For the past 25 years I was oblivious to the fact that what I have been living with is considered a mental health condition, instead I went about my days thinking the others around me were strong and confident individuals whereas I believed I was just not. As I grew up I came to learn that some of what I was experiencing was a result of obsessive compulsive disorder, but I did not realize the other feelings I was going through were due to anxiety. I recall during my school years when we would have to speak in front of the class, even if it was only reading an excerpt from a book, internally I would go into meltdown, my mind became swarmed by negative thoughts making it feel impossible to see rationally, I convinced myself I would mess it up and make a fool of myself. My heart would pound as I began to sweat and quiver, I rambled my way through it as fast as I possibly could to get it over and done with, the teacher often asking me to slow down, in that moment I wished the ground would open up and swallow me.
Still today I default to thinking that the worst-case scenario is going to happen, even in the smallest of everyday situations. Through making me fear the worst, anxiety has controlled me, it has made my decisions for me and prevented me from enjoying moments of my life that I will never get back. It would bully me into keeping quiet and painting on a façade, telling me to just say I was okay if people asked, because if I dared to tell anyone about the thoughts I had running through my mind then they would think there was something “wrong” with me and might even take my children away from me. You see anxiety is clever, it clutches onto something you care about and threatens you with it. Subsequently everything remained bottled up inside, but my emotions only festered and eventually bubbled up like lava within a volcano no longer willing to be contained. That is when depression hit, I could no longer take any more.
As I had fallen into the depths of depression my grip on happiness slipped through my fingers, there was nothing I could do to hold onto it any longer, my smiles were fake and days merged into one another… I was simply existing. Once it had me tightly in its grasp I felt trapped in a dark room with no exit signs in sight. My self-esteem had left me, left me to contemplate day after day why I had even been born as I couldn’t see what good I contributed to anything. I had my family whom I cared for, but when you feel like this you even start to think they’d be better off without you. It’s easy to see how things can spiral if you don’t get professional help. It was only as depression caught up with me that I turned to therapy and in turn became aware of what anxiety was.
My first therapy session was the most nerve-wracking of them all and I still held back a lot, anxiety frightened me into thinking this person could have me sectioned if I said too much, but my counsellor knew about anxiety, she knew what I was going through without me even having to say it, she made me realise I was not alone, which was the first dent in the power anxiety was holding over me. She taught me how to stand up to it and showed me that the way I had been thinking was not how it had to be, it was like light creeping back into the dark room I had become a prisoner to, a sense of hope ran through my veins; something I had not felt in a long time.
I became empowered to break free from this dark room, initially I thought this would be a fresh start free from anxiety, I could use all I had learned to banish it from my mind for good. However, I realize this is the start of a new journey, there are still days when I wake up in that dark room again, I feel unnerved not knowing how long my stay will be this time. Anxiety returns with a vengeance, beating me down for standing up to it the days previously, it tries with all its might to convince me that the good days I thought I had been having are a pretense and happiness is not real. I have to use all of my strength to ignore the lies it whispers into my ear and focus on battling my way out of there, the escape may be mentally exhausting but I refuse to give up, I will not let anxiety win. This is my life, it does not belong to anxiety, I will only become stronger the more I stand up to it.
I cannot ignore the strength in which the online community has given me too, whilst anxiety sometimes manages to put its hand over my mouth, it hasn’t been able to stop me from writing. I decided to start a blog as it felt like a way of releasing my pent-up thoughts and emotions without revealing my identity, in doing so I discovered a wealth of like-minded people. Reading other people’s experiences was eye opening, it has provided me with comfort and somehow made things a little easier, and like a domino effect it has given me the confidence to share my own story and my identity too! I believe opening up is pivotal to beating anxiety, it’s the best thing I ever did, of course anxiety doesn’t like it and will try to stop us at all costs. It will now try and torment me that I have been too open and honest here, but you know what… Fuck you anxiety.
A Mother and Wife refusing to give up the fight against generalised anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder.