Updated: Apr 2
My wonderful friend Brie from the USA joined me for this week's mental health interview to share her experiences of living with an anxiety disorder and remind us that we are not alone in our struggles.
In her own words:
Hello my name is Brianne and I go by Brie. I like to go out and be with friends and generally all around have a good time. I enjoy reading, crafts, and watching t.v.
1) Hey Brie, how are you?
I am doing well most days. Other days not so much.
2) How are you really?
I am okay. Days are up and down. Depending on how I sleep or how my hormones are doing that day.
3) What made you reach out to be a part of this mental health project?
I like to be helpful and it's good for people to know they are not alone.
4) How would you describe yourself?
I would describe myself as a happy person when interacting with people. I would say depending on how I feel will depend on how outgoing I am, and I am an empath.
5) When were you diagnosed with an anxiety disorder?
6) Did the diagnosis come as a shock or were you expecting it?
I was expecting it.
7) For anyone who has never knowingly experienced anxiety, how would you describe it?
That's hard. It feels like you know something bad is going to happen so you are on alert. It makes you doubt yourself and feel like you can't do things. Sometimes you just feel all round exhausted.
8) What impact does anxiety have on your life?
It used to certainly rule my life. I wouldn't go out much and if I did hang out with friends I would have them come over. When people say they need to talk to me I immediately assume it's something bad. It makes me feel like a very negative person.
9) Did you have any anxiety about answering these questions today?
A little. What if my answer wasn't good enough? Did it make sense? Did I put in enough information? Was I doing my best? In the end I figured my answers are my answers alone, it's how I feel and maybe it can help someone else.
10) If someone is with you when you're feeling anxious, what can that person do to help you in that moment?
Generally, if someone can keep me talking or go on a walk with me I can expend my energy and not think about things that are stressful or that I can't control.
11) Have you ever tried to hide your anxiety from people? If so, how does that feel?
Only when I've been in a work setting where I've been on the phone and needed to be calm to get through the day. Otherwise, I tell people so that I don't need to explain further if I feel like sitting in the middle of the floor because I am lightheaded. It feels like you are trying to contain a bunch of energy that NEEDS to come out and it's very exhausting and stressful.
12) Why is it important that people understand mental health issues, even if they don't experience them for themselves?
Because otherwise they assume that everything is easy and you should be fine.
Some people think if you never had a bad childhood, why are you worried?
People who don't have anxiety need to understand that it's not that we don't want to do things, it's just that we are scared and it takes a lot of effort just to leave the house some days. Everyone needs compassion and love.
13) Do you find you miss out on things due to having anxiety?
I feel like I do, or really like I did. I missed out on seeing people and getting to spend time with friends because I was afraid I would pass out places and cause problems. I didn't go and do things that I really wanted to do because I was afraid. I have gotten better these days.
14) Why were you afraid you might pass out?
I always had something on my mind to worry about, homework, getting married and working full time. But when I graduated in August of 2015 and I had already been married for a year, I guess I had what you would call a mental break down because I had nothing to keep me busy or to worry about and I turned it inward, overthinking about myself. One night I passed out and what followed was anxiety and having a hard time going to work. I kept feeling dizzy and was worried that I would pass out wherever I was so I wouldn't go anywhere. Then when I was starting to get better my husband left and things spiralled. Eventually overtime I settled down and got less worried about being dizzy. It still comes and goes but I have been dealing with it for 5 years I am better at handling it.
15) Is it easier to be around people when they know you suffer with anxiety and are understanding and accepting of it?
Yes because they won't really question when you do something "weird" that helps you calm down and get through certain situations.
16) How does it feel when someone acknowledges and believes what you're going through?
It validates that I am not a terrible person. It makes me feel like I can do things even if it takes a few extra steps. It makes me really happy.
17 ) How can anxiety affect you in a social situation?
Hmmm, I feel sometimes there are too many people and I am a talkative person and if anxiety hits me I get really quiet. Then people start to ask what's wrong and I am a very straightforward person and will tell the truth, but sometimes I don't feel like explaining the problem so I try to leave and find a quiet place. It just sometimes feels like it makes things extra complicated.
18) Have you found any ways of controlling your levels of anxiety?
I myself am on medication, which I don't like being on. If it helps though you should be okay with it. I have been maintaining exercise. Also, if I am going into a panic attack and hyperventilating, I found that peppermint oil in my hands and breathing it in brings more oxygen to the brain and helps me to calm down a bit.
19) If someone is reading this interview and they struggle with anxiety, what would you like to say to them?
I would say what I think everyone thinks, you are not alone. There are many people suffering with mental illness and we understand how it feels. Be proud that you are here and that you take steps to be here every day. You are loved.
20) How do you feel after answering these questions today?
Honestly I feel a bit emotional and weepy, but I expected it. Sharing your thoughts with a lot of people is intimidating. The subject itself is important though so it should be shared.
Thank you so much Brie for doing this interview today. I would like to reassure you that your answers were more than good enough, they absolutely made sense and there was a perfect amount of information. You did your best and it was enough, as it always will be. Anxiety affects so many people and can make each one of those people feel alone, but reading this today will go some way to showing people that they aren't alone in it at all.
If you're reading this and you're struggling in any way with your mental health, please reach out. Go to the 'support' page on this website where you'll find help waiting for you.
If you would like to share your mental health experiences in a future blog, get in touch via the 'contact' page.