Tonight I went to an event, a workshop, called #OWNANXIETY, led by a man named Julian Brass (who is the founder/former CEO of Notable). I had no idea what expect but I’m passionate about anything mental health related so I jumped at the chance to attend. I mean I started writing about mental health back in college before I even recognized my own personal needs. I’ve written about my hesitations with Bell Let’s Talk Day and covered numerous stories in the school papers and magazines.
So let’s start there.
My Anxiety Story
Story sounds so final, even though it’s different every day.
I’ve had symptoms of anxiety all my life, I just never realized the signs until I was in the hospital.
My third year of college I began having consistent panic attacks, and rarely anxiety attacks. I didn’t really know it at the time, and it wasn’t often. Until I was juggling multiple jobs after graduation, struggling to make rent and losing touch with friends.
When i started my full-time job, I was having panic attacks daily, anxiety attacks every week or so. I didn’t understand because I had a job and so much stress was gone in my life.
On an overnight trip to London a few months ago, the chest pains started. And were so bad I went to the hospital. The staff was frustrating, writing it off as indigestion and saying I could talk to my family doctor. I was in a city I don’t know, crying to Uber drivers and wanting to go home. It was a lot to handle.
When I was able to get to Midland to meet my doctor (who never did hear from the London hospital) he was so much more supportive than I could have imagined. He wrote me a prescription right away, a very low dose, and he helped me realize it wasn’t “just in my head,” like I had heard from so many people.
While that initial low dose did not work for me, the slightly higher one has. I haven’t had any attacks, and I’ve realized that forgetting the pills two days in a row is very not good so I now avoid that!
My friends are endlessly there for me, without a doubt. Family too, albeit it took a bit for them to grasp the idea of me being on medication. There was a fear that it would “change me,” and make me “less” Brianne. I assure you that isn’t the case.
My hopes of the evening were dashed more or less as soon as he started speaking, and if you follow me on Twitter you know why but let’s chat about it.
It’s a common misconception that panic and anxiety attacks are the same. I thought they were until I had both and was very confused. But this man stood on his pedestal chatting about pent up nerves, overthinking and stressing like that’s all there is. I wish it was that simple.
I had basically checked out and we weren’t even started, I was in shock of what I was hearing and what the crowd was agreeing with. He stated that we’re a “pill generation” who relies on medication instead of natural remedies. That “anxiety is a gift,” we just have to learn to “enjoy it, harness its energy.”
And it was shortly after this I walked out.
As media, that’s not professional at all.
But for myself it was necessary.
You cannot “own anxiety” because you can’t own something you can’t control. You can’t enjoy something that you can’t control — it controls YOU. You can try, and I hope you do, but it is a battle and a brave one.
This idea of being able to take something and put such a positive spin on it is insulting and worsens the stigma around mental health.
If you want to not take medication for anxiety, that is fine. If you want to, that is also fine.
But please don’t belittle someone’s (very) personal choice just because you don’t agree.
I am not here to say your anxiety is the exact same as mine. It isn’t. It can’t be. We are two different people and it will affect us completely differently. But I do think that one single person should not be preaching about a cure that would work for everyone.
It worries me to see someone with no science or psych background stand in front of a group of people and tell them that yoga and smiling and laughing will fix their mental health.
It worries me that someone with such a large social media following can have such a false influence on vulnerable people.
It worries me that that crowd, who spent over $100 to hear him talk, will buy his book and refer it to others, without going to see real medical professionals.
What I Want You To Take From This
We need to talk about mental health more, and often.
Not just the things we’re comfortable sharing; the ugly bits, the scary bits, the bits that make us uncomfortable.
If anxiety was a “gift” then it wouldn’t have such a negative stigma, but the only way to demolish the stigma is to educate.
I’m not a professional by any means, and I can only share what I know. For example, when I saw my doctor the first time I went home and looked around for more info, as one does. I find it hard to explain what anxiety is because so many people use it interchangeably with the word stressed. It’s not the same, at all.
I’m not asking you to share this post, but I am asking you to talk to each other. Send me an email if you don’t know who to talk to, write me an anonymous letter if you want to stay hidden. It’s okay.
Just please keep listening, talking, learning. And know that you are never alone.
Note: Please forgive the typos, as I wrote this around 10 pm on Tuesday evening. I didn’t say everything I wanted to yet, and there will be more.