It is difficult for other people to understand what we go through, when we have severe anxiety or PTSD. It is not something that they can relate to or experience in any way. It is very sad and extremely frustrating that the people in our lives have no idea how truly difficult our day to day lives can be.
Because psychological disorders are invisible to others, they are not as real to them as physical disabilities are. People can understand that someone is in a wheelchair and that they cannot do the same things other people can do. People can understand that a person is blind and that the person has difficulty doing the day to day things that they can easily do.
Even though they can understand that a person is blind and is disabled to do many things, they still cannot understand what a blind person really goes through. There are also feelings about how others treat them.
There are aspects to social interaction, work interaction and even stigma, that a person with a physical disability experiences. These things are hard for other people to understand.
We can experience what it would be like to not be able to see, by putting on a blindfold and trying to walk around the house. Most likely we would bump into things and find it very difficult to navigate. The faces of our loved ones would disappear, and only be able to be viewed in out memory.
As we walked around with a blindfold on, we could experience what it would be like to not be able to see, but we could not fully experience what it would be like to be blind. If we were to become blind, our entire lifestyle would be changed forever. Our social life and nearly all of our personal interactions would be different.
Driving the car would be impossible, as would reading a book. As we experienced the world without the sense of sight, we would find that it is very different. The independence of driving to the local QuickCheck for coffee with no longer exist. Doing our own laundry would become a much harder task, much less putting the clothes away.
We would not be able to choose clothes to buy from a catalogue or from Amazon.com. We would be dependent on others as to how we looked in the clothes we wore. If the beautician did a mediocre job on our haircut, we would have no way to know.
If we were blind, our ability to interact with the world would be completely different than it is now. Our social life would be affected. Our job would have to change. Our independence would be compromised. People would see us differently.
Some people would feel pity for us, while other people would take advantage of us. Our prospects for a romantic relationship would be limited to those people who would be willing to accept a relationship with a blind person.
Parenting would be more of a challenge. Every single thing that we wanted to do in life, would be affected by our blindness.
Living with severe mental illness has something in common with the experience of a person with a physical disability. The daily activities of survival are often extremely difficult for us. We struggle with the simplest of tasks that other people find easy to do.
There is no way to make other people understand how the mental torment affects nearly every aspect of our day to day lives.. There is no on and off switch to our brain. We are subject to the chemicals and neurological functions in our brains.
We are tormented by an overload of emotion and extreme feelings. We have flashbacks, memories, fears or sadness that interfere with our lives every day.
While there is a certain amount of sympathy and understanding given to people with physical disabilities, there is much less given to people with mental dysfunctions. Most people cannot understand that simple things like getting ready for work or shopping for groceries, can be traumatizing for us.
Things that may be extremely difficult or impossible to do for someone with severe anxiety, or PTSD
1. Getting out of bed in the morning
2. Deciding what to wear
3. Getting up the courage to go to work or school
4. Leaving the house
5. Driving the car or dealing with public transportation
6. Going out to lunch
7. Dealing with co-workers
8. Keeping our job
9. Eating in the break room
10. Talking on the phone
11. Going to the post office
12. Opening our mail
13. Going to the grocery store
14. Calling a repair man
15 Answering the door
16. Sitting in the waiting room at the therapist office
17. Cleaning the house
18. Organizing / looking through our personal things
19. Talking to loved ones
20. Talking to strangers
21. Taking the car to be repaired
22. Going to sleep
23. Going out with friends
24. Going on a date
25. Maintaining a relationship with a partner
26. Going to the doctor or the dentist
27. Going to the emergency room
28. Asking the pharmacist about our medication
29. Leaving an abusive partner
30. Drawing proper boundaries in relationships
31. Inviting friends to the house
32. Going to a party or event
25. Getting a better job
27. Getting a better partner
28. Making new friends
29. Moving ahead in life
30. Learning something new
31. Asking for a raise
32. Asking for help
33. Hiring new employees
34. Returning unwanted items to Walmart
35. Remembering things
36. Communicating about our feelings
37. Communicating our thoughts
38. Understanding where our anxiety is coming from
39. Living normal lives
40. Not feeling like a failure
I am bound to have missed many others and maybe you can add something to the list. These are things that people are able to do relatively easily but we often cannot.
The problem becomes two-fold. The first part of the problem is that the tasks themselves are sometimes monumentally difficult. The second part is that other people cannot understand.
Because mental illness is impossible to actually see, there is little sympathy or understanding from those around us. Just because our suffering is not tangible to people does not make it any less real to us. Our ability to perform the simplest of tasks is affected.
There is no blindfold that we can put over people’s eyes to allow them to experience life in our shoes for an hour, like they can experience loss of vision. There is no way to describe to them what if feels like to have disabling anxiety. Since there is nothing for them to see or touch, the reality of mental illness is not really perceivable to them.