I felt inspired to write this by a talk I went to about anxiety. The event, aptly named Manxiety, primarily focused on three guys and each of their own experiences of anxiety. Everyone’s story with anxiety is unique so I thought I’d share mine. My anxiety stops me from doing so much. It can completely stop me in my tracks like a deer in headlights. Those of you who know me will know I like to think of myself as a go-getter, passionate and positive. Now, while all that is true, I know in myself that so much of what I do, I don’t think is good enough, I berate myself often and find myself procrastinating on things that in hindsight aren’t worth worrying about, and yet even though I know this – it still plagues me.
Internalised fears of judgement or negativity from others can often hold me back from doing what I really want to do. My anxiety can be all consuming and can have a detrimental effect on literally everything, my work suffers, and I question and doubt my relationships and friendships. I fear the worst. Do people hate me? Have I become a burden? Over analysing every conversation. These thoughts aren’t necessarily irrational but the speed at which they spiral, maybe. In reality, these thoughts are an exaggerated version of the human condition. No matter how hard we try to deny it, most of us do care what people think.
In times of stress and fatigue my anxiety peaks and it becomes more and more challenging to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I’ve learnt my anxiety comes along with depression. It’s quite a predictable cycle. But the good news, I know it will pass, it will come back round - but that’s ok. I’ve accepted this as part of my life. A wise person once said, ‘it’s not about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain’. Life is full of trials and tribulations, and will test us from time to time. I frequently remind myself to be kind to myself.
We cannot do everything right. We cannot be our best selves all the time. We can only be the best versions of ourselves at the time, with our unique set of challenges. Give yourself a break from the whirl wind of chaos that life can be and step back to look at the big picture. When it comes down to brass tacks, we can only control our own thoughts, behaviours and actions. We have no power over other peoples.
The biggest progress I have made when trying to grapple with my own anxiety is removing the word ‘should’ from both my internal and expressed vocabulary. The word ‘should’ carries all kinds of pressure, imposing expectations which can be toxic. When thinking, ‘I should be like that’ or ‘they should do it that way’, this projects ideals on to ourselves and society which will only end in deflation and an internal sense of loss. I try to replace ‘should’ with ‘in an ideal world’. Do I successfully apply this always? No. Does it work when I remember and manage to apply it? Sometimes. In the cold light of day this is a difficult principle to uphold and it’s very challenging to implement in moments of doubt and angst. But that’s just one of my tools in my arsenal to try to manage my own anxiety.
Starting the conversation about the realities of mental health is good – continuing it, is vital. Let’s talk about the elephant in room! Together, let's breakdown the stigma surrounding mental health.