Madeline Riddle

@madeline-riddle | contributor
Writes about depression and generalized anxiety, lives in Australia, is 21 and a student.

What Is It Like to Live with Social Anxiety?

There are a number of different types of anxiety disorders – generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), social phobia, specific phobias, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The reasons people experience anxiety are endless – family history, personality, traumatic events and ongoing stressful situations. The list goes on. So, what is it like living with anxiety? Or more specifically, social anxiety? Well I can’t speak for everyone with an anxiety disorder, but this is what it’s like for me. I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety in 2015. It wasn’t until I found a decent psychologist that it was actually found to be social anxiety — an anxiety disorder that specifically relates to a fear of most social situations. According to the psychologist I’ve had anxiety and depression for a number of years, dating back to when I started high school. For me the anxiety developed as a result of a few things. 1. My personality and family history – I am a complete perfectionist. I always have been. I never really saw it as an issue until it was explained to me how closely linked it was with my anxiety. 2. Other mental health issues – my anxiety goes hand in hand with depression. Which, if you happen to experience either one or even both, is a bloody huge struggle. 3. Prolonged stressful environments – hello relationship breakdowns, being cheated on, simultaneous trust issues and having your parents move state. There is tons more things I could mention here, but that’d be a whole other blog post. Back to the point of this post – what is it like living with social anxiety? For me, this changes day to day. Sometimes my anxiety levels are so bad I attempt to avoid every single social situation I can. This makes things like going to work, going to the supermarket or even talking to my housemate extremely difficult. And sometimes the anxiety is barely there. My anxiety has definitely been tested at the moment. I’ve just moved to a new town, started a new job and had to learn what it’s like to be away from your main support network. It’s hard, especially when you are terrified of most social situations. There can be bad days. On the bad days I can have as many as 10 panic attacks in a day. This may not seem like a huge number, but for someone with anxiety it can be pretty scary. On the bad days my heart rate sits at an increased rate. I sweat a lot. I constantly fidget. I find it hard to concentrate on anything else except the negative thoughts going on in my head – things like, “Don’t ask that question, they’ll think you are dumb,” or “Why are people staring at me? Did I do something wrong?” On the bad days I second guess everything. I worry about needing to get my work done, but procrastinate because I can’t start anything as I’m terrified it will be wrong. I’m scared to ask questions to my managers or colleagues because I fear I’ll be judged. On the bad days I can text loved ones multiple times if they don’t reply. I need the constant reassurance from my boyfriend that he loves me and needs me. My mind races if the response to a text or an email is not instantaneous. “Has something happened?” “Why won’t they reply?” “What did I do wrong?” I essentially shut down and yet from the outside I seem fine — unless you notice the fidgeting, the inability to sit still, the need to be doing something with my hands at all times. Despite the fear inside there is constantly a smile on the outside. But then there can be good days. The good days are managing to go have brunch with friends, or go out for drinks. It is being able to socialize in general. The good days are the days without panic attacks, sweaty hands, a heart that beats too quickly. It is the smile I can believe. Being able to concentrate on work and not having an underlying fear I am going to muck things up. The good days are not second guessing everything or everyone. They are the days without the nagging voice inside my head, the questions going over and over again. At the moment, I definitely wouldn’t say my weeks are an equal split between the good and bad days – it is definitely more 70 percent bad, 30 percent good. But what I am trying to say is that it is possible to have both. People who have mental illnesses can struggle to see out the other side, and I can say this honestly because I have been there. With the correct treatments and help there is the chance to get better and to somewhat function day to day. The correct treatment for me may be different from someone else who deals with these challenges. I personally rely on both my amazing psychologist and antidepressants. I also have a strong support network, I journal, I exercise and I meditate. I have tried to find balance. I think if you are someone who also experiences a mental illness it is important to remember it isn’t always sunshine and rainbows. Sometimes it is a messy and scary storm. What helps is putting one foot in front of another and having tactics to deal with the bad day. Follow this journey on Tea and Toasties. If you are in Australia and experiencing a personal crisis, you can call Lifeline 131 114 or beyondblue 1300 224 636 or visit lifeline.org.au or beyondblue.com.au. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Thinkstock photo via BCGraphix

What I Need From My Loved One When I’m Having a Bad Day

Dear loved one, I know you know I’m struggling. I’ve been struggling with these feelings for the past four years. On and off, undiagnosed. Over the last year, I’ve finally accepted it, and I’ve begun to deal with it. Yet, while I struggle day to day dealing with my issues, I forget that the people around me have to deal with it as well. I understand that things are hard for you. My depression and anxiety challenge you daily. But in loving me, you’ve made a commitment to be there for me through the bad days — and on the worst days, there are a number of things I need from you. Remind me that you love me. On the darkest of days, I need the reminder that you still love me, that you still care and that no matter what, you will not let the sadness define me. I cannot love myself when I’m having a bad day, so I need you to love me twice as much as on the good days. The depression tells me that I’m not worth it, that I am not good enough for you. I need you to tell me otherwise, even when I don’t believe it. Even on the worst days, when I’m blunt and angry and you might not know why you love me, just tell me anyway. Don’t tell me it will be OK eventually, or that I need to think positive. I know eventually it will all be OK. But on the bad days, that is the last thing I want to hear. Do not shrug off my issues or make them seem smaller than they are. This will make me feel like a burden. Please don’t tell me to think positive. I know I need to change the way I think, but the anxiety makes me worry, and the depression bombards my mind with negative thoughts. Let me talk — but don’t force me to talk if I don’t feel like it. I will not always want to talk to you. But I need you to know I trust you, and because I trust you, I need you to be there in the times I do. I need to be able to tell you my fears. I need to be able to tell you when I can’t do it anymore, and I need to hear from you that I can do it. On the days when I can’t talk, I need you to hold me tight, wipe away the tears and make me cups of tea. And always remember that when it gets hard for you, I will always be here for you to talk as well. When caring about me gets too much, just tell me. My biggest fear is being a burden on you. My biggest fear is you leaving me. So please, just tell me when the bad days get too much, and I’ll try to make it easier on you. Don’t let me push you away. I will try to push you away. Every time it gets bad again, every time the negative thoughts come flooding in and I don’t want to go on, I will try to push you away. But please, when I try to push you away, don’t let me. Hold me even tighter and remind me how much you love me. Finally, I just want to thank you. Thank you for being there for me through thick and thin. Through all the ups and downs and through all the bad days. Thank you for sticking by me even when the darkness takes over, when the sadness gets too much and the anxiety makes my mind so fuzzy, I can’t think straight. Thank you. Love,Maddie Image via Thinkstock Images

'I Don't Look Depressed': What Depression Feels Like for Me

“It’s so difficult to describe depression to someone who’s never been there, because it’s not sadness. I know sadness. Sadness is to cry and to feel. But it’s that cold absence of feeling  —  that really hollowed out feeling. That’s what dementors are.” — J.K Rowling. If you’ve read “Harry Potter,” you’ll understand Rowling’s reference. If not, let me describe a dementor. They are faceless, black-cloaked things that feed off happiness and suck the good out of people, leaving nothing more than a lifeless, cold shell. Those who suffer depression may understand the feeling Rowling describes in her novels. Those who don’t may shrug off the reference. For someone who doesn’t suffer from the terrible illness, depression is hard to describe. This difficulty has led to a social stigma of depressed people, subjecting the sufferers to embarrassment, fear and even more loneliness than they already feel. The stigma further extends to talking about any type of mental health issue. People have this fixed idea of what mentally ill people should be like. They think mentally ill people are ones who have suffered great loss, or had a hard upbringing, or did something to bring it on themselves. Many believe there needs to be some kind of specific, heart-wrenching trigger. For some people with depression, this couldn’t be anymore wrong. I have depression. But I don’t fit the stereotype of a depressed person. I didn’t have a rough upbringing. I was a happy child. I always had food in my stomach, clothes on my back and I was surrounded by love. I had good friends. I am intelligent, I got good grades all through school. The only negative thing about my school reports was my constant chatter and socializing during class, which is hardly a warning sign for depression. I get along with my brothers. My parents love me. There is no violence at home. I am doing well at university. I have loving friends and an amazing boyfriend who supports and loves me unconditionally. And I still suffer a depressive anxiety disorder. For someone who has never experienced a mental illness, it’s difficult to describe. For me it is the days I cannot physically get out of bed. It is the days where staring at the roof is easier than dealing with happy, “normal” people. It is not having enough strength to cry, let alone strip myself of the clothes I’d been wearing for the last week and shower. For me it is the days where I cannot eat, or I overeat to try and make myself feel better. For me it is the days where my mood swings are so violent I’m scared my boyfriend is going to leave because there is no way he was prepared to deal with this. For me it is the panic attacks in the middle of the night and the middle of the day that come from nowhere. For me it is the inability to concentrate on school work or on my job. It is the sickening feeling of letting people down every time you unsuccessfully try to complete something else. For me it was cleaning up blood and sobbing on the shower floor then trying hard to hide the scars so no one thought I was “crazy. “ For me it is the days where I feel nothing at all. I feel hollow, alone, empty. For me it is the years I struggled with the secret because I was too scared and embarrassed to get help. Even with the help of a psychologist and medication I still feel unstable most of the time. I do not have 100 percent good days, but does anyone? I find some comfort in knowing the number of good days outweighs the bad. The reason I am writing this is not for the attention. I don’t want the sympathy. What I want is to give some kind of insight in a hope that people will begin to understand and continue to work towards breaking the stigma. I want people to understand that the most beneficial thing you can do to help a mentally ill person is just to be there and not judge them for what they are going through. Let them talk if they need to talk. Let them cry on you. Let them get angry, but make an effort to calm them down. Never tell them it’s just a faze or that their just sad. Depression is not sadness. Depression is the numb feeling that can develop from being sad. It is a thing someone lives with daily — a thing they are trying to battle on their own. Do not make it harder; try your hardest to make things easier. If you or someone you know needs help, see our suicide prevention resources. If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.