Mental illnesses and the awareness and acceptance of them is slowly becoming more normal. There are hundreds, likely even thousands of mental illnesses, known and unknown, around the world. One of the more common ones is anxiety, but even that isn’t fully understood, as it varies on a case-by-case basis.
Anxiety is defined as “apprehensive uneasiness or nervousness usually over an impending or anticipated ill: a state of being anxious.”
For most people, the line between everyday anxiety and anxiety disorder is unclear. While anxiety occurs for everyone sometimes, a person with an anxiety disorder feels an inappropriate amount of anxiety more often than is reasonable.
I personally don’t have experience with anxiety disorder, only plain, everyday nerves. However, for nearly a year, my older sister’s anxiety has flared and become much more severe. The brief explanation is that she suffered psychological abuse when she was young, and bullying throughout high school. At the time, it wasn’t a big deal, but years passed and she kept it inside. Now it’s out, and everyone in my family is dealing with it in their own way.
One thing I’ve come to realize is that anxiety is mentally and physically debilitating. My sister copes with a fear of not sleeping every day, to the point where she takes a medication meant to help her relax. Most nights she sleeps soundly, but something in her brain causes her to worry naturally. She can’t help it. She’s fallen into a routine, because her brain tells her that changes will cause a panic attack and therefore keep her awake. The severity of her anxiety has prevented her from attending college or finding a part-time job.
I fully admit that I have no idea what my sister is dealing with. But based on what my mom and I deal with on her behalf, I can imagine it’s extremely challenging. She needs frequent reassurance to help quell her anxious moments, and small things can anger or upset her because her brain processes differently. My mom and I have learned, over the past year, that experiencing anxiety secondhand is difficult as well. I’m in no way claiming it’s just as bad as or worse than actually living with it, but it’s definitely taken a toll on us too.
Through all of this, I’ve remained hopeful. My sister might not ever fully get over her anxiety, but every day I tell myself that it can and will get better. While this new viewpoint hasn’t brought any profound changes or drastic realizations, it has continued to give me hope.
I think that’s a concept that can be related to a lot of things in life. No matter it’s anxiety, another mental illness, or something else entirely, no matter whether it applies to you, someone you know, or someone you passed on the sidewalk, try to stay hopeful. You might not understand it, and you don’t have to. Just be supportive, and remember that it won’t always be this way.