I’ve experienced anxiety, in varying degrees, for much of the latter half of my teens. When I first started to have attacks, I dealt with them in a pretty horrendous manner, and for a long while was unaware of what was happening to me; this lack of knowledge induced a great sense of panic and, at some points, I was becoming convinced that I was going mad. I’ve never written about this subject, as I didn’t think I was particularly qualified to do so, and compared to some individuals I am aware of, my anxiety is laughably small, but this is a personal blog and who knows, it may help some of you that are going through similar things.
After a while, I began to realise what was occurring, and what I could do to keep it at bay. I was adamant I didn’t want to involve medical assistance, and to this day would never accept any help in the form of prescribed drugs, as I had my own ways of processing it all (although I am of course aware that more severe issues would require such treatment); these are very important realisations that I believe will be unique to each person, but with patience and determination, you will find things that help. These are the things that helped me:
- Exercise and healthy eating. Now, I know I’m still rather large now, but I used to be hugely overweight, and that grotesque body image that I held in my mind was a massive contributing factor to my anxiety. Exercise boosts endorphins and shows you how strong you really can be, as well as being somewhat cathartic as you burn away the stress alongside the calories. Drinking water frequently was also beneficial, as you can’t be at your strongest without keeping hydrated.
- Poetry. I don’t really know what I’d do without writing, but I suppose most people have their ways to vent. Poetry was a way in which I found I could express my innermost troubles, facing them in the process, and put them onto paper in a manner that was ambiguous enough for it not to embarrass me. I release most of my work, but I do keep journals and notebooks that are entirely personal, and these are the most therapeutic. Once you learn how to write for yourself and not for a reader, which is very different from the usual process, I think you can start to understand what makes you tick. Feeding that mechanism is extremely healing, and I’d urge you to write something, even if it’s a diary entry, every day, as the routine will give you some release.
- Friends. I was/am lucky enough to have a fantastic set of friends and a wonderful girlfriend. The former stuck by me even though I went through large periods of being reclusive and hardly ever went out on club nights/social events with them, and the latter has supported me unconditionally whilst pushing me to become the best I can be. They have all understood what I was feeling, and managed to keep me positive and hopeful, and I can’t thank them enough for dragging me through it all to be where I am today.
- Hobbies. These are more important than most would like to recognise, but a good set of hobbies gets you out and about and gives you something to do other than sit around and vegetate. I found mine in the form of photography, but anything would do; painting, music, reading, writing, sports, etc. If it gets you moving and motivated, then it’s good for you.
The truth is, anxiety fucking sucks. It’s an odd state of mind that prevents you, quite frequently, from doing what you love, and overcoming it is an incredible feeling. With careful management and the help of some beautiful people, I hadn’t had a full attack in around a year, so six months ago I thought I was strong enough to start doing things that I’d always wanted to do, and made the decision to go travelling. Now, that’s probably something that seems so small to most of you, but for me it was huge. I couldn’t shake the visions of packed trains, blaring sunlight and the inability to get home easily, and pretty much predicted that I wouldn’t last long, but would give it a fair try. One of my best friends, Jacob, said that he would accompany me, and we booked it soon after. I was, in all honesty, petrified of letting everyone, and myself, down.
Prior to this, however, I had booked a week long trip to Italy with my girlfriend, which was equally as scary. She understands me more than anyone I know, and with her care I managed to go through the entire thing without any major incident, and without her pushing me to get out of my comfort zone, I know I would never have gained the confidence required to be where I am today. This, for me, is the annoyance of anxiety; even though I hadn’t experienced a proper attack in so long, it still remained in the back of my head with every decision, and thoroughly influenced the choices I would make – being thrusted out of my comfort zone was terrifying, but the feeling of succeeding and managing it all is unfathomably good, and now I’m in the best state of mind I’ve been in for years.
I didn’t sleep for two nights before leaving on this month long trip, and spent six hours unpacking and repacking my bag out of paranoia I’d forgotten something majorly important, but somehow as soon as my foot stepped on the first train back in the UK, I was fine. I couldn’t believe it. There have been situations where I’ve had to laugh at myself for being so surprised I haven’t freaked out; a four hour train journey so busy that there was no room to move; a restaurant so full we were crammed in with six German speaking locals at the back of the room; in fact, pretty much everything we’ve done so far would have sent me into oblivion a matter of months ago, but it’s all going under my stride.
What I suppose I’m trying to say is that things will get better. They won’t seem like they will, and occasionally you’ll slip, but you’ve just got to keep going; find things that make you happy, find people that push you forward, and learn to get out there again. Don’t try and do it alone, but don’t refrain from getting to truly know yourself; in my head, I either enjoy things or let it win, and I know I’m too stubborn to go down without a fight.
I will happily talk to anyone that wants to have a chat about any of this, and my email is on the “About Me” page – here.
All the best;