For years, my anxiety was the worst thing that ever happened to me. I resented it for stopping me from being ‘normal’. I was angry that it wouldn’t give me even a day of peace, and upset because it just wasn’t fair. There were even days when I wondered what the point of even going on was. You will see there that I have labelled my anxiety as ‘it’. I point blank refused to accept that it was part of me, part of who I am. And this was my biggest mistake.
I know that sounds absurd. Why would you want to get friendly with something that makes you feel so dreadful?! That’s exactly what I thought too. I was so sure that if I just kept pushing it away, it would eventually disappear forever.
I would never just sit with my anxiety - I was forever finding distractions and things to keep myself busy. I hoped that if I didn’t think about it, it would take the hint and buzz off. Despite all of my efforts, it just kept coming back, day after day after day. You’d have thought that after 5+ years of this, I would have realised that this approach clearly wasn’t working. But that’s the thing with mental health, it’s hard to step back and look at the bigger picture because you are so invested in just staying afloat.
You might have been told before that the only way to move forward is to work on accepting it. When a therapist told me that, I thought it was completely insane, and also an impossible task! I had hated my anxiety for so long that I didn’t know how to feel anything else.
At this point in my mental health journey, I was willing to try everything and anything. So, one day, I told myself that enough was enough and I was going to learn to accept it. And it worked! Not overnight of course, but I kept on taking deep breaths and telling myself that I was going to be okay, and that I accept these difficult thoughts and feelings. For a while, it felt weird and I wasn’t sure if it was working. But sure enough, the more I accepted it, the smaller it became.
I grew in confidence that an underlying bubble of anxiety didn’t always mean that I’d end up pacing my room wondering if I was going to faint or throw up. I started to learn ways to deal with that low-level anxiety - that’s another important point to mention actually, I encourage you to stop and take 10 minutes out if you feel anxious. Breathe slowly, focus on calming your mind, and figure out exactly what is making you anxious in that moment. I’ve found this such a useful tool to stop something tiny getting out of hand.
Acceptance has been a challenge. I won’t deny that! Sometimes it’s a bit of an uphill battle, but I can promise you that it will make a difference. Learn how to stop being afraid of your anxiety, and it will become less and less terrifying. Tell yourself that the real, rational you is in control. Which you are! Make a commitment to yourself to move forward - you don’t have to be stuck with anxiety forever.
Be brave. Be strong. Be determined.
You've got this.