“ I have been an anxious person for as long as I can remember. ”

I remember getting a raging headache every Tuesday in primary school because I had my piano lessons on Wednesdays, and I thought my piano teacher would hate me if I messed up. I remember not wanting my parents to go on holiday in case the ferry sank, or in case something terrible happened and I wouldn’t see them again. I remember worrying that I said something stupid to the other kids and that they were all talking about me.

The thing is, everyone has worries. Life is complicated, bad things happen, and things get tough sometimes. Worrying is natural. It can help us do the right thing, it can help us to be productive, and it can help us to care for other people. Worrying can be productive.

But anxiety is different. Anxiety makes you worry when there’s nothing to worry about. Anxiety forces you to worry about things that you can’t control. Anxiety makes you over analyse every little thing someone said. Anxiety makes you look deeply into every situation, and over think things that don’t really need a second thought. Anxiety takes the joy out of the times when things are fine, because your brain tells you things aren’t fine at all.

“ Anxiety tells you “you’re not worrying? Well you should be. If you don’t worry, something will go wrong”​ ”

For a while, I’ve gone through life ignoring my anxiety. In fact, to an extent, I’ve always hidden it as best as I can. I’ve ended up being the one who gives the advice, especially in my family, because I’ve never really asked for it, so they grew to think I’m ‘tough’. People seem to regard me as stronger than I feel I am, because my anxiety told me that if I told people about my worries, I’d annoy them.

But now, people are opening up about anxiety and mental health issues more and more. I have realised it’s more than ‘just worrying’, and that it’s important for people to talk about their problems. They won’t go away on their own, they need facing head on. The more we talk about them, the more we can help each other, understand each other, have patience for each other, and start making changes for the better - because in our busy, pressured, hectic lives, it’s no surprise that our minds can go into overdrive.

So, I’ve began to realise things. I’ve realised it’s not normal to worry every day that something bad is going to happen to my family, worrying they’ll get ill. It’s not normal to worry through the night about other people’s problems, trying to figure out how to solve them, so they’ll be happy. It’s not normal for my happiness to depend on other people’s happiness. It’s not normal to go over one sentence someone said a million times, searching for the hidden meaning, that they don’t like me, or think I’m odd. It’s not normal to never have happy dreams, and wake up every morning following dream after dream about horrific events happening. It’s not normal to need constant reassurance in relationships. It’s not normal to put a negative spin on every little thing. It’s not normal to question everything that people say, because your brain tells you they mean something else. It’s not normal to feel you need to apologise to people even though you’ve not done anything bad at all.  It’s not normal to hold all these thoughts in for months on end, then pour it all out at once in an attack of rage, panic, and worry, confusing those closest to you, who thought you were fine.

“ ​And most importantly, it’s not normal to feel these thoughts all day, every day.​​ ”

So, why did I write this article? Mainly, because I think it’s important for people to be more aware of anxiety and other mental health issues. I want young people to feel they can be open about these things, and that they don’t need to be embarrassed, ashamed, or frightened to talk to people about their problems. And most importantly, I want people to be there for their friends and family, or anyone who comes to them for help.

If someone tells you that they’re anxious, take them seriously. Please don’t just tell them “stop worrying” and please don’t shrug your shoulders and say “you’re being dramatic”. Listen to them, and understand that sometimes it’s not easy to just not worry. Don’t tell them that they are being stupid because their life is good - anxiety can affect even those with seemingly perfect lives. Understand that anxiety doesn’t depend on the situation, that it’s a mental health issue which will pop up even when everything is ‘okay’. Everyone’s worries are as important as each others, and what we all need, is support and understanding.

This year, I’m going to start making small changes to control my anxiety, and if the things in this article ring a bell, then so should you. There’s tons of support out there - organisations, books, and websites that can help you. Remember to confide in the people you trust, because there will be at least one person in your life who will offer you a helping hand. There really is nothing to be ashamed of.

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Written by Alice Lang, 10 months ago
Agree? Disagree? You can tweet them here @@alice_lang

Check out http://www.mind.org.uk/informa… and  https://www.anxietyuk.org.uk/, for more information about anxiety.