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The silent torture of living with anxiety


The first thing they teach you when you learn to swim is to remain calm at all times because panic leads to drowning. Living with anxiety can often feel like that, but a million times worse – you’re struggling to breathe, only instead of being in water, you’re on a busy tube, at a party, doing a presentation, even answering the phone or eating in public.

Due to common misconception about mental health and lack of information on the subject until recent years, many people still don’t understand what anxiety is and how to properly cope with it. Older generations would mistakenly refer to it ‘shyness’ and shrug it off, or ignorantly advice others to ‘toughen up’. This type of dismissive attitude can be toxic to people with mental health problems, because it essentially builds up guilt within them for something, they have no control over, discouraging them from talking about it and ultimately forcing them to fight their battles alone.

As one of the world’s biggest cosmopolitan cities, London can get quite overwhelming at times. Most students living here are juggling uni work, a part-time job and maintaining a social life, barely finding the time to sit down and relax. Selfcare is an underrated necessity, the lack of which can lead to serious emotional trauma. Nowadays people’s lives can get tremendously busy so time management is key. Social media is a crucial example of that – the wasted hours spent scrolling on phone screens is time that can be used for relaxation and recharging of the emotional batteries.

For university students, 3rd year is generally considered to be the most difficult one. A graduate from the University of Bedfordshire who suffers from generalised anxiety disorder, described her final year at uni as a “horrific nightmare”. Her depressive episodes led to a drastic weight loss, acid reflux and loss of appetite. However, after having to apply for an extension on her dissertation due to her health, she realised she needed help and began going to the gym as a therapeutic way of coping with her anxiety. “I’d go to the library at 7am and leave around midnight, having written about a paragraph because I was stressing so bad and my mind just wasn’t clear. I wouldn’t eat, or if I did, it would be something unhealthy like McDonalds because it was close to uni. One day my friend asked me to come gym with her and I thought ‘ok why not’. It slowly started increasing my appetite, I was building muscle, just started to overall look healthier and happier. Working out was my therapy and the gym became my sanctuary.”

There are tons of different ways to distress that can suit everybody’s needs, hobbies, and timetables, whether it be yoga, running, painting, reading, shopping or going to the gym. Life in the era of social media can get overwhelming at times, and it’s important to remember to not only take care of our mental health, but to also take care of each other, as there are currently too many people suffering in silence.

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Lorna Lamon on October 11, 2019:

Such an interesting and honest look at anxiety and how devastating it can be. I think there is so much pressure on students and very often the University or College is poorly equipped to deal with those students who are suffering in silence. Many have to wait weeks to see a therapist as their condition becomes worse. Awareness and action within communities needs to be a priority in order to improve the lives of those people with a mental health condition. Thank you for sharing.

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