I have been writing a blog on Time to Talk day for the last 4 years talking about my journey with my anxiety backpack and all I learned along the way. I thought this year I’d hand over the blog to my friends at Anxiety Cafe.
For those who don’t know my friend Kerry and I set up a ‘cafe’ for people living with anxiety to come, socialise, meet new people and try new things. We now meet weekly offering creative activities and a place to chat (Thanks to Independent Arts and funding from WightAid). Yesterday the group chatted about Time to Talk day and the importance of having those conversations, mental health stigma and how important having somewhere like Anxiety Cafe is to have conversations in a safe space.
My first observation in yesterday’s session was when I asked if anyone would come and receive the big cheque from our funder, no one was keen! I know that some of that was insecurities that anxiety brings, some of it past histories which led them to Anxiety Cafe’s door but I also know a portion of it was the nervousness of being associated with a mental health group – the stigma is still alive and well everyone!
Many of our attendees talked about how Anxiety Cafe let them have conversations that they couldn’t have anywhere else. It is somewhere where you are not judged, where you are understood and supported but most importantly you feel ‘normal’. Many of us can have conversations here that we could never have at home – even with the most understanding family and friends. I think most of the regular visitors to Anxiety Cafe feel we are the safest of spaces. Sometimes the best therapy is feeling understood, no longer being alone and feeling like no one else feels like this. All it takes is someone to say “I’ve had that too” or ” I feel like that most days”. Sometimes there are even helpful tips shared, remedies for sleepless nights, tips for mindfulness or things that helped me so It might help you. It’s somewhere you can feel normal. You can feel real, there are people here you can be honest with.
Some of us recognised that actually Anxiety Cafe is a unique place where you actually don’t need to have a conversation. You can just sit here and listen to everyone else, there is no obligation to talk if you don’t want to. That’s fine.
It was interesting to hear some of the stories of how ‘coming out’ about our anxiety was received. We all recognised the feigned interest, the ‘oh, pull yourself together, you’ll be fine’ a few of us had even found that people actually cared, told us they had got our back and even said ‘Yeah, me too’.
We also had a chat about some of our success stories – “Oh I haven’t seen so and so for a while.” “Yes they have got a job, a new partner and are back to living life to the full”, “oh that’s great”. These kind of things inspire us all that you can get better.
We have people who just come along to one or two meetings, some who have been to them all. Some who are high functioning and some who can barely get out of bed, some who have been battling anxiety for decades and some who are new to the circus. But they are all welcome.
But I’ll finish where I started, there are still people we don’t feel we can talk to, not everybody understands. We still feel judged for being ill. So I ask everyone who reads this to have a conversation today about mental health, to help make everywhere Anxiety Cafe – a safe space for people to talk about mental health. Thanks xxx
If you would like to come along to an Anxiety Cafe session please visit http://independentarts.org.uk/anxiety_cafe/
or visit our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/anxietycafeiow/