By Adam Mardero
Truthfully, this is a post that I’ve wanted to write for some time now. It’s been a topic that has been on my mind a lot lately, and has prompted me to reflect deeply on how my own life has been impacted by anxiety. The truth is, Aspergers itself often comes with elements of anxiety baked in like one of so many ingredients in a neurosis pie. I’ve always felt the sting of social anxiety, and I firmly believe that it comes as a result of social mores not always being easy to grasp...at least for me. Anxiety can be a debilitating condition to any who have even a twinge of it in their lives...a fact I can attest to.
Even so, this blog post is not about me...not strictly anyway.
This entry of Differently Wired is, if anything, a love letter to all those in my life who struggle with anxiety in any of its many forms. It is a shout out to friends, family, loved ones and anyone else I hold near and dear to my heart. Anxiety is something which has always affected me, whether directly or otherwise, and I know many people for whom it is a constant struggle. This is even a love letter to those I don’t know well or at all; to the faceless masses of humanity, any number of whom struggle with anxiety, depression or countless other mental health conditions. The overarching message I want to convey to all of these people is a simple one, although it is one which is remarkably easy to lose sight of.
You are not alone.
I know, it seems silly to say. The thing is though, to many people struggling with anxiety, it can feel incredibly isolating. Speaking from personal experience, it can often feel as though I am the crazy person for being irrationally nervous about some trivial thing or another. It’s important to remember that you are not. Anxiety may be a condition, but there is nothing wrong with who you are and how you are. You also don’t have to fight alone. I recognize that often times, there really isn’t much of anything that any one of us outside of a panic attack can do to help, and that too is a difficult lesson to learn. Even so, I can say with certainty that even knowing someone you care about is there can help, no matter how helpless they may feel. Having a support circle of people who love you and understand what you are going through (or want to and are willing to learn) can be a lifesaver.
So if you are someone who doesn’t have anxiety, or has it to a lesser or different degree from someone you know, what can you do to help? Based on my own personal experiences, and my own desires from other people, there are a few things:
1) Be patient. It sounds like a given, but I can’t stress this enough. There will be times where neurosis will kick in. Where I, or example, may stress about the stupidest little thing (whether I remembered to fill the printer at work before leaving my shift, for example). I grant you, it can be frustrating to constantly reassure someone with anxiety, but believe me it is appreciated.
2) Learn. Educate yourself about anxiety. This has to be one of the most important things that any loved one of someone with anxiety should do. As those kitschy 80’s G.I. Joe ads always proclaimed, “Knowledge is power!”
3) Look after yourself too. I know it's going to sound selfish, but its totally true. I long ago realized that I tend to act as a conduit for the emotional energies of others, which would then drain and drag me down. Remember, its noble and admirable to want to help someone you care about, but not at the expense of losing your own mental sanity in the process. Balance is key!
At the end of the day, like with every other condition under the sun, having an anxiety disorder does not define someone as a person. As with everyone else, there are moments of laughter and moments of tears, days when the sunrise fills you with hope and joy, and others where you don't want to crawl out of bed. In other words, we are all human beings first, and we all have our challenges to face. Hopefully, this entry has helped some of you out there who have been impacted by anxiety, depression or any other condition.
Remember, there is only one unchangeable thing which should define us, and that is our common humanity.
Yours in Diversity,