The long winded title for this post should be “just because I have a mental health diagnosis, doesn’t mean I don’t know my own mind and what is or isn’t good for it”.
I often think that people with mental health issues like anxiety and depression, once they have come to terms with that and what they need to do, to look after themselves, seem to have to spend a lot of time working hard to tell others around them what works and what doesn’t for them, and having to fight to be heard. I have had people speak to me in a way that makes me feel that despite me being a grown adult, of average intelligence, able to hold down a job, manage a family, etc, that because I have mental health issues, I clearly don’t know my own mind, and what’s good for it.
People will try and persuade you that what they think is best, what they want is best, that what they think you should do is best, despite you knowing that for you it isn’t. That what they want and need should be your priority, and if they tell you that often enough you will capitulate.
Or you will have people who think that they know what you need best, and when you try and push back to defend what works for your needs rather than what they think is best, you will meet resistance.
It feels to me that a lot of my time is spent explaining and justifying, not my actual mental health issues, but how I look after myself, and what works for me and what doesn’t as I deal with managing those issues. People will accept the “anxiety” but still expect life to carry on. In a sense that’s normal, and I don’t expect other people to adapt their lives to my normal, but it seems like I spend more time explaining and justifying self care and boundaries for myself than I would if I was “normal” and it is tiring and boring constantly having to fend off what other people think is best for you.
I know my own mind. I know that when I am tired and my anxiety levels are at their highest, that making myself do things that will only increase my anxiety levels is a bad decision for me. Trying to explain to someone who thinks that “well, maybe if you just tried it might be ok” that actually, it likely won’t be, just makes the anxiety worse.
Having anxiety, living in an almost constant state of fight or flight, is exhausting, but you do, to a certain extent, adapt and learn to cope.
Having to constantly defend your boundaries and why you are looking after yourself, and why you choose to do or not do certain things, and be constantly bombarded with people trying to tell you that those choices you are making are wrong, or not convenient, is more exhausting.
I am tired of people trying to tell me what should be in my head. I am tired of people trying to tell me I don’t know my own mind and what it needs. I don’t need to be persuaded to meet the expectations of others, to make them happy, when it does me more damage than good.
If something makes me anxious, or more anxious than usual, or is going to drain my reserves to the point where it will trigger anxiety, I am not going to do it. It may be something as simple as refusing to join in a game that people are playing, or more complex, like withdrawing from a relationship. It may be refusing to go away for a weekend with a large group of people (my personal idea of hell) or it may be that I won’t accept a friend request on Facebook. It may be that I choose to stop drinking alcohol for a while, or I might refuse to adjust my busy schedule to accommodate other people’s needs at the expense of the very precious down time that I get for myself.
You see, whilst inside my head may be a mess of anxiety and emotion, I now know what makes it worse or better, most of the time, and I have the ability and the right to protect it from those things and I don’t need other people trying to tell me different.
Unless you are in my head, you don’t know my mind. I may have a mental health issue, but I do still know and own my own mind, and I will do what it takes to protect and help that.
If you are talking to, or in a relationship of any kind with someone with anxiety, be it friend, partner, employer, think about what you say to them. Think about how you would feel if someone came to you and tried to tell you what to do or think or feel, but that wasn’t what was actually best for you. Frustrating, right? So why is it ok to do that to someone with anxiety?
We may have a mental health issue, but we still know our own minds, please stop trying to manage that for us!