This week is Mental Health Awareness Week. So, below, Claire writes more about her experiences with anxiety…
As I wrote last week, I feel like I’m on top of my anxiety at the moment but that doesn’t mean it’s all plain sailing. For example, I broke my bedroom door yesterday. So I had to sleep with it open. This sparked anxious thoughts about being attacked whilst I was sleeping. Of course, there’s no logic to why not being able to shut my bedroom door makes me more likely to be attacked but telling myself this and that, even if someone did break into the house, I would probably hear them long before they got to my bedroom made little difference. I felt vulnerable and this sparked my anxiety off.
Recognising the connection between feeling vulnerable and anxiety helps me understand why my anxiety started when I was a child. I grew up with parents who never demonstrated their love for me (something I think was quite common at the time) and seemed to focus on my failings more than my successes. So I never saw my parents as allies and, consequently, never turned to them for help when things like bullying and my true gender identity came into play. This is why I believe the way to help me with my anxiety is to help me feel safe.
I know from experience that I only open up to people once I feel I can trust them. This can take a long time but there’s no point rushing me because then I feel harassed and clam up. So, by all means, ask if I’m having a nice day but don’t then start asking me if there’s anything I want to tell you. Don’t even try and reassure me that you’re there for me if there’s anything I want to talk about. It just makes me feel uncomfortable.
Another way of making me feel safe is to compliment me. Of course, this needs to be genuine – don’t be telling me I’m wonderful at maths, for example, when I know I’m not. Also, I know this may seem obvious, but be a nice person all round. If I see you being horrible to anyone else it makes no difference if you’re nice to me. I won’t trust you.
There’s no quick fixes here. Anxiety is basically fear. I also acknowledge, though, that everyone is different with our own unique experiences. So different things will work for different people but I truly believe we all gain by making this a safer world to live in.
One organisation doing just that of course is WHISC. Their Listening Ear service is available by calling 0151 707 1826. Alternatively, leave a message on their Facebook page with your phone number and they’ll ring you back. Whether it’s good or bad, WHISC are waiting to hear from you. They are also a Stop Hate Crime Reporting Centre and also currently in the process of opening up the Centre again to offer a host of activities to get involved with. More information about these can be found on the What’s On page.