Reactions to mental illness

There are a few different reactions to expect when you tell someone about your mental illness, most of them I personally could live without. I have put these in order of what I feel is the most common reactions I face.

  1. Apathetic – I put this to the top of the list, as I find this to be the most common response. Most people I speak to, have no real comprehension. They presume my stories to be just that, ‘stories’, fiction, exaggerated, me being a hypochondriac, looking for attention etc. These people usually like to constantly compare what you’re going through, to their situations, to how they deal with them, or how they believe you should be dealing with them. They also find a way to make your issues appear menial, and yes to them they might be, but to us? Far from.
  2. Patronising – Usually coupled in with the same people above; They will like to talk to you as if you have no real understanding of what is happening to you, often trying to educate you on mental health, and the things you need to do to feel better i.e. “Well, have you ever thought about going to the doctor?”, “Maybe walking or something will make you feel better?”, “Just don’t think about it!”, “Just stop doing it, you know you’re your own worst enemy”, are just a few examples of actual things I’ve heard this past week alone.
  3. Empathetic – Now whilst a lot of my readers don’t have a mental illness themselves, they tell me they have family and friends who do, and that my blog helps. I’m told that they understand what I’m going through, as they witness it in those close to them. Then there are those of you who are like me, and message to say, “I could have written that myself”. It is these messages that make my blog feel worthwhile.
  4. Debater – Some people like to message/comment to debate with me, regarding my own thoughts and feelings. Say what now? Yup, you read right. You cannot tell someone they are not feeling how they’re feeling, or that they’re thoughts/opinions on a topic regarding their mental health is wrong. Everyone’s experience with depression and anxiety is not going to be the exact same, and neither will the road to feeling better. What works for one, will not necessarily work for all. This does not make my views wrong, it makes them different.
  5. Exasperated – Most people close to me are just sick of it all now. You can see it in their face, or hear it in their voice; they just want it to be over now. They’re bored hearing the same stuff from me all the time. I find I say the same things a lot, it’s like being on a really shitty merry-go-round. Just when I think I’m getting over something, it comes right back around. It is no more exasperating for you, than it is me. Believe me!


Doing this blog has allowed me to write about things, I don’t feel I can approach those closest to me with. That is not to say I don’t try, I do, it’s just they don’t understand. Some of them try to understand, but all they end up doing is imparting their wisdom of how to make it all go away and missing the point entirely. I’m not telling you what is wrong with me, so you can play doctor and make it all better. I’m telling you because I need to vent aloud. I need to get what’s in my head out into the ether and try to make sense of it all. Most of the time I’m not looking for any feedback, I’m just looking for a nod, or a friendly smile to assure me that I’m not totally crazy.  Unless you have an anxiety disorder, how could you possibly know what it’s like to live inside my head? You can’t know, and I don’t expect you to.

Recently I’ve divulged a helluva lot about myself. Some of my most personal memories, thoughts and struggles. I have done this for two reasons; The first reason is to vent, and the second reason, was that I hoped others would identify with me and I wouldn’t feel alone. I’m happy to say, I’ve had a great response to my blog. A lot of you who read this, message me to say you do in fact identify, or that you empathise with my situation. These messages really do help me to see that I’m not alone, and that people to get what it is that I’m trying to say, or know what I’m struggling with.

Now, this whole blog could be seen as attention seeking, and I guess in a way it is, but not in the way it can be implied. I do not put statuses on social media prompting PM’s of sympathy. I don’t want, need, nor care for anyone’s sympathy. Ever. Don’t ever pity me or feel bad for me.  A lot of people I know have no idea that I write this blog, or that I have a mental illness at all. I’ve only ever told those immediately close to me, and at that, I don’t tell them everything. Having this blog has allowed me to feel that I can divulge, without feeling too exposed. Every one of these I write makes me apprehensive, as I don’t know how it will be received, but if/when I receive a message from someone who gets it, or gets me, that makes me feel better. I think I speak for most people who suffer with a mental illness when I say; It’s the knowing you’re not alone that gets you through. You would never wish how you feel on anyone, but, it brings comfort to know you’re not in it alone.

As someone who suffers with G.A.D and on/off depression, I don’t want your pity, I just want an ear to bend occasionally. Sometimes just getting out what I’m thinking takes away a lot of the stress I’m causing myself. What I definitely don’t need is your curt comments, or essentially being told to ‘woman up’.

I recently wrote a ‘bare all’ blog about my past relationship. This was a very difficult blog to write, it took me days of debating about it, then I started it a few times, just to delete it, until I finally committed to 6hrs worth of writing. A lot of the blog was removed, and I left only the poignant parts. The response I got from this was overwhelming, and I would just like to say thank you to those of you who took the time to message me. It honestly meant a lot. I carry a lot of baggage from that relationship, and it does hinder me. I wrote that blog thinking if I vented, it would help, and I guess it did a little. My husband read it, and felt it was a good piece. He already knew all of it, especially the early years stuff as he was there, so none of this was a shock to him. I like that he gets it, that he knows what I’ve been through, as I feel it helps him to understand how I am.  Although, I know he gets more than a little exasperated with me at times.

When in Tesco the other night, I bumped into my ex partner’s brother. I was being told how my ex will be coming back home soon, how he’ll want to see me blah blah blah. Needless to say, this sent my anxiety into overdrive. My vision went blurry, my throat felt like it was closing up. My youngest actually took my hand and said “Mum you’re starting to panic, remember to breath, you’ll be ok”. He’s 9! I abandoned the rest of my shopping, and got back to the car. I felt fit to burst with emotion, as I was now scared, panicking, but had my son in the back of the car who was now really worried about me, and then I had to think about driving. I just took a moment to breath, and got home sharp. I needed to speak to someone, I needed to calm down, so I phoned a family member. Guess what the response was? An exasperated, patronising, apathetic one! I don’t even know why I let it upset me, or why I got angry with the response, as it’s always the same. They will compare what I went through, to what they have, and essentially tell me I need to get over it. I was then told that the threats I’ve received over the years, and what I worry about is just nonsense, but then in the same breath, was told that if it was going to happen, there was, and I quote, “no point worrying about the inevitable”. I mean really? Does this person know me at all? All I do is worry, and they think telling me not to is some form of magic wand?

I have worried and stressed myself out of late to the point of a massive breakout on my face, I’m not sleeping, my moods are erratic and I’m very emotional. I have then made the mistake of talking to the wrong people about how I’m feeling, and that has just made me feel worse. For those of you that know me; I do not need you to tell me to woman up, or that my over thinking is the root cause to how I am, or that I need to just get over things. I’m not a stupid woman. I know what is wrong, I also know what would fix it, but if it was that simple, and I could just get over it, I wouldn’t have G.A.D. An actual mental illness that causes anxieties for just about anything, as well as obsessive/compulsive thinking/habits. For just once, can you please just listen, without judgement, without a Dr. Phil response and without sounding like you’re bored? I don’t need to feel like I’m a burden, and you know what? see if I am, then please just tell me that my issues are not something you wish to talk about. I’d sooner just not talk to you at all, than leave the conversation feeling worse than when It started.

For the most part, people I have in my life are great. I’m very lucky to have the friends and support I do. Unfortunately, it’s the select few, the ones who I feel should be the most understanding and want to be there, that are not. All I can say is this; I hope that they never find themselves like me, having conversations telling them it’s all in their head and they need to get over it. Thankfully though, they’d have me for support, so they would actually be quite lucky.

If you’re friends with someone, or a family member to someone, suffering from anxiety/depression, I hope you are not guilty of the examples above. They don’t need you to have an answer to everything, and they don’t want you to fix them. Just listen. That’s it. Just listen and be there. Even if you’ve heard the story, or been in the same situation for the one hundredth time, and you’re getting bored of it, take a moment to think how it is for them. And yes, they probably should break the cycle, but do you think telling them in a matter of fact way will help? No. Most definitely not. If you see an unhealthy cycle happening, help them break it, don’t just tell them to. If they could do it themselves, trust me, they would have. We don’t choose to be this way, contrary to what some narrow-minded people think. We don’t sit at home and think, “oooh, I’ve not been anxious for a while, let’s give it a bash today”.

To those of you like me, dealing with reactions as mentioned, you’re not alone. Try not to let them upset you or make you feel worse. Even if you feel like no-one else in the world gets it, you know what? I do! I may just be one person, but it definitely means you’re not alone.

What not to say to someone like me

  1. Stop overthinking

If it were that simple, I wouldn’t be in the situation I’m in. Please just try to understand that I am the way I am. You know it’s not rational, I know it’s not rational, but it’s going to happen anyway. So please just let me do my thing. If my overthinking is bothering you, try and take a moment to think about how it affects me. You only get to hear about it, I get to live it.

  1. You know it’s just silly to be scared of that, right?

Yes. Yes I do. Thanks for enlightening me on the fact that my fears are silly. I feel so much better now. Try to know that, again, it’s irrational, we all know it is, no more so than myself. If it could be helped it would. So if you see me wash my cup twice, then rinse it 3 times, just roll with it. I’m not harming anyone, and it makes me feel better.

  1. Why don’t you just forget about it?

Why didn’t I consider not obsessing over things? Seriously, where have you been all my life with your words of wisdom? Obsessing over things is what we do best, as it ties in neatly with overthinking. It’s irrational (again this word will pop up a lot), it’s exhausting, and it’s no more frustrating to anyone than myself. If my obsessing over something is bothering you in some way, help me distract my thoughts, change the subject to something of a mutual interest and help me forget. Probably will only work momentarily but that is more helpful than asking me to ‘just forget’.

  1. Should you not go to a doctor?

Yes, I’ve been to see many doctors over the years thank you, including counsellors. There is no cure for an anxiety disorder, as if there was I would have had it by now. 

  1. Do you not think it’s just all in your head?

No way! Do you think?! Of course, it’s all in my head, hence the term ‘Mental illness’. No fooling you Sherlock. If by asking this you’re implying that we’re causing this and can we please just stop it, ummm, no. Just no.

  1. I get like that and I’m not anxious.

Understanding goes a long way, and I often find I’m met by narrow minded people, even in my own family. Unfortunately, I don’t always get the best support or understanding, as I get met with things like this. As explained in a previous blog, there are different levels of anxiety, everyone feels it, but those of us who have an anxiety disorder, we have no control and it is far more intense.

  1. Why are you so moody?

Being like this is exhausting. I’m always tired, regardless of how much sleep I get. I’d say the best sleep I’ve had of late was a full 7 hours, although, it was an incredibly restless sleep, as it always is. Now whilst 7 hours is good, in the lead up to this I was sleeping for maybe 3-4 hours a night. So the lack of sleep, over thinking and self-doubt, often causes me to be grumpy and moody. This will then make me nippy and short with the people closest to me. I’m aware I’m like that, but for the most part I cannot help it.

I often feel like my anxiety is a burden to those around me, and when I’m asked questions like this, it reinforces that feeling. Being there for someone like me is no doubt tiring and really draining at times, especially having to listen to the same stuff on repeat. I get that it must make you just want to shake me and ask me to man up, but let’s face facts, it’s not that easy.

What I want to say to people at times is; I am not my anxiety! Anxiety is just a part of who I am. I am so much more than my weird quirks, and if you took the time to not be frustrated by me, you’d maybe get to see that.

If you are like me, you will no doubt identify with this or perhaps even have your own to add. If you are not like me, but know someone who is, just try to be a little bit more mindful with your ‘helpful’ words of wisdom. They may be coming from a good place, or you may just be frustrated with having to deal with us, but remember who you’re dealing with. We already overthink everything and we already feel like we’re not good enough, and that the world thinks we’re hypochondriacs or that we’re disliked, so making it out to us like we can just go out and fix it, like it’s easy, is not helping.

I cannot speak for everyone, but I know that all I need is a sympathetic ear at times, and someone who just lets me get on with my quirks/ocds. Some days I just need to vent what has been over playing in my head, so that helps me release and feel better. This may be something you’ve heard many times before, but please, bear with me, I’m trying. I’m definitely prickly around the edges, and often wonder how on earth I managed to find someone to marry me, and who still sticks around, but I like to think it’s because they know I’m more than just my anxiety disorder, and of course, because I’m hilarious. This just goes without saying. Yup, you are in fact, reading the blog of a woman who is so funny, that most of the things she has to say that are funny, cannot be said for laughing. As they say, if you don’t laugh, you’ll cry! And I know which I prefer.

To everyone out there like me; don’t be phased by these questions/comments. Just focus on what you need to, to get through a day, and don’t forget to celebrate all the successes, even the little ones. My success today is I went out Tesco, feeling terrible, with a light dusting of powder on my face, and my hair wasn’t sitting. To me, this is huge, not because I’m vain, or conceited, but because I have skin problems and always worry about being ugly and having people stare. There is also the small fact of me hating shopping, crowds, queues and being around people when feeling down. I did worry that people were looking & judging that perhaps I looked a little unkempt but you know what, I did it! Look at me and my bad self.



You don’t look anxious to me!

I don’t look anxious to you? Well that is fantastic, hold on a moment whilst I just inform my brain to stop my insides from trembling, my thoughts from racing at 100mph, my mouth to stop being dry, my vision to straighten out and my heart to stop pounding out of my chest, because hey, I don’t look it.

If you are someone who suffers from an Anxiety condition, I’m sure you will have been on the receiving end of this statement, and we can agree on how infuriating it is. What is it that they’re trying to suggest with this statement? Are we just making our condition up? Why yes, you’re right, I’m not anxious at all now you point out how calm I look. Fantastic. Who needs doctors, counsellors and medication. You sir are a legend.

To those of you reading my blog who do not have an Anxiety condition, and who think, or worse, say that statement to someone who has, don’t! You have absolutely no idea the implications this statement will have on someone like me. All you will do is set off another bout of anxiety, or make the current bout worse. We will start to think things like “Do they think I’m making this up? Do they think I’m a hypochondriac? I’m doing their head in now with all my moaning, they’re getting fed up” or “Maybe I’m not anxious, if they cannot see my, obvious to me, physical symptoms. Maybe there is something more sinister at play here…” And here we have started a negative cycle of thoughts and self-doubt. Now our palms are sweating, our heart rates have increased even more, we cannot have a single positive thought, the walls are now closing in and our anxiety is crippling us on the inside. On the outside? We are probably smiling through it. Looking quite calm. No doubt quiet, as there is no way to hold a conversation when Anxiety takes hold, as it’s taking all our energy to ride out the next wave of panic.

Everyone who suffers from Anxiety, suffers differently. The way I suffer will be different from you, as will the way I cope. There are some generic symptoms that are the same i.e. quickened heart rate, shortness of breath, muscle cramps, headaches, dry mouth, upset stomach, vomiting, shaking, numbness of the hands and/or feet, insomnia, and dizziness. I have suffered all of these, and during a bad flare up, I will get pretty much all of them at one time. In the beginning, I would get these, and I suppose it may have been obvious to people I was having these symptoms. You know why? Because I would usually be mid freak-out and whoever was with me would have me say “Oh my god, my hands have just gone numb. I think I’m having a stroke. Is my face drooping. Wait I think I can feel my face drooping. It is, right I need to get to the hospital” or “I can’t breathe, my heart feels like it’s going to explode and I have a pain in my right arm. I’m having a heart attack”. Now that I’ve lived with these symptoms long enough, my head still thinks these things, and I still worry that I just might have something more sinister wrong with me, but I know I’ve been here before and I just need to ride it out. So, unless I’m explicitly telling you what is going on in my head, and that my head is pounding, my heart is racing and my arm aches, how would you possibly know?

I spend my entire life in a state of feeling anxious. I have days where I cope better than others. My good days usually are due to positive people and positive encounters. For me, distraction is key. I keep my head buried in my work for one. I love my job, and most of the people I work with are fantastic. They are just upbeat, positive people, who manage to generate conversations of utter nonsense half the time, but it’s a conversation that isn’t about health concerns or Anxiety, so my mind is completely distracted and for a time I forget. If I’m highly stressed, or something significant has happened, I find even positive people and encounters cannot help, as my mind will be far too gone with the Anxiety to be able to let the positive thoughts in. On my more anxious days, I will be more quiet, possibly not as smiley, but my symptoms are not visible. My colleagues cannot see that I’m shaking on the inside, that my palms are sweaty, my heart is racing and I just feel like I want to run and I don’t really know why. They don’t know/see this, but does that mean it’s not happening? No.

To all of you dealing with this condition every day, who doubt themselves, their diagnosis, their sanity, and who have had to put up with the statement “Well you don’t look anxious to me”, remember this; This is your daily struggle, not theirs. Mental illness is not something that can be seen, but it is felt. You know how hard it is to get up every day and deal with how you feel, and you know how much you achieve each day just to do what a ‘normal’ person does without a second thought. Never let someone make you feel like you’re making it up, or that you’re a hypochondriac. If they don’t understand, try to calmly explain to them what having an Anxiety disorder really means, and the real struggles it poses. Send them to helpful websites with lots of information, to help educate their narrow mind. If they’re not willing to educate themselves, or they still pose the same view, then you need to consider if you need that kind of negativity. We don’t need nor want to be wrapped in cotton wool, but what we do need each day, to be able to cope ourselves, is a little understanding. We don’t need someone to hold our hand and walk us through life, but we do need someone to appreciate that whilst we don’t need a walking aid, we still find it hard.

For all my fellow Anxiety suffers – You are awesome. If you are up, dressed and contemplating a day that scares you, but doing it anyway, you are one strong badass. Don’t let anyone let you believe any different.