Anxiety Over What Words To Use To Describe My Anxiety

(Originally published in “Reno Tahoe Tonight” magazine – October 2017)

Words have power. 

One of my favorite quotes is from Hogwarts Headmaster Albus Dumbledore (by way of J.K. Rowling) and it goes:

 “Words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic, capable of both inflicting injury, and remedying it.”

Words we use to describe our experiences with anxiety and depression can have a real impact on getting others to understand the struggle.

See, right there is a good example.  Is saying I “struggle” with anxiety and depression too melodramatic?  The Merriam Webster definition of struggle is “to make strenuous or violent efforts in the face of difficulties or opposition; to proceed with difficulty or great effort”.  In my case that’s pretty spot on, minus the violent part.  On a good day it’s easier, but on a bad day it can be incredibly difficult and take great effort just to get out of bed.  More effort than it takes me to control my gag reflex when I smell pumpkin spice.

The problem is if you’re trying to shed some light on the problem and generate discussion, you can alienate people by using words like struggle, battle, and warrior.  The same way you can alienate people by using words like Nickelback, kale, and pilates.  All of us that deal with anxiety and depression know saying that we’re warriors battling the diseases is appropriate, but I have a desire to bring some awareness to the issues surrounding them so that we can start to remove the stigma and I feel like words and phrases like that turn some people off.

I won’t worry (no more so than usual, anyway) in this space about using those terms, but when I’m posting on Facebook or tweeting (@davegmencarelli) I try to be selective with my words because I want people to read and understand.   

Maybe I’m overthinking the whole thing.  Overthinking is, after all, the foundation of most of my  anxiety.  I actually prefer overthinking to the alternative.  Underthinking has caused me a lot of misery too.  My first marriage, my Mighty Mouse tattoo, and of course my Nickelback CD collection.

Having anxiety and depression IS a daily battle you’re having with yourself.  If you have them, you know that.  If you want OTHER people to know it, you have to figure out how to explain it in terms THEY understand so they can know how to help.

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