ANXIETY. It’s becoming a very familiar term to many. Many of us struggle with anxiety and many of us try to hide our relationship with anxiety, because what is the alternative really? To talk about it? Let’s be honest, we live in a society that does not want to hear it, because talking about it means that society has to deal with it. And who has the time to deal with it when what’s important is figures and performance. Well, the reality is that our challenges with anxiety are increasing in numbers. And if we don’t start talking about it, then how will be able to understand it, and in return manage it?
In hopes of building awareness and continuing conversations, we invited a guest to talk about their experience with anxiety. Their identity will remain anonymous.
What were your thoughts about this interview? Did you have an idea of what this interview was going to look like?
I have been trying to think about what anxiety looks like, how to describe it for this interview.
You had mentioned in the past that mental health was not something that was discussed when you were younger and with time you had developed a deeper understanding of it, may I ask you what led to this development?
Well… based on the experiences I had recently… I’ve taking initiative to learn more about how I feel when certain situations arise. So, that’s basically what has led me to get in touch with understanding anxiety.
What led you to believe that this was important to address?
Because now that I am aware of it, and looking back in the past… that feeling of anxiety, which really you couldn’t even put a title to. It’s just the feeling of suffocation, tightness in the chest, doubt… I guess you can call it depression too. But you couldn’t associate it to this feeling being ANXIETY. It’s very sneaky in how it approaches your emotions and feelings. But now that I am aware of it, more so than I used to be, when certain experiences happen and anxiety is creeping around… I now know why it’s creeping around. I think it’s important to understand what anxiety feels like because it gives you more empowerment in how you can cope with it.
You’ve mentioned how anxiety tends to appear but I am wondering if it looked different in the past? Has it changed over the years?
I don’t know if it has changed… but I can say that it’s shaped a look … before I couldn’t tell what anxiety was. It was more a feeling but now I can tell what it looks AND feels like.
How do you think anxiety gets in the way of your daily living?
Well it changes your mood, it changes your perceptions on things … a simple thing can annoy you a lot. A simple thing like the weather can annoy you…
Can you elaborate on that a little?
Well… when I get anxious, and it mostly has to do with the thought that I have been thinking about for a while, or a situation that I will be confronting… then… a simple thing like the weather… when it’s too hot…or too cold… it can start to annoy me and it will get me more anxious than I already was. And then you start letting that feeling of the weather annoy you more and so then it changes your behavior. This can start affecting your relationship with friends, or even with yourself.
Do you think that anxiety has a positive side?
The positive side, I guess… is that anxiety allows you to realize that there is an unfinished thought that you might have in your brain or an unfinished decision. Anxiety would bring whatever you don’t want to address to the forefront…
So anxiety sometimes pushes you to address specific things that you might have been suppressing…?
Yeah… hide it…suppress or ignore it.
And why would you say that that’s a good quality?
Because clearly you will know that whatever you are trying to suppress… it’s important to address it. Your mind is trying to hide it but you know that deep down you want to talk about it or face it. And anxiety is that person that, while it’s bringing you down, it might also bring awareness of why that feeling that you are having is important to address.
What advise would you give to someone who is feeling anxious?
Hmmm. I think it’s important to recognize it. If you recognize why you are feeling anxious and how you are feeling anxious …and let it marinate … you don’t necessarily have to face it right there on the spot… you just have to understand that it’s there and where it is coming from. If you know where it is coming from then you will know how to correct that little by little. It might not happen today but it might happen over the course of time
Would you have ever thought in the past that you would be talking about this publicly?
No not really…
How have you been able to/ or come to terms about publicly speaking about anxiety?
I guess its cuz you learn that it’s a part of you and it’s something that you cannot push away or ignore it. It’s kind of like talking about love… its something that is there and its okay to talk about love… not all of us do … but that’s why it’s important. So it should be okay to talk about anxiety. Now that you know what it is and you have a shape to what it is … you feel comfortable to address that feeling. We always grow up and learn how to love a person, what makes you feel sad or angry… but you never grow up learning about anxiety and how it can shape how you feel.
What would your younger self say about the fact that you are talking about this now?
It would say that I am weak…
Would it be judging you that you are talking about this to me?
And knowing everything that you have learned about anxiety and the impact of anxiety, how would you respond to that judgment?
How I would respond to that judgment…? I guess I will welcome it…. yeah I guess I would welcome it and accept it. If I cant feel anxiety then there is something that is missing… what I mean is that I wont be able to understand the signs it might be trying to show me. I would not know how to address the issue in the first place.
What does it say about you, that you are able to talk about this now?
Hmmm…I think that it says that I am capable to … to understand anxiety… so it doesn’t always overwhelm me. So when anxiety creeps up… I know what I need to do and understand the root of it.
How does it feel to have this knowledge now?
Definitely empowerment… gives you empowerment to not let it overtake your feelings, your decisions and actions. You definitely have more control of how you want to dictate your life and not the other way around, where anxiety will dictate how your life will look like.
* We would like to thank our guest for giving us the time and allowing us to interview him. Having conversations about our mental health and opening up about our experiences with mental health can place us in a very vulnerable position. We hope that by continuing these forms of conversations with others, we can create a safe space to share, learn and create a community that is open to reflect on mental health challenges that many of us experience but may be afraid to talk about.