Anxiety Is Not A Choice (So Please Stop Telling Us To ‘Chill’)

Christian Gertenbach
Christian Gertenbach

Many people think that individuals with anxiety or depression can wake up one day and decide to ‘get better’. That we can wake up one day and decide to ‘smile, chug coffee, and deal with it’.

I’m sorry to burst your bubble, but anxiety isn’t something that we can just ‘turn off’. Anxiety isn’t something that we can choose to have on a Monday, and choose to not have it on a Sunday. Anxiety isn’t a decision. It isn’t a voluntary thing that we want to have in our lives, day in and day out.

It isn’t a choice.

Some days, we are free from it. We think we are in the clear, and maybe, just maybe, it will be gone for good. But, it creeps up when we aren’t looking. It shows up in the darkest corners of our minds. It jumps out in front of us right when we are getting comfortable. It shocks us to the core over and over again, without any warning.

We can’t just ‘choose to be happy’. We can’t just ‘chill out’ or ‘smoke a joint and relax’. Anxiety doesn’t have a pause button on our minds. Depression doesn’t have a shut off button on our brains. And they most definitely do not have any eject buttons.

By telling us to just ‘relax’ or ‘chill’, you are downplaying our illness. You are downplaying the significance it has on our daily lives. And you are saying that anxiety, is not something to take seriously. That it’s not a real ‘illness’, and that it’s not something to truly worry about.

Would you tell someone with a broken leg, to stop overreacting and to ‘just keep walking’? Would you tell someone with cancer to ‘just smile’ and to ‘let it go’? Would you tell someone with MS or with chronic pain to ‘just relax and stop being so dramatic’? I don’t think so. 

So please, stop telling us to smile when we don’t know how. Stop telling us to turn on upbeat music and choose to be happy. Stop telling us that we have nothing to worry about, when that is all we know how to do. Stop judging how we feel, when you have idea what we are going through.

You will never know how we feel unless you spend a day in our shoes, and a day in our minds. You will never know what we go through inside of our brains every second of the day. You will never know how it feels to be plagued with a dark cloud that follows you around all the time.

And you will never know how it feels to fear for your life, to constantly be in a panic, and to constantly be filled with ‘what if’s?’.

So before you try to make us feel better by telling us to ‘chill’, please remember that anxiety is a mental illness. Depression is a mental illness. It is an illness. Not an outlook on life. Not a ‘stage’ we are going to get out of. And not a cry for attention.

Believe me, if we wanted to, we would relax. We would chill. We would stop our thoughts from entering dangerous territory. Believe me. We would ‘take a chill pill’ if we could. If we had the ability to, we would do it as fast as we couldTC mark

Lauren Jarvis-Gibson

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