Has anxiety become fashionable?

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I appreciate this might be a risky article to write. Many millions of people suffer with varying degrees of anxiety, either for a short specific episode or a prolonged ongoing time. These people cannot help feeling anxious about certain things, it gets into the very grain of their being, day-in, day-out, and often therapy or medication is needed to learn to cope and manage the feelings and symptoms they exprience.

But lately, I seem to be hearing more and more people saying that they suffer or have suffered with some form or anxiety, for at least one stage in their lives. Maybe it is that these days, it is easier to ‘come-out’ as having anxiety, where it wasn’t before. It is widely known that people suffer from anxiety, depression and other brain-health disorders in silence, perhaps not even telling a doctor or family member through fear of not being believed, or being told to just “pull yourself together”. I say ‘brain-health’ as I truely believe and want others to recognise that mental health diagnoses are as much of a health issue as asthma or coeliac disease for instance. It’s just that although you can’t necessarily ‘see’ the problem, it is physically just as present as many other diagnoses. The problem is that if someone hasn’t suffered themselves, or there isn’t a blood test to cofirm the issue, then people struggle to believe it is most definitely happening, without the choice of the person it is affecting.

I might be one of the many who chose not to let-on about the anxiety I was experiencing after having a baby. I have three children and each time, I have treated the anxiety in different ways. With baby #1, it came as quite a shock. It was, I guess, part of post-natal depression to have anxiety like this. After having my daughter I’d feel so incredibly tense and frustrated by my lack of physical ablities due to my CMT neuropathy, that even though I knew exactly what my hands/arms could and could not do, I became severely affected by the thoughts of other peoples’ perceptions of my parenting and also about having to ask other people to do so much for my own baby. After all, nobody would do things exactly like I would if I could. I focused and obsessed over tiny things that were ‘wrong’ and everything seemed to make me want to lock myself in the bathroom and not have to ‘parent’ in front of others, especially those who knew me. With baby #2, I suffered simillarly for a few months before finally going to the doctor 4 months postbirth. With baby #3 I had the foresight to think ‘well this is probably gong to happen again isn’t it’, and even though I was absolutely rubbish at just sayong “hey, this is how crap and anxious I’m feeling”, people were aware a lot earlier and I was slightly better at normalising it, for myself and for others.

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So has it become less taboo to talk of your own serious anxieties, and by that I don’t mean being afraid of cliff-edges or big spiders – I mean things that are completely irrational, unexpected perhaps, and most of all uncontrollable to an extent? Or has claiming to have a severe case of anxiety become a get-out clause, an excuse maybe, to get out of things you’d rather not have to do? After all, people aren’t supposed to deny your anxiety, are they?

Are some teenage girls who would rather not play netball in school and have an excusing note from their mum, undermining the true experiences of the 15 year-old with crippling body dysmorphia who would rather jump off a bridge than have to show their legs off to fellow students and teachers? Is she going to be told “sorry, everyone has to join in”? Shouldn’t we be more lenient about what they can wear, or is it one-rule-fits-all?

I have always hated having to speak in front of groups of people. I remember even as a 7-year-old in Brownies, the moment when you’ve not long joined the club and you have to say the ‘Brownie-Guide Law’, I stood there and started crying and my mum had to say the words for me. Suddenly the idea of all-eyes-on-me was horrific. Since then I’ve detested it, it makes me feel physicallt sick and I will go out of my way not to do it even if it means being the only one who doesn’t play a part in a presentation. I get red-faced, my eyes start watering and I lose the ability to make the right amount of eye contact. However I also know that other people have it way worse than me, and cannot even speak to a cashier in the supermarket for example. So should college lecturers and workplace managers stop asking people to speak up in a group, because many people might be ‘too shy’, when really it might be only one or two who are suffering some form of actual anxiety?

It is difficult really, because whilst more needs to be done to help support those of us who are genuinely anxious and distressed about things that we really would prefer to experience, should we really label more and more kids as having anxiety because they haven’t got many friends or don’t want to say lines in tbe school play, and should we make physical education less integral to the curriculum incase school-aged adolescents feel embarrassed wearing a sports’ kit?

There is certainly a fine line between knowing whether to help somebody through anxiety by allowing them not to do something which might mentally distress them, and just saying “you’ll be okay, come on, let’s do this”. I worry that it’s becoming ‘cool’ to say you have anxiety, similar to when people say “oh I’m so OCD”, when they admit to not wanting people to get crumbs on their sofa.

What do you think? Have you had true anxiety? How have you treated it, and who did you tell?

Yours anxiously,

@shopgirlygm

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Reasons I love half-term

Well firstly I mean, is it really necessary? I’ve only just got over having Bertie the class bear to stay for the week in October half-term. They’ve only been back at school for about 6 weeks after having just had 2 weeks off and loads of presents and chocolate, I actually think being at school is a break for them. Calm and routine and less chocolate and movies. And they listen to teachers. They don’t bloody listen to me. They don’t even work as hard as us, why do they get a week off ‘work’ to do everything else, where is my parenting half-term? I work a lot harder than my kids and I don’t get a break. It’s just unfair.

  1. It’s 5 whole days. FIVE. Surrounded by 2 either side of the 5 days. That’s NINE days. 2 days at a time I can handle, and by Monday it’s a beautiful thing to wave to your kids at the school gates knowing they have to listen to someone else’s voice for an entire day, asking them to perform tedious tasks. Comeuppance, I say.
  2. Any sentence from a 3 year-old which begins “Shall we play…?”. Clear your throat and get ready to say ‘NO’, before the 6 year-old gets a chance to respond.
  3. Any sentence from a 6 year-old which begins “Shall we play…?”. Clear your throat again and get ready to say ‘NO’ before the 3 year-old works out what the 6 year-old wants to play and responds unfavourably.
  4. The sight, smell or mear mention of the term ‘Play-Doh’. The devil’s belly-button goo. My sister just bought a set of the bastarding pots for our now 6 year-old, and she is yet to hear what I will do to her as punishment. I haven’t decided yet but it will be harsh and she will learn never to do that again. It might start with me smearing it into her bedroom carpet and bedding.  When she has kids of her own and I get to buy them gifts, I will have the last laugh. (6 year old loves it, so that’s all that matters, apparently) 
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    Play-Doom

  5. The requests for food throughout the day. They begin at 6am when the 3 year-old requests breakfast literally as soon as her feet touch the bedroom floor, we try and hold her off for at least 30 minutes after which time she will sit in the kitchen for an hour, and eat precisely one spoonful of cornflakes. Snack requests begin immediately after being dressed. They don’t stop until they go back to sleep in the evening. Nobody can afford these kind of children. I exist mainly on tea and Aldi digestive biscuits so I don’t see why they can’t also.
  6. The sight of other peoples’ facebook updates, photographs and love for half-term. No one else needs to see how #soblessed your week with the little darlings is. Stick them in front of a movie with Nutella on crumpets and get over yourself.
  7. The sight of other peoples’ holiday photos which show that these people are just not good with money. I refuse to spend 300% more on a holiday abroad booked in the half-term week when I know that holiday destinations will be littered with other holidaying families taking up poolside loungers with more irritating children and their verrucas. If we decide to go on holiday with three kids, it will be in term-time and I will happily sacrifice their education for a week or two. I’d find court quite exciting too I think.
  8. Teachers who say “oh but children need a week off to chill out at home, they get so tired and really need it, and so do we”. THINK OF THE PARENTS PLEASE. If you care about these kids, you’ll keep your watchful eye over them so I don’t have to say “go to the bloody toilet then!” 13 million times a day. They’ll listen and pee on demand for a teacher. Also, if one needs a week off one’s job every month and a half, maybe one is in the wrong job? *
  9. When a child mentions “Mummy, can we do some cutting/painting/sticking”. RUN. RUN FOR THE HILLS.
  10. The weather. It always rains in half-term week. It’s the rule and it’s stupid. It means we can’t really go out and do anything because getting wet sucks. Kids are obsessed with wearing wellies and wellies are stupid because kids trip up in them and fall in puddles and cry. Wellies should be reserved for river-wading only, the house gets covered in streaky wet muddy marks, and then if we stay indoors all day somebody goes insane and it’s me, always me.
  11. Another half-term gem has to be the older ones waking up the 6 month-old one. He’s taken to napping for about 7 minutes, so on the rare occasion it approaches the 8 minute mark, if another child so much as exhales near him I will scream. And cancel Christmas.
  12. Needing to get out of the house to relieve the steam building up in your head through stress, but dreading the thought of walking through anywhere with other people when your 3 year-old will definitely shout out offensive observations at passers-by. Like for example when we walked past an older lady with water retention and the child exclaims “Mummy look, fat legs!” and you look, because you’re a parent and when a child tells you to look, you look, or they will shout louder.

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    A very reasonably priced child I thought.

So I propose to the schools of this country, or at least my daughters’ school, that half term consists of just 2 days. A Saturday and a Sunday beginning immediately after the last Friday of term. Then by Monday we can all be okay again and Mummy doesn’t lose her shit.

*Disclaimer: I know teachers work ridiculously hard and do amazing things for our children, despite the growing pressure they are under. And despite kids being arseholes some of the time, their teachers still encourage them.

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Cute baby – hates sleep.

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