My therapist has been encouraging me to open up about my anxiety. Something that is very anxiety producing for me is my fear of having a panic attack in front of people. If I could open up to people about my anxiety then maybe I wouldn’t be as worried about this situation. I have a hard time telling people I have an anxiety disorder because I feel embarrassed and I am afraid of how they will react. It is easier for me to tell people I had postpartum anxiety. It’s easier because it is in the past, it is over and I got through it. I have been trying to work on talking about my anxiety by starting to open up about my postpartum anxiety. I’m hoping that talking about my postpartum anxiety will help me to become more comfortable with talking about my anxiety disorder.
I have started to bring up my postpartum anxiety around friends and family. I hope that in the future I can do the same with my generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder. When I bring up my postpartum anxiety I usually mention that I have an anxiety disorder too. However, the main focus of the conversation remains on my postpartum anxiety.
Since I have started mentioning it to friends and family I have noticed that people are uncomfortable taking about it and asking me questions. Even close friends who are good caring people. I can tell they don’t know what to say. They probably don’t know if it’s okay to ask questions.
I had worried and stressed about telling people. My therapist and I had talked about it. I imagined a few of my close girlfriends sitting around with drinks in our hands. Somehow the conversation would end up somewhere where I could bring up my postpartum anxiety. I envisioned them asking a lot of questions. I was nervous it would make me anxious to be the center of attention and that I would get flustered. A fear of having a panic attack crossed my mind.
The reality was very different from that. Every time I said something in a group setting (by group I mean 2-6 people) no one really said much. I got “oh I didn’t realize you had that” or maybe “are you okay now” – but that was it. There was no formal inquisition with me on the stand like I had feared. I was actually a little disappointed they hadn’t wanted to talk about it more. I had spent a lot of time thinking about how I would respond and explain it and I never really got the chance.
I felt like I had this big and powerful revelation that was going to rock people’s world. Especially those close to me. The reality wasn’t how I envisioned. Now, it could be my fault. I know when I brought it up I was quick to point out that it didn’t last long (5-6 months- you can get the full details in my blog post about it here) and I am doing well now. They could probably sense it was uncomfortable for me to talk about.
Also, as my shrink likes to remind me. Most people are too wrapped up in their own world to really pay attention to you. Twice, after bringing up my postpartum anxiety for the second time with a friend they said – wait did I know you had that? I know I told them. Trust me, I remember it clearly. How could they forget?
I have amazing friends and I know they care. It’s not like they did anything wrong. Most of them don’t have anxiety. They don’t have someone close to them with anxiety besides me. I get that it is hard to understand. But I also think there is the fact that their is a stigma attached to mental illness. People probably assume that I am embarrassed to talk about it so they are trying to spare me the questions.
If I had heart disease and told people I think the conversation would be a lot more open and comfortable for everyone. Yes, things can still get awkward with your physical health but as long as you aren’t talking about your vagina most people are okay with it. My husband has kidney disease and when I bring that up people ask more questions. You can tell there is no stigma attached to his kidney disease. People aren’t afraid to ask me about how bad it is. His kidneys are in pretty bad shape so there tends to be a lot of questions and there is nothing uncomfortable about the conversation.
However, when I bring up my postpartum anxiety or my anxiety disorder the conversation does not flow the same. People either don’t say anything or they make one or two comments about feeling sorry for me or being surprised they didn’t know. No one has ever asked me to share the details of my experience.
I get it. Can I be mad at people? No! I feel the stigma too. I feel embarrassed by my anxiety. I try not to. I am getting better but it is still hard to open up to people. I have only told my husband and my parents about this blog. I can’t imagine my friends reading it. I would be embarrassed but I also think I might feel some relief when the day comes.
I like talking about my anxiety disorder on this blog and sharing my struggles with people that understand what I am saying. I enjoy connecting with new people and finding out they share similar struggles. I have found some great blogs. I have connected with some wonderful people on this blog and social media. I have found a whole new world of fellow anxiety sufferers that has helped fill the void on struggling to talk about my anxiety with my family and friends.