This last week we had my brother-in-law and his beautiful daughter come and visit us, along with Mr Clevs mum, Nanny Cats. My brother in law is a huge fan of blogging and my blog too and encouraged me to write about a topic that affects our family. Anxiety. Anxiety disorders. Mental health in general.
There is tons of information on the internet about anxiety, just google and take some time to read through symptoms, it affects more people than you think. It can be incredibly debilitating, its scary and it can come with a host of other mental health issues like personality disorders, depression and panic attacks. Anxiety will rob you of fun, of common sense, of relationships, of normal upbringings, of adventure and new experiences. If you and your tribe allow it to.
Two years ago to the week my brother in law and his partner visited and so ensued the worlds most stressful week full of panic, stress and arguing. Since that holiday he has been on a massive journey of self discovery in the wake of a huge anxiety attack that completely changed his life. He has given me full permission to write about this topic and his personal struggles in the hope that those living with someone with anxiety knows that they are not alone, and that life does go on. We had some iffy moments this summer visit but for the most part my brother in law is determined not to let anxiety get in his way, and especially not this weekend.
He practices mindfulness, and encourages all of us to do so as well, even our children!. One of our children suffers with anxiety and is in play therapy (I’m not sure how much I want to say about this as its not my story to tell, so lets leave it at that) and their ‘Funcle’ has been a huge support and help, not only to said child, but to me as a mother to help make sense of it all a bit better. My lovely bro-in-law informs us, and listens to our worries and complaints, and we listen to his. As an extended family group we talk about feelings and we hug it out. Some say it makes us all weird. We say it makes us wonderful.
Anxiety in real life can look like this…
A smile plastered on even though the waves were a little too cold and there was the niggling fear of the tide coming in too fast.
Smiling through the fear, and letting yourself enjoy something you had never considered before, like a carriage ride in the park.
Hugs with nephews and nieces, uncles, brothers, and nannys – all while worrying someone would fall into the pond!
Being a son, a brother, a brother in law, a funcle and a dad.
My point is – Anxiety looks normal from the outside, but on the inside there is all kind of stuff going on. Googling ‘living with someone who has anxiety’ will tell you not to change, to keep routines, to alert them of any changes in good time, to feed them a magnesium rich diet, to understand and listen, to give them space, but not too much space, to give them time, but not so much time that they think you have forgotten about them and lastly to give them constant reassurance.
All of these are great ideas, but sometimes, when you are juggling a million and one things its hard to physically look after someone else’s mental needs, its hard to change your own life to suit someone else’s, and its hard not to resent those things a bit (it doesn’t make you a monster if you do).
Speaking from experience, if you live with and love someone with anxiety issues try not to take it too personally (but have someone to turn to when you inevitably do), try not to get wound up or as I say ‘sucked in’, help remind them of the good, of the mindful and of what matters. If you need to then take a break, if it gets too much then go, find your own space, do your own thing and get away for as long as you need. Listen to respond, not react. Understand that you don’t understand, but that its ok. You can only do so much and you cant magically fix their disorder, nor is that your job. Take the good days with the bad, the rough with the smooth, be aware that sometimes ‘just letting go’ isn’t possible for them and that no matter how great a day everyone is having there are those niggling bad feelings creeping in for some. Above all, be honest and appreciate that while on the outside it all looks great, the inside is a different picture all together.
I guess what Im trying to say is that there is no denying that anxiety, depression and any mental health affliction in general really sucks, but, when they are part of people you love, you learn to love and live with them too. Anxiety is part of our family, and its ok.
For people to turn to if you are suffering from, or living with anxiety disorders check the following links
Sane – Samaritans – Aware Ireland – HSE – NHS – Ruby Wax on Anxiety – Mindfulness Ireland – Mindfulness UK