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It’s been two years since I published the booklet version of my podcast Tangerine Dreams. To celebrate, I’ll be sharing the transcription of each interview over the coming weeks. You can see all the posts here.

I’m sure that everyone knows someone who suffers from anxiety. It’s not a new condition by any means. It’s defined as a type of fear that’s usually associated with the thought of a threat or something being wrong, but it can also arise from something that is happening right now. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting forty million adults aged 18 or older. These conditions are highly treatable yet only one third of those suffering will actually receive the correct treatment.

I met Isabelle on the first week of college. We got to chatting and we discovered that we have a lot in common. A similar sense of humour, a similar outlook on human rights issues and a love for Marilyn Monroe. Isabelle is someone that I greatly admire. People seem to foolishly expect that an anxiety disorder is an easy thing to spot in a person, but this is not the case with Isabelle. She’s a gorgeously kind, bubbly person whose personality shines through when you talk to her. She works hard, socialises and lives an overall very glamorous life. I had a lot of questions. And I was so delighted that she was eager to answer them. What I discovered only made me admire her more.

I’d like to start out by saying that a couple of years ago, I was really closed-minded when it came to anxiety. I used to think that if I was able to walk around without feeling anxious, others should be able to as well. For a long time, I saw things as black and white and I really regret that outlook now. I’ve since realised that things aren’t that simple and it’s not as easy to have control over all of your impulses as we’d like to think it is. You recently missed exams because of your anxiety. How did DIT react to that?

Well I feel like in college as opposed to secondary school you really have to go and do your own thing and go to the teacher. They’re not just going to hand you the stuff. In regards to missing the exams because of anxiety, I don’t know, I didn’t feel like they were a great help. One or two of the teachers were but the rest were like “oh it’s not really my problem speak to someone else whose problem it is.” But in fairness there was one teacher in particular who was actually really nice about it and he was like “you should probably talk to someone and these are the resources.” So not great but individually some people were better than others. 

Would you say that you’ve had to face much stigma around your condition?

I don’t know if I’d say stigma. It’s more like people don’t really know how to react because in movies, I guess, it’s always portrayed as someone just being really nervous all the time and being kind of a nerd. But there are so many people who are outgoing that I know who have anxiety and it’s so much more than just being nervous when talking to people. When I tell people “I suffer from anxiety” or whatever, they’re just kind of like “oh” and they don’t really know how to react. It’s not that they’re awkward, it’s just like how do you react? Because it’s from the people you least expect as well.

So talking about people kind of being awkward and not being that knowledgeable about it, do you think that’s just in Ireland or would you say that it’s everywhere. I know you can’t really say that but what would you think?

I’d say it’s everywhere. To be honest, I, personally never really knew anything about it until I was like “oh okay I have anxiety.” I was told I have anxiety and then it’s something that’s not really talked about. Say for the likes of depression, there are so many charities out there and they go really into depression and how it comes about. But anxiety is different and I just don’t think it’s talked about because it’s really hard to even explain how it feels.

That’s actually a really funny point because when I was researching anxiety and anxiety disorders, I found it really hard to find information that was just purely based on anxiety. It was all kind of anxiety linked in with depression and it was all about depression really. It was really hard to just find resources for someone with anxiety and I thought that was a failure. Do you think that there’s any link between anxiety and depression?

Yeah one hundred percent. Anxiety is something that you have to do, like you really really have to do it.  I’m terrified of the dark and I have to look around constantly. Everyone who has walked with me in the dark has been like “stop, stop looking around.” Because every two seconds I’m looking around and they’re like “stop, you’re making me paranoid.” So that’s just the anxiety that’s like the habits you have through just wanting everything to be okay. But there is a link in with depression because sometimes you just feel like you can’t leave your room. Say for example, my big thing is my room is so messy at the moment which reflects on the state of my mental health so much. My anxiety wants to clean it because I feel better when I do. But I think anxiety is linked to the depression aspect. It’s like a big wall and you’re constantly running into it and running into it. You want to get past it but you can’t, it’s just…

It’s horrific.

Yeah, it’s just inconvenient because you want to do these things but you just feel like you can’t.

Would you personally think that the government are doing enough to help with anxiety disorders?

To be honest, no not at all because there’s so little awareness about it. There’s so little information about it. Even the resources in college aren’t great. There are no great mental health resources anywhere that I can find. They’re definitely not doing enough. Not even just for anxiety in particular. But all mental health issues. They’re really, really just taking the piss to be honest. Because with so many people that I know, (I’m not going to whip out facts or make them up in my head) you wouldn’t even think that they suffer with things. But they do! There’s just not enough information or help out there.

Yeah actually talking of facts, most of us know about how the Dáil was apparently almost empty when they discussed mental health but there’s a few more things that I discovered when I was researching. I don’t mean to bombard you with facts but I’d just like to hear your thoughts:

A recent report from the Psychiatric Nurses Association and the Royal College of Surgeons Ireland shows there has been a serious reduction in staffing levels in mental health services, despite an increase in demand.

Less than 10 per cent of mental health facilities inspected last year were fully compliant with legal requirements, according to the Mental Health Commission.

According to St. Patricks Mental Health Service, it is estimated that 1 in 9 individuals will suffer a primary anxiety disorder over their lifetime. But in Ireland, only a fraction of these will receive appropriate treatment.

Ugh I just think it’s disgusting. I feel like people are ignoring it because it’s not physical. People are ignoring it because it’s not like a broken leg, you can’t see it. But with some of these things you’re literally fighting with yourself. You need help and the fact that people aren’t even bothered to provide good services, it’s actually a joke. I know so many people (and I guarantee you every person knows someone) that suffers with this and the country really doesn’t care. The country in general doesn’t care about the people who are somewhat vulnerable. The elderly, the disabled, the people who suffer from their mental health. I’m not going to go on a big rant here but I really do think the country is so corrupt. But that’s something that can be fixed. It really can. It’s not spending millions and millions on medical equipment, it’s just that you need trained staff to talk to people. And yeah some people go on medicine but it can be so easily fixed and that’s disgusting. It really is.

How do you think people in the general public and people that you associate with every day could be more understanding towards anyone who suffers from anxiety?

Well just the way that you’d be more understanding with anyone in general. So there’s different types of anxiety. There’s social anxiety, some people can’t order food and they can’t make phone calls. And that’s fine, just don’t force them or “just say oh get over it” That’s the one thing I hate. You can’t just get over it. Okay you cut your finger, you’ll get over it, but someone who physically freaks out at the thought of asking for food or sending food back. Don’t force them to do these things. I’d love to be able to say that I wish people could just understand more but I don’t even understand it myself. It’s just one of those things. Just be more understanding by saying “yeah that’s fine don’t worry about it.” Don’t freak them out by being like “no, do this!”

Yeah it’s funny when you say about that whole get over it thing because I think a lot of people are culprits of that. I myself would have had friends who wouldn’t have identified as a sufferer of anxiety, but they would have been anxious about certain things and I just had so little understanding. I used to just basically not understand and try and force them to do something that they wouldn’t want to do. So I think that’s a really important thing that everyone should keep in mind. Do you remember a time when you first noticed that you had anxiety or maybe it was a gradual thing?

I think it was a gradual thing. My Mam and Dad always said that I was really anxious. And in all of my parent teacher meetings they’d say oh she carries the weight of the world on her shoulders. But when I first started really noticing it was in times of change. So going from primary school to secondary school, I kind of went through a bit of a hard time. And then going from secondary school to college I had a really bad time. Change kind of triggers it for me. I’ve always been anxious but I think certain things affect me to a point that they shouldn’t. If you maybe have a fight with your friend, you shouldn’t react the way that someone will who has anxiety. It’s just hard to explain. But yeah it was definitely gradual. I’d say the biggest thing in my life was going from secondary school to college. That really affected me and freaked me out. That’s actually the reason I missed so much college, which was a huge mistake. I fell behind and ended up sitting my exams in August. It was just really grim. Now I know this is like the first week but I will try hard to go back this year, definitely.

Are your family supportive and understanding?

Yeah, my Mam and Dad and brother are all really understanding. Especially my Mam. Like sometimes she’ll notice that I’m down and she just puts the extra effort in to talk to me and make sure I’m okay. I can understand when you live with someone with anxiety, it is perceived as being on edge and sometimes I can be a bit snappy. Like today I have a job interview and my Mam was talking to me and I was snapping back at her. I didn’t mean to but it’s because I was anxious. When I get anxious I get a sort of headache and I like lose my vision. And it’s really frustrating to talk to someone. So when she’s like “did you do this, did you do that,” I’m like leave me alone. But yeah they are, they’re really supportive.

I remember that in one of our first interactions, when we didn’t know each other that well, you told me that you struggled with exams because you had anxiety. I was really struck by your honesty and I really admired you for it. I’m not sure whether it was the same for you but where I grew up you didn’t really talk about your mental health. And I learned that pretty quickly because of the mental health issues that I suffered from. People didn’t want to hear about the fact that I went to counselling. They didn’t want to know that I was suffering. I think they were a lot more comfortable with me just keeping quiet about that part of my life. Have you always been open about this aspect of yourself?

I have and I haven’t. I’ve found that in college, people are a lot more open to these things. Even with some people I’ve met in college, I’d expect them not to be cool and they’re like “oh okay.” They’re not judging you they’re just like “oh fair enough.” There is a certain type of person that I wouldn’t be as comfortable talking about it to. Not just because of them, just because I think they’d be a little bit awkward or as you said they don’t really want to hear about it. But in college I did feel more open about it because I was just like “fuck it.”

To what extent (if any) do you feel that you are defined by this condition or to what extent do you feel like it affects your everyday life?

Lately I’d say quite a good bit. Because I have good days and bad days and then numb days where I feel like I’m cut off from society. The good days are whopper obviously and then bad days I won’t leave my bed. But no I feel like I am a good bit defined by it lately. But I’m trying to like come out of it if that makes sense? And not let it define me because I’ve been pushing my friends away a lot recently and they’re all saying “we miss the old you,” “you’re a different person,” “we don’t even know you anymore.” It’s not in a bad sense it’s just like oh shit I’m letting this take over my life which is not okay. So it’s just something that’s hard to take control of, but you do have to because you don’t want to lose yourself in it if you get me.

What advice would you give to someone who’s suffering from anxiety or who’s feeling anxious a lot of the time?

I don’t even know. Just to remember that there are good days and even though there is that little paranoid voice in your head, don’t listen to it because it is wrong. I have a paro voice in my head saying my friends don’t like me anymore and they do. I’m whopper. Obviously they’re going to like me. I’m only messing. But at the end of the day it’s just something so hard to ignore because you feel like you’re being screamed at by it but you really just have to remember the light at the end of the tunnel. There are good days there are bad days. Don’t let it define you and take over your life because you’re just worth so much more than that.

Do you exercise?

Yeah I do dancing. I do pole dancing. But the reason I do it is that it’s actually really helped with my mental health. A lot of the girls who go to pole dancing say it does. When I joined, there are like mirrors on the wall and I couldn’t look in the mirror and I’m a dancer, I’ve always been dancing in mirrors but I couldn’t. Because it’s something that’s perceived as being sexy, but after a couple of months, I was looking at myself as if I was Beyoncé. When I don’t exercise I get really, really down and it has helped me so, so much in the last couple of months. Just even for confidence not even anxiety, but just getting back to like loving yourself etc.

What would you say to anyone out here who actually doesn’t believe that this is a condition that people suffer from?

If they don’t believe they’re just ignorant because it’s honestly the hardest thing I’ve had to deal with in my life. I’m an outgoing person and it shouldn’t be the way it is and it’s so hard. If they don’t want to believe then fine but it’s ridiculous. You can’t just say “oh he has a broken leg; I don’t believe it.” It’s just stupid but if they don’t want to believe it, fuck them.

What are your hopes for the future in relation to anxiety?

In the future I would really really like to get a hold on it better. I need to get more focused in my life in general. I need to actually get up and go dancing, I need to do my homework, I need to do my little blog, I need to clean my room. I couldn’t have a shower yesterday, I was crying, I felt so anxious, I was like “no I don’t want a shower.” I just need to get up and motivate myself and it’s so hard when it’s just an anxious voice in your head but I will get a hold of myself and get my life together, that’s the plan.

Yeah, well I suppose it’s really not made any easier by the lack of resources and stuff and I just find it unbelievable that people, young people especially are kind of on their own with it. They have to deal with it and they can’t really get help. I know there are things out there but it’s not easily accessible like a lot of things to do with mental health in Ireland. But I think you’re really inspirational and I’m really glad you spoke to me I found this really interesting so thank you so much.

No problem, thank you for listening to me moan.

Now, listen to the interview below:


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