One of the most frustrating misconceptions about people who struggle with anxiety is that they are “weak”. I have been called weak (or words to that effect) so many times. Experiencing anxiety has nothing to do with being weak or strong. It’s not something any of us choose to experience. The strength I have had to find to get through periods of bad anxiety has been enormous.
Like with anything else, there are people who have anxiety who are mentally stronger (ie. better able to cope with it) than other people who have anxiety. But who is to say that those people simply don’t experience such a bad case of it? For me, mental strength is something (just like a muscle) that you build on by going through a difficult experience and getting through it. There are moments of extreme weakness on the way. But why on earth should you be ashamed of that?
In my opinion, anyone who perceives someone experiencing anxiety as weak has either a) never really experienced it, and is therefore ignorant about it or b) has experienced it but has feels ashamed to admit it or accept it (which is sad and I feel sympathy for these people).
If you struggle with anxiety, you may be a very sensitive, intuitive, emotional, thoughtful person. But that’s got nothing to do with weakness. We all have moments of weakness and moments of strength – whatever we go through, and you shouldn’t be ashamed of either.
There are times that I can be ‘weak’ in how I respond to anxiety, just like there can be times when I am weak in a work out, or weak in my relationships. Sometimes I can’t seem to find the strength to deal with anxious feelings and they take over. But there are other times when I have strength – like carrying on with work when I haven’t slept for days, or getting great results in exams despite being in a really bad mental state.
If you feel like someone seems “weak”, just question why you think that. Is it truly because they have a weak response to everything difficult in their life? Do they shy away from any kind of challenge, and let everything overwhelm them? If so, maybe they could do with some help – rather than criticism! Often people don’t realise they’re not using their strength. Or if you think that someone is weak just because they are emotional, sensitive, or struggle with their mental health – you should question why you associate those words with weakness. Where does that perception come from? Is it accurate? Is it helpful?
If you think you are “weak” because you experience anxiety, think again. Anxiety is extremely uncomfortable, distressing, frightening and debilitating. It can be with you all day, every day. It can turn your brain to complete mush. It can literally ruin your life. For me, at times it has been torture. A bad case of anxiety is worse than any physical pain I’ve ever experienced.
To show strength in the face of anxiety, know that you can get through it (despite what the anxiety is telling you!). The strongest and best thing you can do is reach out for help – confide in kind friends and family, speak to your doctor, speak to someone who understands.
Know that you have the strength to get through it, because you do.
As always, if you are, or think you might be, struggling with your mental health, then please make an appointment with your doctor.