Four years ago, going through 2-3 panic attacks a day was a norm for me. That resulted in poor physical health, toxic relationships, bad career choices, and a warped sense of reality. It took a near life and death nervous break down to realise that something needs to change for me to survive. It took 2 years of medication and therapy to calm myself down. Was I cured completely? Not really. I relapsed several times, but one thing that kept me going was knowing that nothing lasts forever, not even my Anxiety.
I made it as my side project, I read lot of stuff about it, I identified my fears and triggers, opened up to close friends, wrote about it here. And I’ve understood this from my few years of extensive research- Anxiety is natural human response for stressful situations. It helps us keep safe from danger. Sometimes certain situations, traumas or childhood experiences makes us feel as if we are constantly in danger and hence the fight or flight response. It also comes from self hatred and low self esteem, because you would not expect horrible things for someone in the near future if you really loved them. Almost all our emotions are trying to tell us something, and we often prefer scrolling on social media to distract ourselves rather than acknowledge the problem underneath, sweeping it all under the rug until it creates a monster. No, deleting social media and going in Himalayas is not a practical solution. Here are some of the things I have been doing that has help me tremendously to keep my mental health in check:
- Understanding the difference between need and want: When I said I had warped sense of reality, this was the biggest problem. We need things to stay alive, like food, water, oxygen, shelter, etc and we generally want things for our ego. When I say I need a guy to text me, it means I want that guy to text me. I will not die if he doesn’t. This may seem like a very ‘duh’ thing, but when you’re in a panic mode and it seems like the world is coming to an end, you forget most basic things.
- Allowing myself to feel all the feeling for a given time: I’ve learned this the hard way, if I don’t acknowledge or address my anger, sadness, jealousy, at the right time, they come back in worst way possible depression, existential crisis and self hatred. A rule of thumb I follow- acknowledge what I am feeling currently, accept that its okay to feel so and give it some time to process, and move on.
- Creating boundaries and space between every relationship: For creating boundaries I first had to find out what are the things that work for me and what doesn’t, what are some non-negotiable values I follow in life that I cannot risk no matter what. Boundaries and space in every relationship helps me put myself first, and respecting my needs instead of ridiculing them.
- Facing my fears: Anxiety is a liar. Most of the fears if you examine closely are just fears, they don’t materialise into anything in real world. To face my fear of being alone I started small with going on walks for 15 mins by myself, and then slowly leveling up to go to a cafe, movies, saying goodbye to toxic friendships, etc. You’ll love yourself a little more every time you do this.
- Asking for help: Most of the times things don’t turn out the way you planned, you lose your job, the guy you like doesn’t like you back, you have to spend an year in quarantine, you know, normal life stuff. Somethings hit harder than you anticipated and it doesn’t matter how wise and better you are than before. We need people in our life. So when things become too much for me to handle I open up to someone. It doesn’t matter if its a stranger, a professional or a friend. Talking about my feelings and struggles makes me feel lighter and better immediately (even though this is the hardest one to do).
I remember reading a story about a woman suffering from Dissociative disorder and amnesia. She had blacked out all her twenties and didn’t remember anything. It took her a decade to identify and fix the problem. She is now happily married and has adopted kids, doing well in her career. She ended up doing everything a decade late than her normal peers would but she doesn’t regret anything, because she was healthier and happier than she has ever been. Reading her story made me realise I spend too much time comparing myself with others and rushing to do things on time. But everyone has different struggles, and different timelines and they do not necessarily have to match with what society says.
The only way out is to go on a non-judgmental journey of self-discovery and befriend yourself along the way. I may not be able to control or get rid off Anxiety completely but I can change my perception towards it and make it okay to live with.
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