“You have social anxiety? No way! You just spoke on stage, stop complaining”
“Yeah right, you aren’t an introvert. You aren’t shy and you’re talking to me well right now aren’t you?”
Well, count these as the most common responses I’ve gotten when I tell people that yes, I do indeed suffer from anxiety and yes, I also realise that I spoke on stage right now. Those two aren’t mutually exclusive.
[Image source: Tumblr]
A lot of our perspectives on mental health issues are drawn from what we see on social media. Films that are seeming to include more characters that cover the spectrum of mental health still have a long way to go when it comes to covering them practically. And the rise of internet “slangs” aren’t helping the situation. You see, mental health is not just one thing. Depression is not just “feeling sad” all the time. Not everyone who has depression fit the “symptoms” of depression. There are many who can function normally, still be social but still suffer from overwhelming depression. Same goes for any other mental health issues there are. Personally, the biggest problem that I’ve faced has come in the form of “boxes”.
Allow me to digress for a bit. Everyone you meet is different. They have different personalities and different tastes in music and movies and hobbies. And the same goes for their mental health as well. Ask people you know who are overcoming mental health issues and you will find that none of their experiences is similar even though they might have been diagnosed with the same issue. It is ignorant of us to assume that everyone deals with their issues the same way or goes through the same thing. And with people lacking this awareness, there arise situations in which people assume it is okay to make generalisations and comments, essentially stereotyping mental health into set “boxes”.
I deal with anxiety and am not an overly social person. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t have any friends or that I’m shy. I just take some time to talk to people I’ve just met and if I’m with my friends while meeting the new person then I feel so much better and at ease talking to the person for the first time. A lot of people who might be going through the same social anxiety that I am can be shy and just not talk or can be extremely social yet still feel overwhelmed and nervous inside. But all that people see is that I am a competitive stage speaker and hence, I am suddenly not allowed to feel that anxiety pumping through my veins every time I come onto the stage to speak. I realise that feeling stage fright and nervousness are common to everyone but feeling extremely overwhelmed yet pushing yourself to speak through the knots in your stomach is not. But even though the anxiety is overwhelming, I still love to speak on stage. And I refuse to be boxed away for that.
[Image source: Tumblr]
Everyone you know is going through something that might not fit your assumptions. Chrissy Teigen and Adele openly spoke up about post-partum depression while under the public’s eye and we did not know that they had gone through that until they told us. Jennifer Lawrence is one of the most charismatic people in interviews but has openly stated that she suffered from severe anxiety. A lot more examples can be drawn to make this point but at the end of it all, the only thing that matters is that people turn a little bit more understanding when it comes to how mental health issues manifest themselves.
[Image source: Pinterest]
If someone tells you that they’re going through something, listen to them. Please do not make generalisations and make them think that their feelings are invalid. The world is a very kind and welcoming place and a little bit of awareness with these issues is all one will need to help a thousand more. Let us not box away mental illnesses or file them away under certain tabs. These issues are complex and we can all do our bit to spread information and awareness.