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4 Things I Want You to Know About Lists Like ‘24 Things People With Anxiety Want You to Know'

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I’ve seen a lot of lists lately on various websites describing the experiences of people with mental health conditions to those who have not experienced them. While the basic idea of these lists is well intentioned, the more I read, the more I dislike them. While this is a step in the right direction, and of course it’s always positive for people to speak openly about their experiences, I also feel there are some issues with these lists that need to be addressed.

I’ll focus on lists describing experiences of anxiety, as it’s what I can personally speak to, but there are also these types of lists for other specific mental health conditions and for mental health in general. Here is what I want you know and keep in mind when reading these types of lists:

1. There are different types of anxiety.

Many of these lists are labelled as about anxiety in general, but actually address many different kinds of anxiety including panic attacks, social anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, etc. While there are commonalities between the experiences of these different kinds of anxiety, there are also a lot of differences. This means all the points on the list are likely not representative of all experiences of anxiety. As I read through these lists I think, “Yes, number seven is so true!” but then I read number eight which appears to describe social anxiety. Then I think, “Nope, not for me, but I don’t have that condition.” I think this is problematic because a general reader who has no knowledge or understanding may misunderstand and confuse different conditions which can lead to wrong assumptions and further stigmatization.

2. Individual experiences of mental health conditions vary from person to person, even within two people diagnosed with the same disorder.

In order to meet criteria for diagnosis, you usually only need to have a certain number of symptoms out of a varied list. That means that one person’s experience with something such as a panic attack can be very different from another’s, but they both technically have a panic attack. On some of these lists, I’ve read descriptions of panic attacks which are not in line with my own experience. That doesn’t mean that person’s experience is not legitimate, but it’s important to acknowledge it only applies to the person who wrote it and may or may not be true for others.

3. Be careful with what you do with the information.

Just because you’ve read the list doesn’t mean you now know and completely understand what someone is going through. Certainly you have an insight into how someone with the condition may feel, but that doesn’t mean you’re an authority on it. The only way you’ll ever truly know is if you go through it yourself someday. This may sound harsh, but it’s important to use this information to show empathy for others rather than to inform others of how they “should” be feeling.

4. Don’t apply the points to people you know.

These types of articles are usually created from responses submitted from individuals about their personal experiences, and that’s all they are — a collection of experiences of individuals. If you really want to know what it’s like for someone you know or love living with a mental health condition, ask them! If they’re open to it, asking them will probably mean a lot. It also lets them know you’re a safe person to talk to when they need support.

This post originally appeared on Media Insanity.

The Mighty is asking the following: Create a list-style story of your choice in regards to disability, disease or illness. It can be lighthearted and funny or more serious — whatever inspires you. Be sure to include at least one intro paragraph for your list. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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12 Things People Do in the A.M. to Relieve Anxiety

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Morning aren’t always the easiest. This can be especially true for people with anxiety. The stress, worry and angst can greet them with the morning sun. So we asked our Mighty readers who experience anxiety what they do in the morning to help. For the person with anxiety, or anyone who is struggling to get a good start to their day, these ideas might come in handy

1.I tell myself why I’m grateful to have woken up.” — Amanda Keehn

2.I lace up my sneakers and run. On days I don’t run, my anxiety level is topped out.” — Jennifer Peterson

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3. “I watch my daughter sleeping. The most peaceful thing in the world.” —Bailey Sonday

4.I have a warm bath in the mornings, sometimes with bubbles or epsom salts. It helps start the day off a bit calmer.” —Chriss Tate

5.Read. A chapter of a good book calms my mind beautifully.” —Michelle B. Landers

Woman in library reading book with text "Read. A chapter of a good book calms my mind beautifully." Michelle B Landers

6. “Cuddles with my cat or bunnies; even if I don’t want to get out of bed, they need me, and it’s nice to start the day with a success.” —Faith Merryn

7. “I listen to music. Most the time if I’m out the house I have headphones in. Sometimes it helps calm me a little.” —Katie Louise Krzyanowski

8. “Deep breathing.” —Andrea Kaminski

Woman in the woods closing her eyes contentedly with text "Deep breathing." Andrea Kaminski

9. “Five extra minutes in bed because my bed is my first love, and maybe a hot shower, which is comforting if I have to wake up extra early!” —Eudora Chuah

10.I take meds. Also, breathing and tapping exercises!” —Deborah Valentine

11.Yoga!” —Arielle Smith

12.I eat a healthy breakfast.” —Anique Brito

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If you have anxiety, what are some things you do to relieve your anxiety in the morning? Let us know in the comments below.

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Before I Knew It Was Anxiety, I Thought I Was Dying

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I went to class today with a stomach ache, deep in my gut. A stomach ache I recognized from countless nights and mornings before. Times of nervousness. Times of change. A stomach ache, that no matter how much I try, I can’t seem to ignore. While it goes away at times, it likes to hang around for entire days at a time. Today was one of those days. That pain in the core of my stomach has a name. It’s not the flu. It’s not digestive problems.

That stomach ache is called anxiety.

My earliest memories of this pain are from third grade. Almost every single night I experienced some sort of stomach pain. The pain made it difficult to sleep, and I woke up exhausted almost every morning. At the time, I thought I was sick. I thought I had some sort of terrible illness that was slowly killing me. I couldn’t figure out why I felt sick all the time. This continued intermittently through elementary and middle school.

Two years ago, it was awful. Stress doesn’t always cause anxiety, but it certainly makes it worse. And junior year, I was under a lot of stress. I got those same stomach aches as the earlier years of my life. But I didn’t know what they were. I thought that coffee was eroding my stomach lining (I used to drink up to 4 cups a day). I tried to think of physical excuses for the daily stomach aches that plagued me constantly. I knew I was stressed, but I had no idea that anxiety could cause physical symptoms. Even panic attacks, when I felt like my heart was exploding out of my chest and I couldn’t breathe; when all of my regrets and responsibilities flooded my mind without ceasing. Even with these, which I experienced several times a week, I had no idea I had anxiety.

Now, I know. Sometime in the past year, I started learning about anxiety. I started reading about it. The increased heart rate, the sweating, the stomach pains, the exhaustion at the end of every day: it all sounded familiar to me. Now, with a doctor’s diagnosis under my belt and regular counseling, I’m starting to learn to deal with my anxiety. I’ve been able to control a lot of it recently. I’ve become skilled at stopping panic attacks in their tracks. I’ve learned coping mechanisms to work through my general anxiety. And I’ve gotten a lot better.

But some days, like today, I feel it all again. I feel the pain deep in my gut, my heart beats faster and harder than usual, and by the end of the school day I’m completely exhausted. I can’t tell you what brought on my anxiety today. But I can tell you that after a nap after classes and avoiding people at all costs, I’m feeling a lot better. I can’t tell you how I’ll feel tomorrow. But I can tell you that I’ll survive.

So what does anxiety look like? It looks like a girl. A girl who probably looks pretty normal on the outside. A girl who attends school, gets her work done, and survives. But to her, it looks like pain, fear and self-hatred. And sometimes, it looks like hopelessness. Because all she can do is live day to day, and hope and pray anxiety doesn’t attack again.

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To the Entrepreneur or Business Owner Living With Anxiety

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You are not alone. You can be successful.

If you’ve just started your journey running your own business, don’t panic when the honeymoon stage is over. You’ve created a website and started emailing companies you think need your help. You’ve inhaled every business book and blog in the market.

Then, suddenly, everything feels like it’s falling apart.

No one is replying to your emails.

No one is following you on social media, and you’ve practically shouted from your e-rooftops who you are.

Needing some inspiration, you dig around the web and become bombarded with business coaches and gurus who say:

Accept rejection and move on. To you that means, you’ll have to somehow stop your brain from ruminating about what went wrong, if something could have been done better or if you could be better.

Be mentally tough to make it as a business owner. Now you start to roll your eyes. You click around from site to site, seeing the same well-dressed and perfectly manicured gurus saying to be strong.

Ha — I’m sure it’s pretty simple for you to stay strong when you don’t have to take a sedative every night just to fall asleep.

And the toughie: You finally make your mental fragility known — you tell a colleague or mentor. They tell you: Never talk about anxiety or any kind of mental illness when you’re an entrepreneur online. Potential clients could read it and decide not to work with you.

As a black woman with an unusual name, chances are people will click away from my website with bigoted and negative assumptions about my work ethic, attitude and intellect. I certainly can’t hide those parts of me.

So why should I hide my story?

Not to say you need to have “Freelance Writer With Anxiety For Hire” written on your business cards, but the beauty of entrepreneurship is that you don’t have to explain your bad days with a supervisor. You can have them and keep pushing forward. I’m open about my anxiety (and I’m actually writing a book about entrepreneurs with anxiety) because placing this mental illness within something tangible makes me feel as though I’m owning it. I’m not letting it get in the way of my dreams as a writer and virtual assistant.

Having anxiety is one part of who you are. It doesn’t lessen your business savvy or creativity. Everything the average entrepreneur possess for success, you have it, too.

You may have to overcome some larger hills because of your condition, but the destination is the same as everyone else. Looking backward, you can congratulate yourself even more for what you’ve accomplished. What you’ve been through will seem extraordinary.

You are not alone. And you are successful.

Follow this journey on Nerdy Thirty Something.

The Mighty is asking the following: Write a love letter to another person with your disability, disease or mental illness. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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‘Humans of New York’ Features Man Who Thought Anxiety Wasn’t ‘Real’

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You never know when life will turn the tables on you.

Today, Humans of New York, the wildly popular photo-based Facebook page, posted the story of a man who made fun of a woman with anxiety in high school. What he learned since then made him give her a call.

“I knew a girl in high school that always complained about having anxiety. I used to make fun of her a little bit. It...

Posted by Humans of New York on Wednesday, February 17, 2016

 

The entire post reads:

I knew a girl in high school that always complained about having anxiety. I used to make fun of her a little bit. It looked like nothing to me. So I assumed it was nothing. And I dealt with it by trying to convince her that it was nothing. I called her recently to apologize. I’ve had really bad anxiety ever since my father died. And it’s definitely not nothing. It’s the indescribable fear of nothing.

Perhaps it’s never too late to grow and make amends.

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When I’m Worried I Don’t Pray Enough When Life Gets Chaotic

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My first thoughts in the year 2016 centered around prayer, mostly that I don’t do enough of it. My paths are paved with the best intentions. Each season of the year I dutifully pick up the accompanying prayer book from church and imagine my family gathered around the dinner table, opening up to the daily prayer and reading it together.

Then life happens. Dinner is chaotic, we are in a rush and the seasonal prayer book remains unopened in the drawer.

Attending church feels more tense than prayerful. At present, our family is usually separated with Dad and our youngest in the cry room (and my son Kyle at the respite center) while I sit in church with the older two: listening to their whispered questions, handing them tissues, urging them to stand or kneel at the appropriate times, trying to prevent them fighting, attempting to diffuse their tiffs without making any noise, or sitting in my seat quietly fuming, embarrassed or exhausted. Aside from my insistence on singing and reading along with the readings in the book, the experience doesn’t often leave room in my mind for quiet reflection or deep prayers.

Most nights by the time I force myself into bed, I am too tired to remember to pray. My brain only stays conscious for moments before drifting off. In those moments if I do remember prayer, it is in thanks for all of my many blessings and quick prayers of protection for my family. If my prayers go further than that, I often get wrapped up in anxiety of all the “what-ifs.” In the past when I prayed for my children at night, I would pray for them to avoid specific ailments and harm. Those thoughts would spiral into detailed imaginings of the harm, leaving me in a fit of worry. As a person prone to anxiety, this is not a good way to begin a sleep cycle.

Like most people, I start out the year thinking of ways I would like to change for the better. Praying more is a great way to start that process. But prayer doesn’t have to be scripted. My second thought in the new year: love is a prayer. Even though I don’t voice the words in my head, each time I embrace my children and feel love surging through me, it is a prayer of thanks to God for my blessings. I don’t doubt that He hears it.

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