Six years ago the ground crumbled under me. I was on my way to work when my legs gave way and I couldn’t stand. My heart raced, and I froze to the spot frightened to take another step in case I went down.
As part of Mental Health Awareness Week I want to share my story with you.
Six years ago I had a breakdown. There I said it and the world didn’t end. Hold on, let me check if the world has ended…nope. It’s still there.
I had not experienced anything like it so I did what any self-respecting adult does when they are scared, I called my mum.
She told me to go straight to the doctors and that’s when I was diagnosed with anxiety.
Then things got worse, every time I left the house I was overwhelmed with fear, so much so that I eventually stopped going out unless it was absolutely necessary.
For six months I was mainly housebound. I took anti-depressants and my doctor put me in touch with a therapist who would contact me over the phone once a week.
To be honest, I wasn’t feeling the therapist, it seemed like a waste of time and I didn’t think it was making much of a difference. In hindsight, she was forcing me to put into practise steps that have helped me live with anxiety to this day.
I still suffer with anxiety, but I deal with it while still living. Not existing, living. Some days, I just can’t be brave, and I don’t want to. Those days I allow myself to be, for just a few days, not more, then I force myself to get over it whether I want to or not.
Here are my steps to living with anxiety.
- Be still and breathe. Part of anxiety is the panic, so stop, breathe slow and deep. Close your eyes if you can, do this ten times, don’t rush it.
- Be aware of your surroundings, your hands, your feet, the trees, the sky, this distracts you from your panic, take your time.
- What is the worst that can happen? I ask myself these questions when I need to go outside but I am having a bad day. Think of the worse that can happen, is it really that bad? What are the chances of that happening? Are people really that interested in you and what you’re doing?
- Read positive thinking/motivational books/quotes. I try to read a quote a day before I get out of bed. I read it, I take it in, I breathe it.
- Be grateful. Every night before I fall asleep I say thank you for all the things and people I have in my life. I go through a list of reasons to be grateful; this reminds me how lucky I am. When I am positive I am less likely to allow my anxiety to beat me.
- Don’t rely on antidepressants. While it served its purpose when I was at my worse, it was hard for me to know if it was me or the antidepressants that was making the progress. I didn’t want to be reliant on them; I needed to get better on my own.
- Do more of what you love. While I was stuck at home for those six months, I began writing again. Writing gave me a creative release. When I wrote I forgot where I was, I forgot that I was trapped in this tiny room of fear. When I wrote, I was free. Find what you love and do more of that.
I’m not saying these tips will work for everyone, but this is what has worked for me. It’s an ongoing uphill battle, some days are harder than others, and I do have days when I just don’t want to try. I used get upset about this and see it as a step backwards, but I’ve come to accept that I am only human, and it is normal to have days like this, everyone has them. The trick is not to let those feelings take over. This is a journey, and a long one at that. Take your time and be well.