Stress. Depression. Anxiety. Mental Health. It’s in the news every day in one form or another. It’s such a vast topic and one that is almost too scary to look at but there is no escaping it, it’s real and there is a big chance that it touches your life in some way.
It touches mine in the form of anxiety and has done for about 5 years. I am in no way, shape or form embarrassed by it (anymore) but it’s not an easy thing to talk about for a few reasons:
1) I always thought it would make the other person feel weird
2) It’s not the lightest topic in the world and it’s quite hard to find the right time/place to shoehorn it into conversation
3) I think some people still see it as a weakness and I hate feeling judged!
I spoke out about it properly on Facebook last year when I was lucky enough to be going on a trip of a lifetime to New York but could have been physically sick at the thought of going. I was so annoyed with myself for letting the worry be a barrier to this amazing opportunity. After my post, I was astounded by the amount of people who messaged and said ‘It’s like you’re reading my mind’ or ‘I thought I was the only one who felt like this’ Most of these messages came to me privately which meant they didn’t feel comfortable putting it out there publicly, further highlighting the fear of judgment on social media. The influx of ‘that’s me too’ messages confirmed what I already knew, anxiety affects more people than most realise.
I don’t look how many expect an anxious person should look. I am happy and confident, I travel, go to gigs and events regularly and I love being around people and making new friends. I don’t look typically worried or anxious, I don’t bite my nails, I don’t wring my hands and I don’t have trouble sleeping.
The people close to me can detect my anxiety, I can be irritable and seem distant or uninterested. I flit from one thing to the next trying to keep my mind busy and I’m really easily distracted. So how do I manage it? My anxiety is worse in the morning (some days it seems like all of my thoughts are waiting for me to wake up and then they bombard me like tiny mind pigeons of doom at the same time!) I have learned to get out of bed straight away rather than lying there, mentally fighting them and using up energy.
Breathing exercises help, a lot! Breathing in for 4 seconds, holding it for 7 and breathing out through pursed lips for 8 seconds, it takes a minute or so to master but the effects are worth it. I try to lay off the coffee beyond 2pm, I do love a coffee! Writing my thoughts down is really therapeutic and most importantly, talking. Saying out loud what’s going on in my head is the best way I can hear myself and start to rationalise. I surround myself with people I can be honest with, I have found many are open to the conversation if you give them a chance to understand. You will inevitably find someone who says ‘I’m the same!’
Do I think of every possible scenario, mostly landing on the worst case on more days than not? Yes. Do I spend far too much time obsessing and overthinking the most ridiculous of things? Yes. Do I let it stop me living my life? Hell no! Live music is one of my biggest passions and despite the minefield of anxiety that can sometimes come with crowded and busy places, being at a gig is one of my happy places. Once I get to a holiday destination, I love it, I just need to pep talk myself in the lead up to it. I love life and I like to say yes to as much as possible (no matter how much the tiny mind pigeons of doom try to stop me).
For me, anxiety is like having a really heavy bag to carry around. Some people smile and give a sympathetic look with a head tilt. There are those who will try to take the bag off me and then there are the people who realise I probably just need to talk and they discreetly grab one of the handles while I do just that
People aren’t mad, the world is mad and we are all just trying to figure out our own way of navigating it! Be kind to yourself.