“Just get over it.”

I’ve suffered from anxiety for my whole life now. It can be tough and it’s a complete inconvenience at times, but it’s something that I’ve had to learn to accept and deal with. But one thing that really bugs me is people that don’t think anxiety is a real illness. People who tell me to “just stop worrying”, to “calm down” and worst of all, to “just get over it”. Obviously, if I could do that then I wouldn’t be in this position. These are possibly the worst things you can say to a person with anxiety or a person who’s in distress during a panic attack, it just makes them feel ten times worse about their lack of control about the situation.

Anxiety isn’t something that I can just get rid of, and although I have my good days and bad days, I’ve accepted that it’s probably going to be a part of my life forever. From the age of seven I remember fretting constantly over little things, obsessing over what could go wrong, making myself sick with worry. These feelings were so normal to me that I didn’t even realise that I had a problem. I thought everyone was like this, that everyone spent all their time and energy stressing about the outcome of everything they said or did. Does it sound like I could “just get over it”?

It was only when I turned 16 that I realised anxiety was an actual illness. It was when I started going out for the night with my friends, and almost every night I’d end up getting myself up in a heap and having a panic attack. The fact that this happened regularly made me even more anxious about going out, I was so afraid of people looking at me and seeing me freak out. Before I’d leave the house I’d go through every single bad thing that could happen to me if I went out, and I was on the verge of a panic attack before I’d stepped foot outside the front door. I wanted more than anything to be able to enjoy my night anxiety-free, and have fun like everybody else. Does it sound like I could “just get over it”?

The same thing happened in school. I’ve always missed a lot of school because of medical issues, and this would leave me in constant fear of falling behind, of missing something important, of failing. So much to the point that I was scared to go back to school after taking a few days off, I was petrified that I wouldn’t understand what was going on, and would start having a panic attack in the classroom. Does it sound like I could “just get over it”?

This fear was made even worse around the time of my Irish and French oral exams. I started having a panic attack during an assembly in the hall, and had to leave the room before it got worse. I didn’t want anyone to see, because I knew they wouldn’t understand what was going on. But of course they did see, and what followed was a group of lads taking the piss out of me and mimicking me having a panic attack. I can honestly say that I’ve never felt so degraded or mortified in my life. I was constantly accused of “attention seeking” with my panic attacks and to anyone who suspects that I say, a big fuck you. I go out of my way to go somewhere private and calm myself down when I’m having a panic attack, away from everyone except maybe a close friend who understands and can help. Sorry if my panic attacks offend you or take your mind off your own life for a couple of seconds, but I can guarantee you that the last thing I want is for you to notice me. Does it sound like I could “just get over it”?

Exams were hell for me, not just because of my anxiety, but because of people’s petty comments. I got to go first in my oral exams, skipping maybe a handful of people and majority of them didn’t mind at all. But there’s always a few that bang on about “special treatment” and how I was “overreacting”. Well sorry if it seems that way, but guess how many panic attacks I had in two oral exams? Five. Obviously, I wouldn’t just sabotage my exams that I worked so hard for like that for the craic and to get some attention off people who don’t even care about me. Does it sound like I could “just get over it”?

Me being me, I didn’t want to cause any more disruption. I didn’t want people gossiping about me and my drama skills, you know, because I was overreacting about the whole anxiety thing. So I asked for a separate room to do my written exams in for my Leaving Cert. I did it so that if I had a panic attack during an exam, I wouldn’t be interrupting other people in the room, and be accused of jeopardising their exams. But still, people talked about it and I was accused of having special treatment all over again. I don’t know how having a room by myself was going to be of any extra benefit to my exams, but you’d swear it was. Well I worked my ass off studying for the whole year, and didn’t end up getting my first preference at the end of the day because of my anxiety. Does it sound like I could “just get over it”?

I’m not writing this blog post out of anger for what has happened in the past. I’m writing it because I want people to be aware of what a person with anxiety goes through, before they decide to judge them. Before they decide to talk shit about them, make presumptions, and possibly make the said person’s anxiety even worse. My anxiety is a hell of a lot better since I got to college, and it’s made my life a lot easier. I’m happier and it shows in day to day things, I can now go to lectures without feeling like I’m falling behind and failing, and I have a lot more fun when I go out.

I’m so open about my anxiety because I want people to understand how hard it can be, or at least to try. Being a little more accepting to somebody with anxiety could just make it a little easier for them to deal with it themselves. I want everyone who reads this blog post to take one thing from it; a person who suffers from anxiety can’t just get over it.

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7 thoughts on ““Just get over it.”

  1. Really a great account of how bad suffering from anxiety/panic attacks is and, unfortunately, people’s ignorance towards them!
    I’ve been the friend helping people with panic attacks on the spot many times before, so it’s great to see people openly sharing their experiences. The only way people will learn is by reading peoples’ own stories like yours.
    Thank you & MAJOR well done!
    Look forward to reading more of your work in the future (Go UL journalists :-P)

  2. This was excellently written firstly. 🙂 You’ll make a fine journalist.
    I do hate when people are ignorant towards it.
    People do often use it as though it is a trend or something and just say they have it, particularly since big youtubers like Zoella and Tanya Burr announced that they have anxiety and have panic attacks, as though it’s cool or something. It just shows the whole misunderstanding around. If they had anxiety I am pretty sure they wouldn’t be showing off about it.

    Ellen

    • Thank you Ellen! 🙂 I haven’t really noticed that before, and I hope I never do. Panic attacks are definitely not trendy.. If hyperventilating, crying, shaking and sweating becomes a trend I’m so done hahaha.

  3. Excellent piece of writing, can really sympathise with you on a lot of aspects of anxiety. I have suffered from anxiety for many years and it’s a horrible condition. I refuse to call it an illness because you can’t catch it like for instance the flu.It just sorts of builds in you and festers.But the important thing is not to let it control you. You have described it perfectly in your piece.Well done looking forward to seeing your name in the Irish Times or the journal.ie.

  4. It is a well written article and fair play for being very open about this. I could relate to a lot of what you said and, fortunately, I do not think I had it as bad as you. I remember buying something in a shop could be an ordeal and I remember dreading going into work. Friends and family who do not suffer from anxiety cannot understand what is going in your mind, and therefore they are not in a position to help, Even if, they are well meaning. I read The Chimp Paradox by Dr. Steven Peters (first chapter here http://www.waterstones.com/wat/images/special/pdf/9780091935580.pdf). Honestly, it completely changed my life although it did not happen overnight. I still have problems from time to time and I have a way with dealing with them now. Effectively, it is about reprogramming your brain. I am aware what might work for one person might not work for another person, I would recommend having a look.

    There will always will be people who will want to have your say. If you can find way to think that these people hold no importance to me and therefore what they have to say is irrelevant. It is not something that will change overnight and it could possible change in the future.

    All the best.

  5. I have a generalised anxiety disorder and clinical depression and being a teenage girl doing the leaving cert I completely relate to this post you really cant ”just get over it ” and people do not understand they don’t even realise anxiety is an actual medical condition because the word is thrown about so freely about little troubles.

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