Let me just say upfront that I am not making this post to garner sympathy. Far from it. Sympathy and pity feel like poison to my usually steadfastly resilient soul. No, the purpose of this post is to shine a light on a darkness. To normalise. To give a name to the pain. And to stop hiding myself away in isolation.
Anxiety sucks. How’s that for the glorious eloquence of a professional writer? But it is an apt and accurate commentary on my feelings on this illness. I have lived with anxiety for most of my adult life. But it has usually been in the background. A sort of lingering passenger on my life’s journey. The source of productive stress, which led to motivation. A motivation which has seen me achieve me many things.
But when the anxiety takes over… when it ceases to be a passenger and takes the wheel… when it is no longer a silent partner in life spurring you towards progress and helping you set and attain goals… it becomes an unbearable feeling.
My rational mind knows that I am not stupid. It knows that I am skilled in some areas. It knows I am attractive. It knows I am a good person. It knows I am worthy of respect, kindness and joy.
My anxiety convinces me that I am stupid. That I am useless at everything. That I am ugly. That I must be a bad person or why else would bad things happen? That I am not worthy of anyone’s time or attention, much less their respect or kindness. And that joy will be forever out of my reach.
My anxiety has caused me to withdraw from everything. I have kept working, but it has been begrudgingly. Jobs that I once loved have become a chore where I constantly feel like I am performing poorly and failing at every step. I have kept writing but hated every word I’ve put down. Feeling like I am a terrible writer, not worthy of ever being read.
I’ve been slack with basic life tasks. Cleaning, gardening, all those little things that used to bring me such a sense of pride. My anxiety told me these were insurmountable tasks and that doing them was pointless anyway. That it was far more productive to spend my time drinking, wasting time watching Netflix or gaming, anything to fill my mind with nonsense until it was time to try and sleep again.
I’ve been distant with family and friends. Absent on social media. Hiding away as I feel like I, the REAL me, should be alone. Not wanting to inflict my constant fears and steadily growing self-loathing onto others. I’ve lied to people. Told them I am okay, fine, just kicking along doing my thing. When the truth is I have been far from it. My anxiety has lied to me and then made me lie to others.
I have tried so hard to fight this alone. To battle my anxious mind. Mindfulness. Breathing. Exercise. Healthy eating. I have even been seeing a psychologist regularly for the past six months. I have fought and fought against taking medication, as I felt this was a weakness. That if I reached the stage where I needed to take pills just to feel normal, it would mean I had failed.
As I write this, I am five days sober. For… I’ve truthfully lost count how many times I have previously achieved this milestone. As I write this, I am also medicated. I have mixed feelings about this. I’ve always been one that believed the mind could heal itself without psychoactive drugs. But here I sit, two days in since commencing my new medication regime, and this is the first time in as long as I can remember that I have been able to put words down without hating them and hating myself.
I have absolutely no intention of staying on medication forever. I remain determined to fight my anxiety and win. Somehow. But for now, I will not hate myself or judge myself for using these meds as a steppingstone towards becoming myself again. I have hated and judged myself enough over this past year to last two lifetimes. That ends now.
For those of you out there dealing with anxiety, I am with you. You are not alone. Please do not give up. Reach out, seek help, use all the tools available to you to keep fighting your fight. I am absolutely going to kick my anxiety’s ass. And I know you all can too.