This evening, I sat at a table in the most beautiful café -Sunflower&I in Cardiff Bay- smelling fresh flowers and talking to one of my newest and closest friends about life. Once we had covered the usual topics (boys, work and what we are planning on wearing to the match tomorrow), she turned to me and said “Liv, can we just talk about your blog for a minute”. Then, with both of us welling up, we talked about the overwhelming response I had gotten. We couldn’t believe how incredibly supportive and selfless everyone’s comments were towards a topic which is rarely discussed.
To everyone who commented on my post, liked it, shared it or sent me a separate message: thank you. It means more to me than any of you could know. Pressing the ‘post’ button to share my blog on Facebook was something which gave me anxiety in itself. My hand was shaking as I pressed the button and even as people began to read it and respond so positively; I could still feel that heaviness and panic in my chest. Yet with every comment or message I received I felt that tightness in my chest loosen slightly.
To know that people feel that they can be completely honest and share their experiences with me is amazing. Personally, sharing how I’ve felt has enabled me to start to deal with my anxiety: knowing that I am not alone and being able to begin processing what is reality and what is paranoia.
One of the things which hit me most about the response I got was how important people feel it is to raise awareness of something which affects so many of us, but is barely discussed. In googling the word ‘anxiety’, headlines from as recently as 8 hours ago popped up. They included “A quarter of young women in the UK are suffering from anxiety and depression” (Metro) and “Four-year-olds suffering from panic attacks, eating disorders, anxiety and depression, report says” (The Independent). I don’t even doubt these headlines: at work I see my Reception children suffering from anxiety so bad that they don’t want to go out to play or cry if they can’t put their PE top on properly. In everyday life I see and speak with my girlfriends about heartbreak, work and university stress and so many other things which trigger their anxiety and feelings of depression.
However, it isn’t just girls and young children who are at risk. Men and boys are told from a young age that they aren’t allowed to experience anxiety or other similar feelings because it’s ‘girly’. That makes me so mad. It’s 2017?! No one has the right to squash or diminish the feelings of another person: male or female. If we do not talk about anxiety, then how can we begin to try and change the stigma related to mental health issues? In a society where we associate men with ‘being tough’ I feel like it’s important to say that I don’t think that there is anything tougher than being honest about how you feel and admitting when you are struggling. Resilience is a trait which is completely underrated and yet so many people show resilience every single day.
I said, when writing my first post, that even if I could help just one person by sharing my experiences and feelings it would be worth it. Looking back, I am proud of myself for sharing it even just because it seems to have raised awareness in the 28 hours it’s been live. I would encourage everyone to keep talking and sharing how they feel and what they’ve been through. I’ve found that people are incredibly understanding and supportive and that it really does help.