As I sat and reflected before 2 days of Mental Health First Aid Training, I started thinking about anxiety, more specifically, phobias and fears.
As a mental health condition, anxiety is a condition that is disregarded very quickly and easily by society, however anxiety is an extremely debilitating mental health condition.
Something I find really challenging is when someone has a genuine fear and people are so quick to shrug it off as irrational or pathetic. It’s doesn’t matter if it is ‘irrational’ it is still real for that person! I’m quite sure at some point in all our lives we have all experienced fear in some sense, whether it be of an object, a situation, a social occasion, a place, or anything at all. I’m sure we all know what fear feels like. Even if you have ever only experienced it for a short period of time when a situation hasn’t felt quite right or before you did something out your comfort zone that scared you for a couple of minutes, we’ve all felt that overwhelming sense of fear.
The thing is with fear, when a person experiences a real fear for them (and important to state here is that what may seem pathetic and insignificant to one person could have huge significance for someone else) all that person can think about is the worst case scenario! I’m going to die, I won’t survive this situation, this is too much and this feeling is overpowering and all consuming! At that point a person can’t rationalise how they’re feeling. They can’t make sense of that situation to say ‘actually, no, what am I thinking? All is good and I am safe’. People can’t rationalise those thoughts and feelings.
I write this thinking of my own experience of my biggest fear. Flying. See, now I love travelling and have travelled all round the world seeing and experiencing some amazing places and cultures and never used to have any problem flying. However, a number of years ago, I had a panic attack on a flight home from a family holiday. I’d never experienced that on a plane before and found it extremely distressing. Ever since that flight I have been utterly terrified of flying. To the point of even thinking about going on a plane or seeing planes in films gets my pulse racing and my palms sweating, leads me to have bad dreams and just generally feeling terrified and panicked.
I think what I find the most difficult to get my head round is when I have people telling me to ‘get over it’ or ‘you need to get over your fear of flying’ or ‘stop being stupid’. At that moment in time I don’t need someone telling me I need to ‘get over it’. If I knew how to do that I would have done it ages ago because I don’t like to feel scared, I don’t like complete strangers seeing me nervous and panicked, I don’t like feeling like I am going to die because I’m thinking the worst case scenario!! I don’t like to be afraid but I am and I need support for that. I need someone to say ‘you’ll be ok’ or ‘you’re safe, you’re not on your own, I’m here with you’
How is my fear of flying any different from your fear of heights or your fear of bees or your fear of spiders or your fear of meeting new people and social occasions or whatever it is you fear? Why is it OK for you to feel scared but not me?
So basically, I guess the point I’m trying to get across is that fears and phobias are real! They’re debilitating! They’re all consuming! We all know what fear feels like, so next time I’m scared and I feel alone and vulnerable, how about you take a little time to think about how you feel when faced with your phobia and then think about the support you would need and apply that to others.
Mental Health First Aid Training is being delivered again by Harmless on 21 and 22nd January. Come along and gain the confidence and skills to respond effectively to anxiety and other mental health conditions.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.