Between the Lines - Facing anxiety
On this World Mental Health Day, and at a time when enxiety is becoming an incresingly common problem, we tried to read what we missed “between the lines”.
Estimated reading time: 3 minutes and 24 seconds
Shall we play a little game? Who has never felt that nervous twinge before an important event? Or that discomfort and agitation when something catches us by surprise? This worry and fear called anxiety, it’s a natural reaction since the beginning of time has helped us to stay alert and can protect ourselves from external threats. Now, let’s imagine that this feeling lasts for a long time and that it appears, without a defined purpose, in certain contexts (or no context at all) and without us being able to control it, preventing us from performing the simplest tasks. Scary, isn’t it? It’s at this point that anxiety becomes a “monster” that we carry with us, that follows us like a shadow and drags us further and further down.
With the pandemic, many of us had to face this monster, the fear of the unknown and of what we can’t control - not knowing when we could be with our friends and family again, go back to school, work, leave the house… According to the World Health Organization, in a publication released in March of this year based on data from the first year of the pandemic, the prevalence of anxiety disorders, as well as other mental disorders, increase by about 25%.
As in previous years, at Agora Aveiro, we decided that World Mental Health Day, celebrated today, 10th October, should not pass in silence. Motivated by the spirit of deconstructing the stigma associated with anxiety and raising awareness and promoting mental health, we collected testimonies from several people who have at some point dealt with this “monster”. Accompanying us on this journey, we have the help of psychologist Margarida Gonçalves, whom we met at “Heróis de Aveiro” (Heroes of Aveiro). Margarida guided us through the collection of testimonies and helped us learn more about this problem and how we can fight it, alone or in the company of those around us.
The anxiety leaves me powerless and prevents me from achieving my goals. There are times when it comes out of nowhere or sometimes just after a moment of pressure… Every day I learn more about myself, and how to better control my anxiety. I wish people would understand that we all have anxiety, but sometimes some circumstances cause us to feel it with greater intensity than normal. There are ways to control it and this is not what makes us ‘invalid’.
For me, anxiety is the constant fear that the pessimist scenarios that I imagined will happen. Initially, I didn’t pay enough attention to it because I was a bit ashamed of my inability to do certain things that to other people seemed natural - a simple walk through a busy place made me feel extremely uncomfortable. Breathing exercises and repeating positive affirmations in my head usually help me relativise the situation and remind me that what I am feeling is a result of the hypothetical scenarios I have imagined.
These testimonies served as a base for the basis for script of our video on Mental Health which translated, in the first person, what is often left “between the lines”. We intend to portray the impact that anxiety can have on our daily lives, demystifying some situations so that we become more empathetic, and share strategies that can help us deal with this “monster”. But our work doesn’t stop there… Soon, we will launch a photo exhibition with these testimonies - stories of people, just like us, who every day experience anxiety and who, in their way, face it, not letting the “monster” haunt them.
The project “Nas Entrelinhas” (Between the Lines) was organized by Agora Aveiro. It was in partnership with the Psychologist Margarida Gonçalves and had the support of Aveiro’s City Hall, European Solidarity Corps, Programme “Geração Z” and Instituto Português do Desporto e Juventude I.P.