At 23-years-old, I have now only just started to live my life for the very first time. Everything before was such a blur. Every sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste was only something I had heard of. Every experience was mediocre. Life was bland. There was no substance. There was no sense.
It’s hard to put these feelings into words, but I will try. The best way I can describe anxiety is going through each day feeling as if you’re underwater. Nothing is clear. All of your senses lack functioning. You’re overstimulated, and the only thing you can do is shut down. There have been soo many endless days of crying. It became my outlet. I allowed myself to feel, to be vulnerable.
Anxiety is something that is all too familiar to me. Since the age of six, it has haunted me. It has controlled me, and it has torn me down more than once. It didn’t come alone though. It came hand in hand, like peanut butter and jelly, with depression.
Depression. You know that rainy day that feels like it’s never going to end? Your mood is sad. You’re exhausted. You can’t get out of bed? It’s like that, only times 1,000! It’s not just one day, two days, or even three. Sometimes, it lasts for months, sometimes years. You start to become a sucky person, flaky, insensitive and just overall a buzz kill. Not yourself.
From ages six to 23, until the day I hit rock bottom and had no other choice but up, anxiety robbed me of my freedom. I’ve been to dark places. Imagine if you must. Never physically hurting myself, but I’ve sunk into a few deep black holes where scary thoughts laughed at me while I wept.
Anxiety disorders are extremely debilitating. No, I couldn’t just stop worrying. No, I couldn’t just relax or just breathe. I couldn’t just get over it. Trust me, I wish I could, but I couldn’t.
This is one of my many but not my last attempt at describing anxiety. My mission is to educate those who are dealing with it and who have loved ones who struggle with it. There is help, and there is hope. I’m so thankful this experience has allowed me to turn my mess into a message.
Here’s what I have learned to be the do’s and don’ts of anxiety:
1. Do speak to someone!
Anyone, a friend, a therapist, your significant other, or even me!
2. Don’t think it’ll just pass on its own.
Sometimes we put way too much pressure on ourselves, thinking we can fix everything. It’s OK to ask for some help every now and again.
3. Do everything possible to try to stay positive.
Show gratitude. Show compassion. Surround yourself with loved ones. Journal. Meditate. Anything can create even the slightest glimmer of hope!
4. Don’t compare yourself to others.
Not on Facebook. Not on Instagram. Not in the magazines. Not in real life. Trust me! If everyone threw their problems into a pile, then you would act fast to grab yours right back. Just saying…
5. Do redirect your thoughts.
Distract yourself. As soon as a negative thought attacks, be prepared. Think happy. Like I said, anything is better than nothing when it comes to overcoming adversities. I have had my fair share of struggles that I honestly came to breaking point at one point so trust me when I say that I honestly was ready to do anything and everything to regain my life!
6. Don’t forget: Out of your vulnerabilities, will come your strength.
7. Do what feels good to YOU.
8. Don’t be embarrassed to see a therapist.
Here are a few sentences from a book I recently read and really found helpful when I was going through my funk: “No study has ever suggested that people in therapy are, on average, more troubled or demoralized than people who are not in therapy. Rather, they tend to be distinguished by the fact that they have chosen to confront the problems of poor self-esteem and inadequate contact with the self. They, thereby, offer us an opportunity to learn of a great deal about the psychological condition of the general population.”
9. Don’t forget to simply just be.
Be self-aware. Be present. Be yourself.