Mental health; two words that are heard world-wide, two words that attach hundreds of thousands of life stories, two words that have resonated through history, psychology and literature (Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar coming to mind). Yet the stigma that still holds firm when those two words are spoken remains as it always has, to derogate from the reality of how powerful and influential the mind is on the physical body and how no one is immune to its effects. I, who suffer with severe anxiety, from which stems the inability to eat food without awful struggle, have silenced myself to the detriment of my own health. I, who have felt guilt and embarrassment from my anxiety, chose to remain quiet understanding that what I suffer is not even slightly comparable to what many suffer daily… but I also chose to remain quiet because I was ashamed of my irrationality. When I sit at the dinner table, my family finish a meal within five to ten minutes without thinking about it, I then spend forty-five minutes barely able to finish a quarter of my food because I think too much about it. I took something natural and made it unnatural, and for almost five years I have silently endured. My anxieties began long before my eating had been affected.
So why now do I write this?
I write, because today a close relative of mine uttered the phrase ‘there are many all around the world who do not have any food to eat, and yet you can’t eat because you’re a little bit anxious.’ The guilt of having my anxieties have never subsided since the beginning, but when that phrase was uttered to me, it accentuated how misunderstood mental health is and how misrepresented those who suffer anxiety are. Being anxious and having anxiety can be two completely different things. Everybody can get anxious, but not everybody has anxiety. I cannot speak for everyone who has anxiety, as our symptoms are not all the same, but for myself, anxiety is this thing that feels deep-rooted within, that no matter how hard I try to get to it, to dig it out, it isn’t possible. I often feel unbearably nauseous, light-headed and I can feel as though I am struggling to breathe (even though I know can). These are all the physical symptoms that my anxiety causes me to feel, and because of these I isolate myself. I didn’t choose this, I do not want this, but I have it and I have to deal with it, and it is harder to deal with when mental health is thrown aside as a lesser issue. People who struggle with mental health are not lesser. I, WE are not lesser.