When you’re having a rough moment, a rough hour or an entire anxiety-ridden day, one friendly reminder may help turn it all around, or at least remind you that you’re not alone. To find out what people who live with anxiety need to hear in tough moments, we asked our Mighty readers who live with anxiety to tell us one text message they’d love to receive when they’re feeling overwhelmed.
If you have a friend or loved one who lives with anxiety, this may be exactly what they need to hear right now:
An artist found comfort and catharsis by making comics about her mental health challenges.
Gemma Correll, 30, is a British illustrator living in California. She’s been drawing comics since she was a child and started making her own when she was 9 and selling them at school for 20 cents. Correll continued to draw throughout high school and eventually went to art school. Now she works as a full time illustrator, so she draws comics for fun on the side.
Correll’s comics about her daily life naturally evolved to include her challenges with anxiety and depression.
“It seemed dishonest almost not to include these things which were, and are, a big part of my life,” she told The Mighty in an email.
The reaction Correll got to her work encouraged her to keep going and taught her that many people could relate to what she was going through.
“I was hesitant to share them at first, but when I did, the response I got showed me that I was far from the only person suffering from these problems,” she told The Mighty. “When you suffer from anxiety and depression, you can feel very alone but I think it helps to see that you’re not the only one suffering.”
Correll says a sense of humor has helped her cope with her mood disorders and she hopes her comics help others see the humor in their situation as well.
“I hope people can see the humor I use is coming from a place of understanding and empathy,” Correll told The Mighty. “I’m not trying to mock or undermine mental health problems — far from it. I’ve always used humor to work through and cope with my own problems. I really think it’s helpful and cathartic.”
You can purchase a copy of Correll’s book here, or visit her website and Tumblr page for more of her work.
The study, published in the January issue of the journal “Social Science & Medicine,” used data from a 2001–2002 U.S. survey of 22,581 working adults, ages 30–65, to explore the gender disparity in mood disorders.
Researchers found that where female income was less than the matched male counterpart, odds of major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder were significantly higher among women versus men. The odds of depression were nearly two-and-a-half times higher, and odds of anxiety were more than four times higher. However, when a woman’s income was greater than her male counterpart, her odds for having anxiety or depression was almost equivalent to a man’s.
Past research has looked at biological factors such as hormonal differences to explain the gender disparity in mood disorder diagnoses, but this new study suggests the reasons behind it may be more related to social treatment.
“Our findings suggest that policies must go beyond prohibiting overt gender discrimination,” said Katherine Keyes, assistant professor of Epidemiology and senior author of the paper. “While it is commonly believed that gender differences in depression and anxiety are biologically rooted, these results suggest that such differences are much more socially constructed than previously thought, indicating that gender disparities in psychiatric disorders are malleable and arise from unfair treatment.”
Policies such as paid parental leave, affordable childcare and flexible work schedules may help lessen the disparity, although the study’s authors say more research into understanding the ways in which discrimination plays a role in mental health is required.
“The social processes that sort women into certain jobs, compensate them less than equivalent male counterparts and create gender disparities in domestic labor that have material and psychosocial consequences,” said Jonathan Platt, a PhD student and co-author of the paper. “If women internalize these negative experiences as individual-level issues, rather than the result of structural discrimination, they may be at increased risk for depression and anxiety disorders.”
As much as we’d all like to check our problems at the door when we go to work, some issues — especially anxiety — carry over into the workplace. It’s hard to deal with anxiety when you’re trying to be a “professional” version of yourself, and even harder if you have a boss who doesn’t understand.
2. “I am not my illness — I have a lot more to offer.”
3. “I’m doing my best.”
4. “I may be flushed, jittery or not talkative; I may need a moment away from my desk until meds kick in. It’s not all about you.”
5. “Sometimes I take on more than I can handle because it’s hard to say ‘no.’ And because I can’t bear to not complete a task and do it well, I successfully finish it. All the while, they’ve got no idea I had major anxiety attacks throughout the entire assignment.”
9. “Even though I may look calm or like I’m coping with everything well, there’s sometimes an iceberg of a storm brewing underneath. My ability levels vary day to day, and when my anxiety is stronger I can feel the layers of a storm build. Talk to me privately to learn more about how it affects me and understand me, so we can both mitigate negative responses or situations.”
10. “My previous boss once told me anxiety was a personal issue to only have at home. I laughed and said, ‘It’s not a coat. I can’t just check it at the door.’ It was a huge decision to disclose my mental health to my employer. Some days I wish I hadn’t, but overall I’m glad I did because they knew something was going on.”
11. “My need to control my anxiety may come out in ways that are beneficial to you. For example, my need to review a document several times before submitting could been seen as ‘attention to detail.’ Or my need to plan and control my schedule may cause my productivity to be higher than others’.”
12. “Don’t tell me, ‘Hey, I need to talk with you at the end of the day.’ I will literally sit in the office for hours thinking of all the reasons I’m about to get fired. If you want to have a conversation with me, just start the conversation. Please, spare me the torture.”
13. “Despite my anxiety, I can perform my job to excellent standards. I just require certain accommodations.”
14. “I procrastinate at times because the thought of having one more thing to think about exhausts me.”
15. “Please: show compassion — not judgment. Show concern — not criticism. Know I need extra space and time, but I’m an extremely hard worker, a master problem solver and I care more than you could possibly know.”
16. “Putting on my social interaction costume every day takes a great deal of effort. I’m like a superhero, fighting battles and then going into seclusion.”
17. “Lack of eye contact does not mean I’m not honest or interested. I’m most likely overwhelmed and regulating.”
18. “Sometimes I just need a little time and space to process whatever’s happening and calm myself down.”
19. “I overthink and practice every scenario and response. I need to know you understand my work means a lot to me.”
20. “My anxiety may inhibit me from diving right into a project, so my work timeline may look very different from yours. Trust that the work will get done.”
Thirteen years ago, I was in college. I’d been struggling with worsening depression and anxiety, and after a conversation that left me very hurt, all I could think about was how much I needed to get away.
I kind of went into a trance. My mind was blank as I walked across town to a park. It was blank as I sat on the edge of a five-foot concrete wall that had a creek running along the bottom. When my sandal fell into the creek, I automatically jumped down to get it. And when I realized I couldn’t climb back up the wall, I picked a direction and started wading.
I walked and walked, long after I could have climbed out of the creek. The water went up to my thighs at one point, and I lost both sandals to the rocks somewhere along the way. It was only when the light started to change and I realized the afternoon was almost gone. I started to come out of my trance. I climbed the bank and came out on the side of a highway. I had no cell phone and no idea where I was by this point, so I picked a direction and started walking along the shoulder. My pants were soaked and I had no shoes. I didn’t even know what I’d do when I eventually got somewhere; none of my friends had cars, so I would be forced to call someone at the school to come get me. At the time, I wasn’t supposed to go outside a five-mile radius from campus, so I wasn’t sure what kind of punishment I might face. That’s if I even got someone on the phone who could help me.
A while later, a car pulled over. Inside was a couple that was probably in their late 20s and their child. The woman, the driver, leaned over to the passenger window and asked if I was OK. I told her that I went walking and now I was lost. She asked where I was going, and I told her I needed to get back to campus. She told me that there was nothing the way I was going for another four miles, and she offered me a ride.
I accepted. The woman had Smurf-blue hair, several piercings and the car was completely permeated with cigarette smoke. As she drove me back to campus, she showed me amazing kindness and grace. She asked what happened to me. I told her quite honestly that I wasn’t really sure; I’d just gone for a walk and it somehow turned out this way. She didn’t judge or push me. She just listened to what I had to say and told me it would be OK. She asked if she should call anyone for me or if I needed any other help. When she dropped me off at my dorm, she told me her name was Michelle and gave me her number. She told me to give her a call, “…if you ever go walking again.”
Thirteen years later, I still remember Michelle’s kindness. I could have been hit by a car. I could have been picked up by someone with less kind intentions. I could have faced disciplinary action for being so far off campus. And Michelle not only stopped to help someone in trouble, but also remained calm, didn’t judge and tried to make sure help was available to me in the future.
Michelle’s kindness showed me that someone doesn’t need to understand what you’re going through to be helpful. All someone needs is a sympathetic, non-judgmental ear and a willingness to help. It also helped me understand I wasn’t alone. With mental illness, it’s easy to feel like you’re invisible, that no one understands what you’re going through or even realizes you’re in trouble. The amazing thing about the kindness of a stranger, I think, is that someone cared enough to notice I needed help. And that made a world of difference.
If you’re a fidgeter, foot-shaker, nail-biter or nervous tapper, British designer Charlotte Garnett has a jewelry collection for your anxiety-driven needs.
The idea was inspired by her own experience with anxiety, which started during her second year at Central St. Martins, an art school in London. Her work had always been autobiographical, exploring the functionality of jewelry.
“I decided that instead of allowing [anxiety] to be an obstacle in my final year, I would use my understanding of it to create a sincere response to my experience that had the potential to help myself and my anxious friends who inspired me,” Garnett told The Mighty in an email.
Her collection, called “Cure for the Itch,” is made up of three sub-collections, each designed tooffer a personalized solution for repetitive, anxiety-driven actions like habitual fiddling or chain smoking.“The pieces are intended to be used as grounding tools to promote mindfulness and provide subtle alternatives to existing negative habits (such as your nail biting!) whilst maintaining a sense of fun and playfulness in their use,” Garnett said.
She started with six “Pocket Pebbles,” handheld objects meant to be kept in a person’s pocket and used discreetly to manage day-to-day anxieties. Each of the six shapes is designed to suit a different type of fiddling action. “By being able to use them in the pocket during daily life, one can avoid the distraction and embarrassment of subconscious nervous habits,” Garnett said.
She also created “Spinner Rings.” With the appearance of a cocktail ring, they’re a “fun, wearable solution for faster twiddling and flicking actions.”
The last piece, “Fiddle Sticks,” were specifically designed for nervous smokers.“The piece is reminiscent of a cigarette packet, containing six fiddling sticks, which invite the wearer to occupy their fingers, instead of indulging in their bad habit,” Garnett said.
She hopes the pieces help break down the taboo around publicly managing mental health issues. “Mental illness does not have to be treated as something terrible and shameful that should only be discussed in a serious doctors office,” she said, emphasizing that even those who haven’t been diagnosed with a mental illness could benefit from anxiety-reducing tools. “Hopefully this helps to illustrate that there aren’t solid lines between ‘ill’ and ‘normal’ — a concept that perpetuates the stigma surrounding mental wellbeing.”
Feedback about the collection has been positive.
“As the designer, the most enjoyable part of this collection is watching people use the objects in their own instinctive ways,” Garnett said. “The main goal is to create completely original ideas and make progressive contributions to art, jewelry, science or society, so I am glad that my work so far has been perceived to contribute a new angle on jewelry.”