let's talk about serious stuff?

disclosure: the original version of this article is in Portuguese. this is an attempt at a proper translation but I apologize in advance for any mistakes it might have.

today I’m abandoning the character Julieta and writing as myself to talk about a serious subject, as a consequence of the rough last week on this side.
because the more I search for information about this, the more I realize I’m not alone and the more I come to the conclusion that the people that struggle with the same issue don’t talk about it: we don’t talk about it.

I’m talking about anxiety.

unfortunately, there’s still a big stigma around mental health and emotional problems, and even to this day, talking about it with some of our friends or family members it’s like perceiving the world in 2 tones: the normal people on one side, the crazy ones on the other.
consequently, if we ever feel that something is perhaps not that well inside of us, we have 2 options: whether we question our own sanity or we kick it far away. therefore, not talking about it is the logical solution. searching for help is not even an option.

I have thought deeply about exposing myself in this way. after all, anyone can read this and make the assumptions he or she wants but, on the other hand, if no one breaks the taboo around it, we will never normalize it. and I’m pretty sure there’s a lot more people around me experiencing the same or similar.
furthermore, that does not define me, it’s just a part of who I am.
so here it goes.

first of all, medicals facts: anxiety is a psychic state of tension or fear from anticipating something unpleasant or dangerous.
the word “anxiety” has its origin on the latin anxietas, that means “anguish”, and the anxiety pattern comes with symptoms of tension, where the danger focus can be internal or exterior. considered, to some extent, a natural reaction of the human being, as it is helpful for one to adapt and react to situations of fear or expectation, anxiety becomes pathological when it reaches an extreme peak, becoming systematic and generalized and starting to interfere with the healthy functioning of one’s life.
to sum up: the last 12 years of my life.
unfortunately, for a big part of the population, saying you suffer from anxiety is the same as saying you are stressed out, tired, nervous and you even might risk listening to things like “don’t be such a drama queen”. but, for those struggling with anxiety, it’s much, much more than this.
it’s waking up a lot of times afraid of the world, without really knowing why.
it’s being afraid of everything: all the diseases, death, random events, luck, even the weight of your thoughts. you think “if I’m so happy now, I surely have to pay a price for it, something really bad is about to happen”.
you thoroughly analyze all your body movements, from a tremble eyelid to a badly digested meal and you think that it’s all symptoms of a fatal disease because, if it only happens to others, for those “others”, the other people are precisely us. and if we don’t take immediate action to stop it, in hours or minutes, we go from potentially having high pressure to diabetes, and from there to a cerebral aneurysm or intestinal cancer it’s a small step. without noticing it, all seconds of our day are spent evaluating all the signs of our body and by then, we’re in such an alert state of mind that you actually start feeling dizziness, headaches, heart palpitations.
it’s exactly at this point that our ‘beloved’ panic attack comes.
if you think about it, it’s a rather simple equation: if you’re telling your head that you are in danger, your body doesn’t have a choice but to react and wanting to escape. and when we are afraid, what does our heart do? that’s right: it starts racing, so much so that sometimes it’s seems it’s going to burst out of the chest.
it’s suddenly hard to breathe, we have a lack of oxygen in the blood and brain and we start feeling dizzy.
in a manner of speaking: we are dying, without actually being dying.

does anyone without knowing what this is can perhaps try to imagine how it feels like?

of course, we question our sanity: “why am I in this absurdity if there’s nothing wrong with me?” because, as you may not know, by then we already have tested everything at the doctor, from blood tests and electrocardiograms to colonoscopies, you name it. so the answer seems pretty easy to us: “I must be getting crazy”.
and it’s precisely here that the stigma starts: inside our own minds. we don’t speak about it afraid of what others might think of us, afraid of being perceived as ‘fragile’, ‘drama-queen’, ‘neurotic’ and the few times we might try talking about it, we risk hearing things like: “if you had any real problems, you wouldn’t have time for that bulls**t.”
as a result, the more we keep to ourselves, the more tension we accumulate inside. and sometimes this yarn ball is so entangled, the word ‘control’ slips out of our hands.
and I, for one, think this taboo-mentality has to stop.
we have to learn how to talk about this, we have to start dealing with this issue naturally.

according to the World Health Organization, 33% of the world’s population suffers from anxiety, which means there’s a lot of people ‘closeted’ around us, right in front of our nose, needing help without being ashamed of it.
suffering from anxiety is not being weak. it’s being more sensitive to certain stimuli. [atention: those can be different from person to person]
unfortunately, my country does not provide great conditions to look for support for a lot of reasons: not only mentalities are still a bit old but, personally, when I was still living there, it was virtually impossible to spend that kind of money. Therapy? Hypnose? Acupuncture? Yoga? Meditation? only if I start roller-skating to work, pay the rent with smiles and eat one single meal every other day.
talking with our people is of the utmost importance. accepting help to search for and unblock the reasons that make us feel like this, also.
the people around us need to stay alerted and know what’s happening on the day we force them to call an ambulance because of a simple drop in our blood pressure – due to simply being hungry – makes us scream that we’re dying in the middle of the living room or at the cinema. you have to understand something rather simple: at that moment, we are on the edge of a precipice and we need someone to hold us down.
we need to be able to talk to our friends, be honest with our parents, siblings, husbands and wives. we need to tell them that a strong hand on our chest helps our heart and breathing to slow down. we need to explain to them that a pair of strong arms around us holding us while telling some distracting stories helps us ‘come back to life’.
fortunately, my life changed a whole lot by changing countries and, for the first time, I can pay for professional help to help me deal with this. I still have a long way ahead of me but I’m in the right direction. furthermore, at my house we talk about this freely and, last week, when I had the most violent episode in the last 10 years I can remember of, I was lucky to not only have a patient and infinitely caring husband that held me in his arms for more than one hour until I finally fell asleep but also having a good friend that received me in her acupuncture’s office on a moment’s notice the next day and that has been taking great care of me.
but I still remember what it felt like not having all of this.

I decided to talk about this matter because I think that doing therapy once in a while should be as important as going to the dentist once a year. like my therapist says, nowadays having a depression fits all diagnoses and sometimes there are wrongly diagnosed problems that are, as a consequence, being wrongly treated, which could easily be solved with proper help, including medication. talking with someone that does not know us, does not have expectations about us, it’s nothing but freeing because this person sees us in a much more wide and clear and much less funneled perspective and that can really help us understanding much better what we’re made of.
I decided to talk about it because I want to stop being ashamed of feeling like this once in a while just because I have a hard time dealing with life sometimes.
I decided to talk about this because last year, on a couple of months period, I lost 2 friends to this don’t-talk, don’t-listen, don’t-see mentality and it would be so much easier if mental health would be considered as important as physical health. especially, if the medical community itself would start understanding, once and for all, that some physical unbalances are actually symptoms of some emotional fragilities.
and I decided to talk about this because, finally, those fragilities do not define us.


my name is Sara, I’m Portuguese and I live in Amsterdam. I was born in 1984, I am married, I dance balfolk, occasionally I also teach it and I work with fiber. I’m taking lindy-hop and Dutch classes. I like running at the gym and unexpected dinner dates with friends.