There are a lot of ‘A’ words.
But no other A word has featured as much in my work and life lately as the big one. Anxiety.
In my daily dealings with the wonderful and inspiring youth of tomorrow, when they actually came to me in my office; to have ‘casual chats’ or confess their latest sin – ‘forgive me mama Becker for I have sinned…’, or simply to check in with me because we had an agreement – no one word was uttered more frequently than Anxiety.
Let’s do the oxford thing and define it officially;
1 [uncountable] anxiety (about/over something) the state of feeling nervous or worried that something bad is going to happen. Acute/intense/deep anxiety. Some hospital patients experience high levels of anxiety. Waiting for exam results is a time of great anxiety.
Which sounds sounds largely intellectual – but also let’s define it physiologically, shall we? (according to WebMD of course);
- Feelings of panic, fear, and uneasiness.
- Problems sleeping.
- Cold or sweaty hands or feet.
- Shortness of breath.
- Heart palpitations.
- Not being able to be still and calm.
- Dry mouth.
- Numbness or tingling in the hands or feet.
The nasty thing about Anxiety, it seems, is that it is different for every single person that experiences it. And a lot of the time, anxiety’s first approach might manifest itself in a full blown panic attack. Which feels like you will die. And that’s never cool.
My grrls might not have been able to get out of bed for school. Or hand in an assessment on the due date, even though they had been working on it and it was finished. They may have stopped eating. Or showering, or speaking to their friends.
I could tell you about anxious moments in my life where I worried I would vomit/fall over/ black out, or do something else inappropriate when I needed to do a public speech, and you could all relate to that I’m sure – even those of you who are hardened public speakers will feel me. We all have an intellectual understanding of Anxiety.
And there is the normal everyday anxiety that goes with taking two small boys to ANY FORMAL OCCASION (that I believe is universal), and has led to many public displays of marginal, if not a little shouty, parenting: ‘NO YOU CANNOT TAKE YOUR TROUSERS OFF RIGHT NOW THE BRIDE IS ABOUT TO SAY HER BIT – SIT DOWN!’
We have been invited to fewer and fewer weddings.
There is the anxiety that hits you the morning after a big night out, when you are piecing together the fragments of the evening and trying to remember if you did indeed accuse all of your friends of having White Male Privilege, lecture them about what they could do to help the ‘downtrodden masses’, and make one of them cry in the process. (Authors note – they are white, AND male, and DO have inherent privilege, and bloody well would do well to own it, EVEN if they grew up in west Auckland, and I don’t think they have forgiven me yet so my social life is slow tbh).
And that morning after regret is enough to scupper some people. I have been known to hide from the world for weeks at a time after a lovely – a fucking lovely – evening out with my loved ones, and it is not until one of them says ‘nah don’t be a dick you were SO fine’ that the sick feeling has left me and I am able to face the world.
And there is anxiety that leads to self-harming, depression, disordered eating, self-medication (alcohol or drug abuse) suicide and a myriad of other harmful behaviours. It fucking sucks balls. And it takes real strength to ask for help and to take oneself to an appropriate agency to get help, or to ask a trusted person to do that for them.
The tricky thing for ‘the people’ to discern is whether you are dealing with this bitch who just wishes she never got so drank or someone who genuinely needs your immediate and loving help. I have a rule I follow to figure this out and it has never let me down;
TAKE IT ALL FUCKING SERIOUSLY.
Whether you understand it or not, whether they have an experience that matches yours or you ‘believe’ in mental health issues (what the fuck? You don’t get to ‘believe in this shit because it’s SCIENCE but I’ve heard all the shit), whether you think it is an ‘appropriate’ response to a situation or not, whether you have a human heart beating in your fucking chest or not – you take that shit seriously.
Because. That person who told you they feel anxious? Or they ‘have anxiety? They fucking trusted you with that shit. And believe me, when you are up in your head feeling all anxious and shit; When you are eating ALL the food or NO FOOD at all? When the thought of leaving your bed makes you physically ill or you can’t look in the mirror for fear of what you see looking back at you – if you are the one they choose someone to talk to about that shit they are working SO HARD to take care of themselves. They are reaching out, facing fear – they are basically Bruce Willis in Die Hard (How hot was he in that? bald and everything? wtf?). You respect that shit.
I know I haven’t covered everything, I am NOT a psychologist, or a doctor or a counsellor or anyone who is normally trusted to talk about any of this stuff. I am merely a hooman, who has chatted with other hoomans and I have opinions.
I have a terrible feeling my eldest already feels the niggle in his bones, and I hope that if he lives in a house where we talk about it openly, and take it all seriously he will find support in his parents. There is no miracle cure I know, and everyone will find their way and you bet I’m gonna be there to prop him up if he needs me.
Because I am a responsible human being here are some places you can get support if you want it/need it – also if you don’t want/need it I know these places NEED you support so send them five bucks au.
I fucking love you guys. Take care.
Lifeline – 0800 543 354 or (09) 5222 999 within Auckland
Suicide Crisis Helpline – 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)
Healthline – 0800 611 116
Samaritans – 0800 726 666
Depression Helpline – 0800 111 757 or free text 4202 (to talk to a trained counsellor about how you are feeling or to ask any questions)
www.depression.org.nz – includes The Journal online help service
SPARX.org.nz – online e-therapy tool provided by the University of Auckland that helps young people learn skills to deal with feeling down, depressed or stressed
Sexuality or gender identity helpline
OUTLine NZ – 0800 688 5463 (OUTLINE) provides confidential telephone support
Helplines for children and young people
Youthline – 0800 376 633, free text 234 or email email@example.com or online chat
thelowdown.co.nz – or email firstname.lastname@example.org or free text 5626
What’s Up – 0800 942 8787 (for 5–18 year olds). Phone counselling is available Monday to Friday, 1pm–10pm and weekends, 3pm–10pm. Online chat is available 7pm–10pm daily.
Kidsline – 0800 54 37 54 (0800 kidsline) aimed at children up to 14 years of age; 4pm to 6pm weekdays