Some people claim we can change the way we think; apparently we can jump into the ‘growth mindset’ as quickly as the latest haircut craze, it just needs to be yelled loudly enough. I’m not sure about this. I don’t deny it (and certainly don’t want to disparage Ms Dweck) but I don’t think many people suffering with what I’ll call ‘special brains’ can so easily shush the voices at the backs of their heads. At least, not without significant time, energy and, let’s face it, danger. The longer people are suffering with anxiety, the longer they risk it developing into some seven-headed monster determined to explode their lives; this could be depression, bulimia, or God knows what worse illnesses.
People often don’t want help – that’s the sick intelligence of anxiety, it turns you against yourself. An anxious person doesn’t want to be told they’re unwell, because it only reminds them that they feel far behind, far lesser, compared to those around them. But almost everywhere we look, anxiety is still a scary thing, something to be taken down. This isn’t so much the case with medical professionals as the, in some ways more important, people of our everyday lives: the colleague at work, the postman, your mother. These are the people who shift and squirm when we get worked up, and by doing so, feed the anxiety itself.
But does anxiety have to be such a terrible thing? I know this sounds stupid, but those of you dealing with it should maybe think for a moment about all the good it might actually have done you. Maybe you go the extra mile for that friend (because you’re afraid they’ll cut you out), or for that project at work (because of course you could get fired any day now). Being anxious – or thoughtful – is who we are. I’m not saying we should forget it, or ignore professional help. I also don’t think we should accept more destructive types or forms of mental illness. But I am saying it’s much easier to ace an interview if the interviewer is an acquaintance (or dare I say, a friend?), rather than an enemy.
Yes, it’s hard. Yes, it often feels impossible. But living with anxiety cannot be a battle, something we need to fear, because it sometimes lasts a lifetime, and we’re only human. A good human makes peace, not war – when they can – and if I’m stuck living with my ‘special brain’, I’m gonna have to make chit chat with it sooner or later.