For as long as I can remember, anxiety has played a massive role in my life. I can barely think a time where it hasn’t at least lurked somewhere in the background, threatening to rear it’s ugly head.
Most of the time, you’d never know it. I believe “high functioning” is the term used to describe it, meaning the majority of the time I can get through a day without any obvious issues or falling apart into the stereotypical anxious wreck that people tend to conjure up images of when you mention you have this. Instead I appear together, efficient, busy, organised, controlling…
I’ve struggled with it privately for many years. Thanks to the stereotypes and the misplaced shame our society associates with hidden illnesses like this one, I wasn’t confident about admitting to it. Being anxious is for people who are weak and can’t cope right? It was something I wanted to hide and pretend wasn’t happening to me.
A few months ago I came across this blog by Sarah Schuster on The Mighty Site and I felt an instant connection with her words. Finally someone was able to explain how I was feeling and the impact it had on my every day. I realised I wasn’t alone and it gave me the courage to speak up and talk to people about the constant worry; the late nights lying in bed unable to quieten my busy mind; the not being sure if my concern was rational or a symptom of this illness; the panic attacks over seemingly small things that my body reacted to as though I was about to die. You see, anxiety is a mental illness, but what people fail to realise is that it has many physical aspects. Increased heartrate, shallow, panicked breathing, increased temperature, flushing, sweating and shaking. You body responds to stimuli in an extreme manner and it’s not at all pleasant.
We learn to avoid these panic attacks by planning and controlling as much as we can. We fill the quiet times by keeping busy so our overactive mind doesn’t run away with itself. Small things can become overwhelming, so we work out our triggers and avoid them or change things to avoid setting a panic off.
I was surprised to find so many people who had been feeling the same way. So many people who felt they had to hide this for fear of being judged by others or made to feel like they can’t cope. People who are extremely successful in all walks of life also suffer from anxiety and find ways around it but unless you suffer from it, you wouldn’t necessarily know their struggle.
So I decided to start a new photography project. Facing Anxiety aims to help people find a way to stand up to their anxiety and find support with likeminded people who understand what they are going through. To show people who don’t struggle with this illness that the stereotypes are wrong and misinformed, that people they’d never suspect have this are fighting a daily battle.
One of the issues I have thanks to my anxiety, is feeling as though I’m not enough. Like I always need to be and do more. Here’s a shot I took a few years back. Something I need to remember more often.
If you are interested in taking part in this project and are based in Glasgow (or nearby) or in Frankfurt, please get in touch. I would love to speak to you about getting involved.