My Anxiety Is A Boggart

Friday 24 November 2017

Like a lot of people, I suffer from anxiety.

I don't like to use the word suffer really. Suffer sounds to me like it's something I put up with. Like sometimes I suffer from a bad hip, which is an irritation I can get on with. It also sounds too definitive and neat. It doesn't leave much room for the different levels, shapes and sizes anxiety comes in.

Anxiety changes from person to person. It's one of the things that makes it so hard to define, and like with many mental health issues, probably one of the reasons so many people resist getting help with it. 'Oh but my anxiety isn't as bad as...'

And my anxiety isn't as bad as a lot of peoples. But it's there, and it's something I've come to accept and recognise. I'm not ashamed to admit it, and it's not something I want to define me. Currently, at this point in my life, I can treat my anxiety like a food allergy. Most days it has no effect on my life, some days I have to do my best to avoid things that trigger it, and other days I have a reaction that I can't for the life of me figure what set it off.

It's that final stage I want to talk about today. When my anxiety flares up and I long for some kind of magical epi-pen... or wand. 

Because my anxiety is a boggart. And if you have an image of Neville Longbottom facing down Severus Snape by imagining him in his grandma's clothes then we're on the same page. If you're not that into Harry Potter and have no idea what I'm talking about (hello Rick) then bare with me...

Most of the time my anxiety finds something in my brain that I may be mildly concerned about and takes on its shape. If I have a big event at work for example then at 3 am in the morning my anxiety might crawl out of the trunk in my mind, find that lingering 'Oh I must do this in the morning thought' and manifest itself as that.

Suddenly that tiny thing that needs to go on my to-do list transforms. With the shape-shifting form of the anxiety boggart, it becomes bigger, scarier, and generally full of much more doom. It sprouts warts on its nose that scream 'what if no one comes?' carries an axe, that swishes with the thought of 'You forgot to...' and it reeks to high heaven of 'it's all going to go wrong.' This boggart wakes me up in the middle of the night. It paralyses me with fear. Haunts my every thought. Until I wake up in the morning convinced that my anxiety is the real deal. That I should be freaking out about whatever it has camouflaged itself as in the darkest, creepiest corners of my mind.

But my anxiety is not what it seems to be. My anxiety is not an event at work or a problem in a relationship. My anxiety is a boggart that exists in its own right - it will always be in the trunk but will appear different nearly every time I take the lid off.

That might sound like a bad thing. How can you solve, or fix or cure something if you never know what it's really going to look like? And the answer is that maybe you can't cure it, maybe you can't banish it for good. But like Neville and his grandma clad Snape, I have at least learnt to recognise it.

Learnt to distinguish the anxiety from the thought or fear it is dressing up as. Learnt to look it in the eye and ask is this real? Is this an issue that truly needs addressing? Could something be wrong at work? Did that off the cuff comment I made the other day really cause that person to hate me? Or is this my anxiety shapeshifting? 

And while I may not be able to simply laugh it off, imagine it as a spider in skates or a full moon balloon at least I can begin to deal with it for what it really is. 

This may not be true for everybody's anxiety. Anxiety disorders (hate that word too) and magical creatures from Harry Potter come in all different shapes and sizes. This is simply true for me, this is how I deal with it, how I understand it, right now. And I stress that this definition is time-dependent. It's one that may not ring true for me in 5 years time, 5 months time or even 5 minutes time. I'm sharing not to define anxiety for everyone but to highlight just one of the many ways it manifests itself. 

And to anyone out there dealing with their own anxiety, boggart shaped or not, I hope you've read this, and if nothing else, feel at least a little less alone x

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