It is Mental Health Awareness Week in Canada. Bell’s “Let’s Talk” campaign encourages those suffering with mental health issues to come forward and talk about their struggles. Sometimes relief is found in knowing you aren’t alone.
Personally, I know what its like to feel as if you actually are all alone. Well, just you and your anxiety that is. Imagine walking around in your day-to-day life with a big blanket on, except that blanket isn’t warm and fuzzy, it’s sharp and itchy. It doesn’t keep you warm, it’s cold and damp. That’s how my anxiety felt at I time I consider I was “at my worst”. That time was the winter of 2011. Reflecting back on that time I feel sad for myself. I was in such a dark place filled with so much fear. I was alone.
I have had anxiety for a very long time, I just didn’t know it. Fear has crippled me on more than one occasion. In fact, it has crippled me more times than I can count on my fingers and toes. I missed out on too much, I stayed in the corner, or I stayed home. I hid because hiding was easier than facing the fear. As I got older, I grew out of my shell, but I still had setbacks. I had moments where I felt like I had made great progress usually followed by a feeling of hopelessness. I was angry with myself for succumbing to my fear, but I felt helpless against it.
Fear really is at the basis of everything we do. The decisions we make are so heavily influenced by fear, it’s a surprise we even make it through the day. Right now my biggest fears lie in my finances, my future, my location, my career, and my relationships. I’m trying to remain level-headed about it all, but it’s so easy to fall into a negative mode of thinking. I do not want to let fear control my life and my decisions. I want to follow my gut and put myself first, knowing that if I do everything in my life for myself then, in the end, I will always be okay. Doing things for others is making a decision based on fear – the fear of letting them down or angering them. In the end you are responsible for your own feelings. You cannot make someone feel any ‘way’, we all choose how we react to things and how we feel. So stay focused and make your decisions for you, the people who truly deserve to be in your life will be there on the other end.
The more I talk about anxiety and fear the more like-minded people I come across. So many of us struggle silently with anxiety and then think we’re weird for assuming that last panic attack was for sure a heart attack/stroke/diabetic combo. In reality, I feel so much better when my friends call me, breathing deeply like a pedophile because they feel like they can’t breath and are on the brink of fainting. It normalizes anxiety for me, which I think is the point of Bell’s campaign. Everyone with anxiety and/or depression needs to know that these are common and there are things you can do that can help. Rather than taking medication, I chose to look up some natural supplements that help boost my happy levels, I exercise regularly, I avoid alcohol and fatty/bad foods. The more I take care of my body, the better my anxiety is. I also always try to challenge myself, even in the most miniscule ways. Last week I got my blood type tested, not because I actually care about my blood type, but because I’m so deathly afraid of needles. I did it to prove to myself that I didn’t need to allow fear to control me. Although I felt a wave of nausea right before the volunteer stabbed my finger, I still did it and I walked away feeling stronger and more confident in myself. I’m also O+ (cause knowledge is power!).
Don’t get me wrong though, it took me a really long time to be able to look at my anxiety in the eyes. I had to give myself time to truly wrap my head around what it was. First, I needed to be able to get out of bed everyday. Second, I needed to brush aside those irrational and sometimes very dark thoughts. Once I was in a place where I had practiced enough self-care, then I was truly able to start looking at my life with an entirely new perspective. One where I examined what was perpetuating my thoughts, was it rational or was it fear? As it turns out, almost every decision I was making that was keeping me in a place where I felt like I wanted to crawl out of my skin, was a decision based on fear.
Every day I still struggle with deciphering my true will from my fears. But I think by still believing everything happens for a reason, staying optimistic, and surrounding myself with people who understand and have anxiety themselves, I can make the best decisions for me and not worry about the rest. So just when you start to feel like you’re all alone, stop. Remember that we are all a bunch of anxiety-ridden maniacs. We are all neurotic, and that’s okay, it keeps life interesting.