Updated: Apr 11, 2021
I don't know exactly when my mental health journey began. Was it in secondary school and getting bullied for being myself? Was it when my parents divorced? Was it making a rash decision and moving to London at 18 on my own at the drop of a hat? Was it being on the other end of peoples depression and not knowing how to process it? Was it grief or just fear? I'm not too sure. And even through therapy and CBT, I still don't have the answers. But I do have a clearer mind of the future and what it looks like.
Before my anxiety started I looked at life through rose tinted glasses and tried to live my life half glass full. I didn't understand depression and hadn't really heard of anxiety and anything past that meant that people were quite sick. When people told me they were nervous all the time, naively I told them to think of it as excitement. 'There is a fine line between the two feelings, think positively about it'. Looking back now I feel ignorant.
Living with anxiety changes you. It changes your perception, your motivation, your determination, your outlook. You live day to day, minute to minute. For me I was constantly checking in with my thoughts, scanning my body and seeing if something felt/feels off or whether I was/am just overthinking it, becoming withdrawn, fragile and a complete change of character. There was an underlying current throughout my body and my heart always raced that little bit faster and the lump in my throat stuck around long after I felt sick, questioning my breathing and whether I should go to the hospital. Of course, I knew/know this is all in my head, but it just doesn't feel right.
And that's what many people will tell you, they just don't feel right. And it can happen at any given point. I landed a job I had wanted for a long time and within 6 weeks of starting said job, my anxiety came with a bang, along with panic attacks. Within the year I had lost my job. I don't blame anyone, and I don't blame myself. Most of the time it comes and is beyond our control until we start delving into the science and learning how to combat it. For those that do it alone, it can be a long hard battle. I spoke to numerous people, whether they understood or not and unloaded. I certainly felt the benefits and suddenly it didn't seem so scary.
As time has passed I faced real grief for the first time, and a whole new battle begun. This isn't something that has happened over a short window, this has been 18 months of working on my mental state, daily. Grief throws depression, fear, intrusive thoughts and uncertainty into your face and your heart and you have to guide yourself through it trusting that this is a phase and you will be okay, never really knowing if you will be the same again. I loved who I was, I loved what I stood for and the kind of hope I had in my heart. I didn't know who this person was but trying to understand my why has helped me come out of my shell again.
So that's my battle. I'm still facing it daily, it's just not as aggressive as it used to be. I have really good days and days where I question my sanity. And on those days, I reach out. To my counsellor, to my friends, to my partner and my colleagues. All who build my support network. There may be darker days ahead and this isn't the end of the story but I know I can do it. And, so can you. Please, if you are struggling, your first step is to reach out. Ask for help. Don't battle this alone.