By Mana Williams
There is so much clout surrounding youth suicide and the struggle people can have with anxiety. Today’s mellow chat expresses my accounts with anxiety through giving you some insight into my own story. How that relates to other people. In the hopes that I might be able to raise awareness of the silent killer from a fresh perspective. It’s something that we have to actively talk about, because it’s so easy for us as a people to take for granted the thing that hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders face each and every day. It’s so easy for us to fall asleep on the issue. So it’s time for us to wake up again.
It’s quite frustrating when somebody calls you out for being wrong. Whether that’s in class, at a lecture or even something mundane like not having the guy behind you scoff because you dropped your wallet and held up the line in the Warehouse. Visiting places and anticipating that people will rip you out for something can be really frustrating, coming from someone who openly admits to having struggled with anxiety as a teenager. This talk is for those out there struggling with anxiety to better explain from my perspective what it means and how it can be relieved.
Waiting in a long line at the Warehouse to buy my stuff, a teenaged girl in front of me was trying to pay for her washing basket, watching her drop her wallet with all of her bits n bobs coming loose I could see that the tension on her face was building. After she fell to the floor in a desperate panic hoping nobody would notice, she kicked her coins beneath the till where the customer assistant was standing. The panic was evident in her shaking, fumbling around and general unsettledness. But it looked similar to something I had gone through before. Rushing to get passed the transaction counter to be sure not to piss off the people waiting impatiently behind you. Rushing through everything too scared to face the confrontation with another person.
Anxiety is pixelation. A fuzziness of expression that divides our chances of being understood or accepted. The mid-teenaged girl looked like she’d been having a really rough day. She appeared fine on the surface but through the eyes of a guy who was an old acquaintance with anxiety, I could only have felt sorry for her. With the guy behind her scoffing with frustration adding to her problems without considering that she was going through something. It made me reflect on the causes of becoming anxious.
My experience with anxiety came symptomatically from the fear of rejection. An icky mold growing through the seams of an ill-tempered boys mindset designed around the idea that others deserved to have power over me. That it didn’t matter how much suffering you had to go through, the shame of stuffing up was far more unbearable. In the awful circumstance where you might trip up running for the bus, that you might drop the glasses walking to the kitchen from the dining room table at your aunt’s house just trying to be helpful. Anxiety always seemed to prevail.
The inconsistent waves of anxiety in my early years were the result of being taken away from my parents at eight months old and being placed into the care of other amazing people. The natural inclination to be attracted to the ones you’ve been brought up in without ever knowing any difference is the exact feelings which built up over time within my head. Then to have those feelings ripped apart after having being taken away from my parents without being told why then to blame those mistakes on myself was without a doubt the reason why I struggled with the hardship of feeling rejected. That others ought to have the talking stick and that I was always an inferior substance. Somebody who’s opinion never really seemed to matter as much as the next person.
Through the fears and obstacles that I had to overcome in my early years, when I was five years old I remember seeing my mum walking out the driveway heading to see my grandfather. I remember vividly running to the gates and crying uncontrollably until she came home over an hour later. Not having realized that my sister was in the house the entire time in charge of looking after me. In the mind of a young child, these experiences can be really testing, without the capacity to understand why the world is this horrible place and that not everyone is perfect is incredibly sad.
This is only a brief depiction of my story, however. There is no validity in expressing my experience and then asking you to feel sorry for me. The point of this little extract is to help you understand why some people struggle with anxiety. By giving my account of what caused me to feel anxious at a younger age and occasionally still today is to reflect on the feeling that there are others going through the same thing. Something as small as paying for a fucking washing basket can create enough grief to trigger a panic mode. That all some people would do is stand there, with their smug faces and scoff at the weakness shown by a poor girl who is definitely suffering through something. It is not good enough.
Anxiety is nobodies friend. Through my own self-growth and development of confidence over time through getting the support of those around me, I was able to overcome the deep anxieties that I was suffering through. Extremely lucky in hindsight to have had those voices advocating for me. For those people to stand with me and actively raise me up was a humongous relief effort that likely would not have given me the confidence to write these blogs.
It’s honestly as simple as appreciating the work somebody else has done in a way that is genuine, in a way that captures their attention so intimately that it makes that person who is struggling with anxiety to stop for just a moment. because that’s all it takes to save a life. That’s all that it takes to prevent a person from going off the rails. When they know that there is one person standing in front of them who genuinely cares about the work that they are doing. That can be sufficient enough to inform them that they are valued in some way that makes them want to be an actively contributing person who can carry on that legacy and continue to help others who have been down in that place where nobody likes or ever deserves to go.
It is as simple as saying “good work” or “well done you’re amazing.” Especially if you are someone of authoritative status, which to a person struggling with anxiety everybody is a person of anxiety, even if you were the guy standing behind the girl in line at the warehouse. If you could just lend a hand, ask if the person struggling is alright, if they need any help, that they are appreciated in some way, anyway at all. The smallest contributions to an ever anxious society is an abundant source of joy and fulfillment.
That’s all it takes man…