Anxiety. A word which for some years, has resurfaced more than any other. A grappling term, something which however much you try to reason with, will always find a way to wrestle back into your consciousness. A daily battle to keep in check.
Over the past few weeks, largely due to Stephen Fry's frank admission of an attempted suicide, mental health issues are, quite rightly, back on the agenda. Whether it takes someone in the public eye to unveil a tortuous battle with bipolar disorder or Alistair Campbell's beautifully written article in the I newspaper about his own long battle with depression, it has an air of enlightenment to it for all that suffer with mental health issues.
In many respects, living with anxiety and depression is almost like carefully managing a simple fact of acceptance. That you are living a life where it can, frustratingly, resurface at any given moment. When it does, either gradually throughout the day or from the outset of waking up in the morning, you are bound by the ultimate strength of your own mind, a cloud of darkness wrapped around your head, suffocating in it's ability to restrict.
Sometimes adjoined with depression, sometimes without, it is hard to live a life that is so inconsistent. To wake up in the morning, stir yourself from sleep and spend the next ten minutes testing the mind for signs that it may not be a good day.
For the people around you it is critical that they understand and are aware of the common signals associated with it. Not everyone is in the thankful position of having somebody close to understand and sympathise with the feelings associated with anxiety and depression but acknowledging that it is an illness is a start. Medication can help to ease the worst symptoms but ultimately it is learning the art of acceptance, to learn ways to manage it, something which therapies such as cognitive behaviour therapy, can achieve with time.
Severe anxiety is debilitating. It suffocates, whittles out the best bits of your personality and leaves you feeling a shell of your former self. It leaves you bound by self analysis, over contemplation and tainted by a darkened outlook, a fear that something at some point is going to go hellishly wrong. It is something you wouldn't want to wish on your worst enemies.
One in four people in the UK will suffer from anxiety or depression at some point in their lives. That is a staggering number for an illness that, unfortunately, still carries the stigma of embarrassment. The reality is an illness that is all too common but never fully diagnosed.
People can, from an outside perspective, look like they should be the last people to suffer from mental health problems. Outgoing, confident people full of life but on the inside ultimately terrified. It is the people that you think of as being the strongest that sometimes are struggling the most inside.
What causes anxiety in particular, differs from person to person. For some people, they are just the manifestations of learned behaviour, of seeing family members worry and panic, ensuring their behaviours rub off on their children. For others, it is something you are born with, a condition that needs constant supervision from a young age. For most people though, major life trauma's such as the death of someone close, can be a trigger.
Take flying for example. You could have loved the feeling of it for years, the initial jerk down the runway and the feeling of bouncing in the sky through mild turbulence. The very next time you fly, maybe just a few months later, could be an unbelievably painful event, so traumatic that you feel as though your chest is going to explode. In some respects, it is the realisation of mortality, the sudden awareness that life is, in all of it's immensity, so fragile. That people around you, no matter how much you were convinced when growing up that people only die in their twilight years, do slip away from us.
Still though, too many people see anxiety and depression as a weakness, that even mentioning to someone that you suffer from any kind of mental illness can, to them anyway, be an attention seeking ploy. A name to attach to feeling down or due to a bad set of temporary circumstances. We need to move away from this feeling and come to the realisation that what we are facing affects millions.
Of all those millions of people out there who have suffered or are suffering from anxiety and depression, only a small percentage will fully accept and comprehend their diagnosis. The relatively recent death of Gary Speed, amongst others, only goes to show that more understanding and patience is needed if we are to fully comprehend them. We need to learn to detect their symptoms early enough, just as we would with something such as pneumonia or cancer. If they are, then the required treatment can be put in place to help ease the symptoms, possibly leading to an eventual life without anxiety and depression. We live in hope.