My support worker told me something very interesting the other day. It was about how some of us don’t get to grow up learning that the world can be neutral. So, when we are raised in a way that when we misbehave, make mistakes and then get shouted at, our brain doesn’t understand that there is anything different; for me, this is how my anxiety was born.
I thought about my school life, how I would always be told off for being too shy and for not participating in class. I suppose people thought I was unintelligent or antisocial but I think I was just protecting myself, I felt like if I ‘played dead’ then no harm could come to me or others. This way of thinking has certainly impacted me throughout my life, through all the hurdles and relationships that have come my way.
I know that I was classed as a ‘hypochondriac’ by people who knew me well and I despise that term, alongside ‘drama queen’ and ‘attention seeker’. In my mind, I always worried because I saw the world different, I didn’t want to get hurt and I didn’t want to harm others, so when these terms were thrown at me, I got upset because I didn’t understand why no one else could see the world how I did.
I would love to say that my anxiety is better than it was but honestly, it’s always been chronic and maybe it always will be. The difference is that I have learnt to live with it now and I try my best to not let it influence my life too much, it’s good to remember that we are not our mental illness.
But just because I do suffer from pretty severe anxiety, it doesn’t mean that I do not have a quality of life. I have still achieved so many things and created so many beautiful memories, maybe anxiety has limited this but it is something that I will continue to work on and will hopefully become less influential in the future.
I want to give hope to people who live with that constant feeling of being overwhelmed and terrified of everything because I damn know these feelings all too well. The thing is, that these feelings are literally there because our bodies are trying to protect us, just a little bit too much but it doesn’t mean we can’t tell our minds that we will be safe that the risk is worth the reward; I know that sounds impossible.
Take for example my choice of moving out for the first time, that’s a scary thing for everyone, with or without anxiety. But me moving out has given me a safe environment and my mental health is better for it if I listened to my anxiety I would be nowhere near where I am today. Even with college, it took me four attempts and four years to get a college education because of my anxiety but I did it in the end and I have good grades that will get me into university; something my anxiety told me I was not smart enough for.
So, my advice is this, make the most of the little moments to manage your anxiety, find the things that give you joy and happiness and do more of them; remind yourself why you are hear and why life is worth living. And when a moment comes that causes you a relapse or an anxiety attack, remember that these feelings are not attacking you, you are safe and you are in control, breathe in and out until you can manage; the most important thing of this all is that you should live life at your own pace, know your limits and know when to test them, know when to step back and most of all, live for you and your own rules, not for others.