Anxiety. It’s no stranger to most, I’m sure. It certainly is no stranger to me. Let me tell you a little about my experience.
My past is far from squeaky clean. In fact, I’m amazed that I managed to survive some of the things I’ve done and the lifestyle choices I’ve made.
I grew up wild, with a driving force inside me to instinctively reject everything I was told.
My attitude began as early as primary school, so I leave it to your imagination the consequences I had to face! But this didn’t stop me. My drive to NOT conform was overwhelming, especially to rules that made no sense to me.
When My Anxiety Began
The struggle between this unknown force that is anxiety, the so called ‘norms’ of society norms and peer pressure, began In my late teens and early 20’s. It sent me spinning out of control.
I was attempting to curb my naturally rebellious behaviour and by somehow trying to find a place for myself, I became increasingly anxious and unhappy. For a number of years I fluctuated between trying to conform to what was expected of me and the absolute opposite. Too much time spent in ‘conforming territory’ left me confused and not knowing how to manage this roller coaster ride that had become my life.
How My Everyday Was Impacted
It came to a point where sleep was scarce. I’d lie awake for hours at night thinking all sorts of things, my mind taking me to the strangest most far flung, irrational places. I know now that my brain was malfunctioning, but at the time I had no idea what was happening, or why.
My work was negatively impacted and my ability to connect with friends and family deteriorated. I feared everyone was judging me and would chastise me. My mind knew something was not right, but I couldn’t figure out how to get back to that safe place inside me.
Life seemed pretty hopeless. I recall, many times, wondering if my life was worthy of living. Desperation set in – I felt so alone and lonely.
A Cocktail Of Anxiety and Depression
Hindsight is a wonderful gift. I now realise I was probably suffering from a combination of anxiety and depression. There was a tumultuous mixture of tension inside me – so intense I often thought I would die from the pain. The fog so thick that at times, I could hardly move.
The sheer confusion and the pin-balling of emotions and sensations was utterly terrifying.
As a therapist, I will note that it is at this point that many people fool themselves into thinking that drugs and alcohol will provide the fix. And yes, while they certainly can feel as though they help for a short time, they easily become the standard ‘go-to’ in order to simply get through a standard day. It can become a vicious circle, where one becomes reliant on them to simply exist. That’s not living and it is certainly isn’t living to your full potential.
Medication And A Call For Help
When I reached this point, I was at my lowest and I realised that I needed help. I saw a doctor, who initially told me I needed medicating and would probably be on medication for life. In my mind, this message was clear – “I was flawed and beyond redemption.”
In my heart and gut instinct, I knew this wasn’t the truth. I knew I was not going to be on medication forever. It may have been truth for the person delivering the prognosis, but it certainly was not the truth for me.
Eventually, I managed to find the solid advice I needed from a medical professional. He was a GP who was willing to walk with me through this internal darkness and step into a lighter way of living. He recommended I go on some medication – just for a short time, while I rebalanced my sleeping patterns, began to settle and re-gather some sense of myself.
Mental Health Support Group
He recommended I join a group of similar sufferers for support. My first thought was: “there’s other people out there just like me? I’m not alone? Hallelujah!”
This wasn’t an easy road but it was the one I wanted to take to get ‘me’ back. I still attend self-development courses and spiritual retreats to this day. I continue to learn about how to open up to be a better me.
Symptoms Of Anxiety – How It Felt For Me
Everyone experiences anxiety in their own way. My experiences felt both the mild and extreme forms of anxiety and depression. The mild was where I could still function in my daily life and share some issues with people. The extreme was where I simply couldn’t function. I couldn’t go to work, I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t talk to anyone and became increasingly isolated.
Anxiety and depression can be present at any time in our lives and in my experience they can sometimes co-mingle.
Symptoms include changes in sleep patterns and feelings of anxiousness and restlessness, which are continuous after a stressor (or trigger) has passed. Other typical signs include a tightening in the chest and throat, tummy aches or tension, and inconsistent or erratic thought patterns. Keep in mind, however; that while these are symptoms in varying degrees, they are not conclusive of having anxiety.
Depression feels like a thick fog
Depression can sometimes present in similar ways to anxiety, although there is a more sense of living in a thick fog.
Some people describe the sensation as trying to drag their bodies through thick mud. A dullness that is so overwhelming the sense of wanting to sink into it and fully surrender can be overwhelming.
As with anxiety, our usual sleeping, eating and everyday living becomes affected. The more the impact on our lives and the lives of those around us, the deeper we may be heading into an unhealthy place. This is when we need to reach out and seek help.
Taming the Beast
All those years ago I took the recommended medication and as I began to improve I was gradually weaned off it.
The stronger I became and the less reliant on external pick-me-ups, the more I realised that my feeling of aloneness and isolation was self-imposed – because of the anxiety that was developing in my own mind.
My family and friends had always been there for me, unconditionally, and I found new connections with people who really understood where I was at without judging or chastising me.
I now understand that it is okay to be flawed. In fact, it is perfectly natural. If our flaws do negatively impact our lives, it doesn’t mean we are beyond repair. It’s simply a rubbish patch in life that needs to be de-cluttered.
Don’t Be Afraid To Ask For Help
It’s really tough to take those first few steps to ask for help and support but when there’s someone there to catch you and pick you up, it begins to restore faith in yourself and then in others.
What can start off with fairly innocent anxiety and depression symptoms can quickly spin out of control. The problem can be compounded by not seeking support and remaining isolated. I know it did for me – the longer I put off asking for help, the worse my symptoms became.
It took me years to realise that I had the strength and courage to reach out to get help. I’m glad I did.
This experience has helped shaped the person I am today and I know how hard the journey is. I also know it’s a mountain that’s not impossible to climb. If you are feeling this way, please let me help you walk through this journey and into a lighter place of being.