A stigma

There's a negative stigma around the term 'mental illness', to some people, having a mental illness means you're 'crazy'.The stigma is so strong that I'm nervous about putting this out there.

I struggle with anxiety, and have done for a long time.
It's just as real as any physical condition like my diabetes.
And I'm certainly not the only one.

Everyone deals with anxiety to some extent. We all have so much going on that it's become the norm. A little stress and a little worry can be a good thing. But there's a difference between nerves before an exam and ending up physically ill from the stress of what should be stress-free daily interactions.

I don't really want to go into my own anxiety in much depth but here's a basic rundown of some of the troubles that come with high level anxiety. Obviously this varies person to person.

- You analyse quite a fair bit of what you do and what you say to people
- You play your thoughts over again and again. This is called rumination and is a bit like a record being stuck at the one spot
- You catastrophise a lot. Everything is the end of the world, and thus you react in a panicked state
- You miss out on a lot of opportunities, maybe because you were too scared to talk to someone. Maybe it was because you don't feel good enough to try. Maybe you thought it was safer to stay home instead
- You practice extreme caution. If you have control everything is 'safe'. However, by doing this you miss out on what could be some amazing experiences
- You are your harshest critic
- And you might get panic attacks which are entirely unpleasant. However, panic attacks are proof that anxiety is real, they're a VERY physical response. You can't tell me it's all in my head when I feel like passing out and throwing up simultaneously.

Anxiety is clearly a big thing, but it is so often overlooked, particularly in conjunction with diabetes.
Chronic illness is a constant, bad things happen sometimes as a result of it. There's so much to think about that of course high levels of anxiety are a possibility! Add in uni, friends, and work, and you have quite a mixture!

More frequently depression is associated with diabetes, purely because sometimes it feels like an effort with no reward. Diabetes burn out really is just another phrase for a kind of depression.

And I'm pretty tired of this part of chronic illness being overlooked.

No one was there to warn me that anxiety could lash out in a million ways. I had no idea that I could go from simple exam worries to feeling like I was going to pass out on public transport every day. The further away from home I was, the worse the anxiety became.


I was frightened of going low and having no one around to help me.

So here's some tips for everyone
- You're not crazy.
- Go and tell your doctor if it's feeling like all too much. You'd go to the doctor if you broke your leg. Breaking your leg causes pain. Anxiety/depression causes pain too. How is it any different?
- You're not weak because you're asking for help
- Most psychologists don't actually sit you down and ask "so how do you feel about that?". You also probably won't lie down on a couch. Seeing a mental health professional is really useful, you learn how to deal with panic and how to reframe your thoughts
- To the aspiring health professionals like me- acknowledge mental illness is real and LEARN about it

The main thing? You're not broken, or damaged. You're not abnormal or 'overly sensitive'.
You've got a lot to deal with and you don't have to deal with it alone. Health care professionals have dedicated their time to help, because you don't have to feel this way any more.


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