public Relations professional; passionate about sharing her story of anxiety and depression in hopes that it will inspire others. She is a woman of Faith, animal advocate, and part time freelance writer. You can find more of Allison’s work on her website, The Positive Princess, on Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.

[irp posts=”1015″ name=”Anxiety: 15 Ways to Feel Better Without Medication”]

4 Comments

Jan

Wow! After reading Allison Acquaviva’s article, I thought I could have been reading my autobiography! I do and have been seeing a doctor for several disorders I have but had never realized what this was. And family members have told me I need to stop worrying over everything and they make comments that, yes, really hurt my feelings. I have been told that I dwell on things, that I make a big deal out of things and I tell them I can’t help it. They tell me that I can help it…….that there is no need to worry about things that haven’t happened. Sometimes I feel so “different” from the rest of the world, that I think it would be easier to just be dead. It is VERY hard to deal with life when it seems no one can understand you.

Reply
Hey Sigmund

Anxiety can be really difficult to understand for people who haven’t been through it, and I completely understand how hard it must be for you to have family and friends react as they do. If you are interested in reading more about anxiety, head to the ‘Being Human’ tab in the menu and click on ‘Anxiety’ in the drop down menu (or just click on this link: https://www.heysigmund.com/category/being-human/anxiety/). If you read the comments it will become clear how many people feel as you do. I hope this will help you to feel more understood. You are certainly not alone on this.

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Debbie

I suffer terribly with anxiety Depression and Suicidle thoughts . The medication I’m on doesn’t seem to help .. If I don’t take it I’m in a terrible state and when I do take it I feel as if a cloud is over Me .. I do suffer with the winter months too .. I have had some pretty traumatic situations too ? I just want to be Happy .X

Reply
Hey Sigmund

Debbie I’m sorry you’re going through this. Depression is awful. Of course you want to be happy and you deserve to be. Are you able to speak to your doctor about a different medication? There are a number of different ones out there and they don’t all necessarily work for everyone. It might take some experimenting to find the one that works for you, but please don’t give up. I know the strength and courage it would be taking to keep fighting to get through every day but please keep going. The world needs you. Love and strength to you x

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When you can’t cut out (their worries), add in (what they need for felt safety). 

Rather than focusing on what we need them to do, shift the focus to what we can do. Make the environment as safe as we can (add in another safe adult), and have so much certainty that they can do this, they can borrow what they need and wrap it around themselves again and again and again.

You already do this when they have to do things that don’t want to do, but which you know are important - brushing their teeth, going to the dentist, not eating ice cream for dinner (too often). The key for living bravely is to also recognise that so many of the things that drive anxiety are equally important. 

We also need to ask, as their important adults - ‘Is this scary safe or scary dangerous?’ ‘Do I move them forward into this or protect them from it?’♥️
The need to feel connected to, and seen by our people is instinctive. 

THE FIX: Add in micro-connections to let them feel you seeing them, loving them, connecting with them, enjoying them:

‘I love being your mum.’
‘I love being your dad.’
‘I missed you today.’
‘I can’t wait to hang out with you at bedtime 
and read a story together.’

Or smiling at them, playing with them, 
sharing something funny, noticing something about them, ‘remembering when...’ with them.

And our adult loves need the same, as we need the same from them.♥️
Our kids need the same thing we do: to feel safe and loved through all feelings not just the convenient ones.

Gosh it’s hard though. I’ve never lost my (thinking) mind as much at anyone as I have with the people I love most in this world.

We’re human, not bricks, and even though we’re parents we still feel it big sometimes. Sometimes these feelings make it hard for us to be the people we want to be for our loves.

That’s the truth of it, and that’s the duality of being a parent. We love and we fury. We want to connect and we want to pull away. We hold it all together and sometimes we can’t.

None of this is about perfection. It’s about being human, and the best humans feel, argue, fight, reconnect, own our ‘stuff’. We keep working on growing and being more of our everythingness, just in kinder ways.

If we get it wrong, which we will, that’s okay. What’s important is the repair - as soon as we can and not selling it as their fault. Our reaction is our responsibility, not theirs. This might sound like, ‘I’m really sorry I yelled. You didn’t deserve that. I really want to hear what you have to say. Can we try again?’

Of course, none of this means ‘no boundaries’. What it means is adding warmth to the boundary. One without the other will feel unsafe - for them, us, and others.

This means making sure that we’ve claimed responsibility- the ability to respond to what’s happening. It doesn’t mean blame. It means recognising that when a young person is feeling big, they don’t have the resources to lead out of the turmoil, so we have to lead them out - not push them out.

Rather than focusing on what we want them to do, shift the focus to what we can do to bring felt safety and calm back into the space.

THEN when they’re calm talk about what’s happened, the repair, and what to do next time.

Discipline means ‘to teach’, not to punish. They will learn best when they are connected to you. Maybe there is a need for consequences, but these must be about repair and restoration. Punishment is pointless, harmful, and outdated.

Hold the boundary, add warmth. Don’t ask them to do WHEN they can’t do. Wait until they can hear you and work on what’s needed. There’s no hurry.♥️
Recently I chatted with @rebeccasparrow72 , host of ABC Listen’s brilliant podcast, ‘Parental as Anything: Teens’. I loved this chat. Bec asked all the questions that let us crack the topic right open. Our conversation was in response to a listener’s question, that I expect will be familiar to many parents in many homes. Have a listen here:
https://www.abc.net.au/listen/programs/parental-as-anything-with-maggie-dent/how-can-i-help-my-anxious-teen/104035562
School refusal is escalating. Something that’s troubling me is the use of the word ‘school can’t’ when talking about kids.

Stay with me.

First, let’s be clear: school refusal isn’t about won’t. It’s about can’t. Not truly can’t but felt can’t. It’s about anxiety making school feel so unsafe for a child, avoidance feels like the only option.

Here’s the problem. Language is powerful, and when we put ‘can’t’ onto a child, it tells a deficiency story about the child.

But school refusal isn’t about the child.
It’s about the environment not feeling safe enough right now, or separation from a parent not feeling safe enough right now. The ‘can’t’ isn’t about the child. It’s about an environment that can’t support the need for felt safety - yet.

This can happen in even the most loving, supportive schools. All schools are full of anxiety triggers. They need to be because anything new, hard, brave, growthful will always come with potential threats - maybe failure, judgement, shame. Even if these are so unlikely, the brain won’t care. All it will read is ‘danger’.

Of course sometimes school actually isn’t safe. Maybe peer relationships are tricky. Maybe teachers are shouty and still using outdated ways to manage behaviour. Maybe sensory needs aren’t met.

Most of the time though it’s not actual threat but ’felt threat’.

The deficiency isn’t with the child. It’s with the environment. The question isn’t how do we get rid of their anxiety. It’s how do we make the environment feel safe enough so they can feel supported enough to handle the discomfort of their anxiety.

We can throw all the resources we want at the child, but:

- if the parent doesn’t believe the child is safe enough, cared for enough, capable enough; or

- if school can’t provide enough felt safety for the child (sensory accommodations, safe peer relationships, at least one predictable adult the child feels safe with and cared for by),

that child will not feel safe enough.

To help kids feel safe and happy at school, we have to recognise that it’s the environment that needs changing, not the child. This doesn’t mean the environment is wrong. It’s about making it feel more right for this child.♥️

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