Monday, September 10, 2018

LIVING WITH SOMEONE WHO HAS ANXIETY BY PETER MARSHALL

So Peter kindly offered to write a post for my blog! I hope you all enjoy:

Imagine, for a moment, that you are next to a wide river with a friend. You and your friend decide to swim together, going upstream against the current. You’re swimming on opposite sides of the river, when suddenly your friend begins to get pulled downstream by the current, which is now faster and stronger on their side. You try to swim over to them to help them, you want to grab them and ground yourself, so they don’t get pulled away, lost, or get themselves hurt on a rock. Now imagine you have to do this every day, the first few days, you don’t do very well, and they slip out of your grip, sailing downstream and grazing themselves on pebbles and branches. But eventually, you learn how to hold onto them and swim over to a different part of the river together, out of the way of the strong current. You carry on swimming together, and they get exhausted and tired, but you can’t climb out because the river bank is too high and too slippery. So, you try to pull them along to a safe part of the river, but they are almost completely unable to function. As you repeat this, they no longer swim against a fast current and get swept away, but they always get tired, and they always give up before you can get them to safety.

This is a metaphor, albeit not a direct one, for my experience with Bobbi’s anxiety. When I first met her, she had panic attacks almost daily. It was hard for me to see someone I care for break down into tears when I had no power to stop it. I tried and tried, but she was always worried about someone or something, thinking the worst had happened. Eventually, she trusted me more (or at least I hope so!) and listened to me talking through her worries. If she was worried about me, I could tell her why she didn’t need to, and she could replay and trust my voice telling her to relax. We got past the first strong current together, and I was so relieved when Bobbi reached one year without having a panic attack. But, unfortunately, this wasn’t the end of Bobbi’s worries. Her anxiety, in a way, is worse than her panic attacks. It was easier to convince her that everything was fine when she was panicking, but her anxiety stops her from believing the likely reasons for things, and it stops her listening to me trying to help her. It does become exhausting, through no fault of her own of course! It becomes harder to move Bobbi out of the river, because her body just won’t let her leave her fears behind. It’s heart-breaking to see her pacing. It makes me worry about her and makes me worry about failing her. 

The river works in understanding Bobbi’s mental health in one more vitally important way too. Yes, I have to swim in the same river, as we all do, dealing with our own problems and mental health problems. I have had to face some strong currents in my time too, both alone and with help. But, just because we all have to face those currents, it does not mean that we should be belittling those that have to face them every day. There should not be discourses of “Ah, you have a mental health problem? Isn’t that basically just being sad?”, they ignore the fundamental problems of someone’s mental health. We might all face currents, but other people do face stronger ones. It is important to talk about your mental health, and your emotions, but it should not be at the expense of others. We are both equal and not equal in terms of our mental health. We should all be treated with equal respect, but we should not all be seen as the same. 

Bobbi is slowly and surely getting better at swimming against the current, and I will be there to help her for as long as I can.

Keep on swimming, 

P x 

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