I sat in the hairdressers chair with the usual polite chit chat.
Her: What do you do?
Me: I help people who are suffering with feelings of anxiety feel better.
Her: Oh yes there’s loads of people with that now. Two girls left work with it here. I don’t understand it. I just get on with it, it’s because I’m strong minded.
So anxiety sufferers have weak minds? Make a fuss and in some way don’t want to get on with things?
I’ve come across this belief many times. That mental health issues are linked to inherently negative traits of the sufferer. Something that happens to other people with less than perfect qualities. This is partly through ignorance, by which I mean not understanding enough about mental health. If you spoke about cancer you wouldn’t assume the patient was already defective or weak to bring on the disease. You would allude to their core strength and determination. There would be lots of positive strokes and support. We wouldn’t feel the need to assign blame for the condition.
To gain knowledge and understanding we would need to speak about mental health and herein lies the rub. Whilst there is a gradual ‘coming out’ of those people (particularly in the public eye) that have experienced anxiety or depression, most sufferers fear the shame of speaking out. Without those people sharing their experiences we learn little. We fear what we don’t understand and try to naturally distance ourselves from the unknown.
In truth mental health is very complex. The causes behind why people suffer from anxiety cannot be isolated to a set of negative character traits. In truth, the strongest people I have known walk through my doors. People who maintain high powered jobs, run busy households and maintain equilibrium for everyone in their life whilst hiding high levels of mental and physical suffering. Anxiety is a complex human condition not the sum of an individual’s weak points. Let’s stop perceiving it as a weakness and make it far more comfortable to address should it arise.