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Anxiety Versus Activism; how to have it all

On September 24th, the annual March for Choice took place in Dublin. The march, in its fifth year, is an annual event that brings together those of us who wish to see a repeal of the 8th amendment in Ireland. March for Choice, like so many other displays of activism, are important in helping people feel like they are taking a stand against things they perceive as injustices.

Throughout my years in UCC, my political, social and ideological viewpoints have grown, and I have the tools to express and defend my views, but often, I don’t. Living with an anxiety disorder, and holding beliefs that sometimes need defending, is a difficult thing to do.

Activism is defined as the policy or action of using vigorous campaigning to bring about political or social change. My experience of anxiety causes me to feel numb, to feel like I can be defeated in the face of adversity and that I am not strong enough to be proactive in changing the things I disagree with. There are some days where I feel like I can take on the world, and change it for the better. There are, however, some days in which I feel like my anxiety is consuming me and all I hold dear.

Lately, I have started to attempt to reconcile my desire for action and my anxiety, but the question remains: how? Many of us will have strong opinions on certain matters, and want to feel like we’re doing something good to enact change for the better. March for Choice was a great display of people coming together to show their beliefs and fight for their rights. March for Choice was attended by thousands of people. Unfortunately, I was not one of them. The problem with anxiety and social anxiety, in my case, is that it prevents me from taking action, but also makes me feel terrible for not taking action. I feel like I am letting down a group of people who need my voice to be added to theirs in order to shout the loudest. Experiences of anxiety are different for everyone, and this is why I am writing about how it affects me specifically. If you are finding yourself in a position where you want to speak out and be active, but your anxiety is holding you back, I want you to know that you are not alone.

There are many things that I have come to realise as being forms of activism. It may not feel like it, but conversations with friends can be a form of activism. Often I feel more relaxed with friends, and discussing social and political ideas can help with gaining confidence. With friends, you know that your views will either be backed up, or challenged. The beauty of a challenge from friends is that you can feel more at home in discussion and debate, meaning your confidence is probably higher than if you were to defend your views to strangers.

Every time you speak about your passions, you are being active. Surrounding yourself with like-minded people who also want to speak about your passions is activism. Educating yourself in the area of you passion is activism. Taking to the streets to show your support is a great way to be proactive, but you should know that change can start from one conversation, and, if you can manage that, you are an activist.