Anxiety. Some have it, some don’t. Some understand, some don’t. Some are crippled by it, some aren’t. Some think it’s all just people being over-dramatic…those people obviously don’t have it. Anxiety is a little beast that controlled my life for far too long and now that it’s controls have loosened I can safely say that it gets better. So if you’re going through it, just know that you’re definitely not alone and you have more control over your anxiety than you could ever imagine. Take the reins back.
About 3 months ago, I was one of the most skeptical people about anxiety in terms of it getting better. I would always think to myself “but does it really get better? Does it? Does it?! ….I doubt it.”
I was one of those people that would read other people’s ‘success’ stories about how they overcame their anxiety and I’d think to myself, that’s awesome that they could do that, but I’m a different case. My anxiety is a special kind of hell, and it’s just not possible for me to flick it off like a switch.
I’m not going to go into depth about what kind of anxiety I struggled with or how it affected my life because honestly that post would be such a debbie downer and might be triggering for some people. Plus, to be honest this post is enough of a soul spill for me at this stage.
I started getting anxiety when I was in my final year of high school, during a maths exam actually. I thought I was having a heart attack and was going to die right there on my damn maths papers (how depressing would that be…to die in a maths exam, ugh). Turns out I was having a panic attack (I knew I hated maths!) and from then on I started having trouble with anxiety.
The height of my issues was when my anxiety got to a very life-consuming point and this lasted for about 1 year or so and I was very complacent. Not complacent because I was happy with how I was living or how much anxiety was affecting my life, but complacent because I felt overwhelmed and stuck. I felt like I was in a situation that I couldn’t control so I had no choice but to be complacent. It was like someone telling me to break through a cement wall with my index finger, it just wasn’t possible.
So there I was, living my life and feeling like a shell of myself. I know people have trouble with comparing themselves to other people, but just imagine comparing yourself with yourself and still feeling inadequate. You can’t win. I was comparing my present self with me from a few years ago and I felt awful because I didn’t even recognise myself anymore. It’s a feeling I can’t even begin to describe.
I don’t know what exactly made me reach this point or what triggered this intense feeling but I was sitting at home one night and I just thought to myself “Shit…I don’t want to live like this forever.” Living with heavy anxiety, you sort of end up existing day to day and you feel like SURELY you’re not going to still be like that, living with heavy anxiety when you’re 40, of course not! Then I realised oh crap, if I don’t start making changes now then I really am just going to be like this when I’m older and nothing will have changed. I’m not just going to wake up one day at a certain age and my anxiety issues will be gone. It was a petrifying thought. That’s when the list began.
I’m a list maker, I make one every day so I guess it makes sense that a list is the catalyst that changed my life. I went straight to my laptop, wrote a big list of my main fears (AKA things I was afraid of doing because of anxiety and things that my anxiety held me back from doing) and I made a table that spanned over two weeks. Under each day in the table, I listed a few things that I had to do from the big list of my main fears and with each day, I had to do more and more of what severely scared me. By scared me, I mean just the thought of doing these things would make me panic and recoil. So actually doing them was….I don’t actually have a word to describe it but it was bloody difficult. I set a date for when I wanted to start this list and then it was on.
So the two weeks came and I was nervous as hell. At the start I’m not going to lie, it was really difficult but I kept gritting my teeth and getting through it. I kept it up, ticking things off each day and I GOT THROUGH IT! As I was doing things during the two weeks, I imagined the worst possible thing that my anxiety told me would happen and I did a petrifying thing and took that chance. For reference, the worst possible thing that my anxiety told me would happen is that I would die (yep, die) so you can imagine how difficult it was to keep doing things on my list, even when I thought that they would lead me to die. Honestly it started off really bad but the more things I did, the easier it got.
As the two weeks went along I did more and more things and after everything my anxiety said would happen to me and all the bad things I thought would happen….nothing did. Years of anxiety and one solid year of pretty crippling anxiety, I faced my fears and NOTHING BAD HAPPENED. All I can say is anxiety, you bloody liar.
It’s been around 2 months since the two week list ended and I am not the same person I was. To clarify, I’m not ‘cured’ or completely anxiety free and although the two weeks are finished I’m still trucking along daily, doing mini lists and doing more and more things every day that scare me, but it’s like I have a new lease on life. I don’t want to stop doing things that scare me until I feel like I am the version of myself that I want to be. It feels like I was wearing anxiety goggles and now someone is slowly cleaning the lenses and taking the goggles off (does that make sense?) and it all started with only two weeks, which is mind boggling.
If you suffer with anxiety, you know how strong it’s grip can be and my main motivation for change against those feelings (and hopefully this can be your motivation too) was being tired. Fed up and tired.
After every panic, every worrisome thought, everything you don’t do that you want to do but don’t feel like you can because of anxiety, I felt an overwhelming feeling of tiredness. I was just really sick of it all and I was tired of feeling like I didn’t have any control over my own life. I didn’t want to look back on my life and think wow, anxiety really just wrecked all of that now didn’t it? I wanted to write my own stories and make my own choices and not have this third party (anxiety) making choices for me. If you are dealing with anxiety, feel alone, feel isolated, feel ashamed or embarrassed, like no one else could possibly understand what you’re going through, I have been there and as I start to come out from that place, all I can say is to trust yourself and not your anxiety.
My motto? Feel the fear and do it anyway.