How I manage my Anxiety

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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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An actual conversation I had with my therapist

Me: I am a weak person, I don’t think I can deal with this.
Therapist: What makes you think you’re a weak person?
Me: People say because I cry, I’m emotional and sensitive about certain things that makes me weak.
T: Have you ever met a person who hasn’t cried or wasn’t ever sensitive in his life?
Me: Umm… nope! They had their moments.
T: Exactly! Would you say your mother is a weak person?
Me: Of course not.
T: So, can we say that you are weak in certain moments because they are not in your control, and that doesn’t make you a weak person as a whole?
Me. Yes. Thank you.

Does this mean people don’t call me weak/sensitive anymore? Well, not. It is just that I no longer take it as an insult because now I know better. It says less of who I am than it says more of who they are as a person. The right people will see it as your strength 😉

I mean just look at Harry Styles or Timothee Chalamet! It’s these qualities that make them a hundred times more attractive. So here’s to being soft and sensitive!

Why do we pretend we don’t care

If there’s one thing I’ve learned while dealing with my mental wellness is how to pretend that I’m doing great. Am I having the time of my life or am I going through a panic attack in my head, no one will ever know. I have been leading this double life since almost a decade now and I think I am very much eligible to be nominated for the Best Actress, Academy Award. 

Well, I can tell why most people pretend that they don’t care- it’s either they don’t want to deal with their emotions or maybe they never learned how to process them, it makes everyone uncomfortable. I think it also involves some power dynamic because showing people how you really feel is often labelled as being weak. It’s a-no-brainier that our society puts certain people on a pedestal who feel less than the ones who feel a lot. And if that wasn’t the case then currently our world won’t mostly run by narcissists and psychopaths. Something like- ‘The less you feel the more successful you’ll be!’ Everyone aims to be that person. We all just want to be super-humans, running after what we want mindlessly so that nothing can ever hurt us and we never have to deal with any kind of negative emotions ever in our lives. This is the reason ‘The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*CK’ is one of the bestseller self-help books and AI is taking over the world. It is like we are living in constant denial, and in the process, we also deny ourselves of all the positive emotions, we deprive ourselves to be human. 

Okay, I know what you must be thinking if I’m so wise and all why do I pretend to be all cool and not care? The answer isn’t that easy. It’s somewhat my defence mechanism. It is something that has kept me safe from people who don’t understand or don’t care enough about me. When you have a history of mental illness or any kind of traumas you wouldn’t go on pouring your heart out to every person you meet because you’ll be judged, ridiculed, rejected, and worse- abandoned. And when no one believes what you feel is real you start questioning your sanity. Having no control over your emotions is sure shot way to get you labelled crazy, weak, weird, freak, etc. I bet you don’t want to see that in your annual assessment at work every year. Dealing with anxiety (or anything really) is already hard enough that you also have to constantly deal with people who can’t stop reminding you that you’re not normal or there’s something really wrong with you.

I find it extremely funny when people post on social media, “If you need someone to talk to I’m always there” and shit. There’s a reason people like me are not open or seek help quickly because we’ve been shamed constantly for all our lives. And for what? for having emotions? And then the guilt comes along as no one told us it’s okay or it’s normal. So how do we trust the person in front us, how do we know he won’t ridicule us, abandon us, or make us feel like less of a person we already think we are? It’s our survival mode, to pretend everything is cool, everything is safe. But is it really?

I was constantly told and expected to be quiet all my childhood and that somehow became my personality as an adult. If anything bad happens with me my instant reaction is to completely shut off, to be quiet, not say a word, and not to react at all. I was applauded for that, I was called a good girl who is so matured that she can keep her shit together even being so young. And for a very long time, I thought that’s the way to be, to be a perfect adult. Little did I know that if you keep bottling up every feeling it has a fatal effect on your mind, body and soul. I’d rather be healthy and sane than be a good girl people around me expects to be. I’ve kept this facade for such a long time that now I can’t even label my feelings properly. I’m constantly confused, I don’t know how to ask for help, even thinking of opening up to someone gives me a panic attack because I’m so sure that person is going to hurt me, its as if my well-being is in danger. That further builds up into loneliness, despair and isolation. 

It took me some time to figure out that pretending not to care is not the answer and even though I’ve mastered being vulnerable on the internet I also need to be honest how I feel with myself and others around me. I’m extremely tired of living this double life, being so secretive, as if I’m some sort of a superhero living in my superhero universe.

Hence, I came up with a list of things that can help me, or anyone else, who want to stop pretending that they don’t care, process their emotions, let people exactly know what you need and what you don’t. 

  1. Identifying how you feel: Labeling how you’re feeling is half work done. If you know whether you’re sad, or angry, or disappointed, or just uncomfortable, you know how to manage that feeling better.
  2. Expressing yourself: As someone who finds this as a deadly task, its also the most important. Letting someone you trust know how you feel is crucial. And if you want to confront someone, form simple passive sentences like- your this _action_ made me _feeling_. No explanation, nothing.
  3. Writing down how you feel: writing down your feeling on a paper mindlessly without caring about your handwriting, grammar, or if anyone will read it, is the best feeling in the world. And later tearing that paper into shreds, the cherry on top!
  4. Practice self love: You need to treat yourself the way you treat your best friend (how many times you’ve heard this by now). Feed them, be there for them, make them laugh, love unconditionally, don’t stay mad at them for too long and trust them that they can take care of you.

And the most important thing to remember is you’re an adult, you are completely capable of taking care of yourself, you’re safe, you can survive even if people don’t understand you or decide to leave you because they don’t like you, or cannot handle you. Why do you want to be with people like that in the first place? If you cannot get rid of them completely, maybe keep things to yourself from them and them only. There are so many people around us that I believe we can find at least one who can connect and accept us with all our mess.

In the end, I’ve realised the reason I’ve been doing this for such a long time was that I was afraid (and I still am) that people will reject me if I tell them how exactly I feel, but now I’ve recognised that I’m more afraid of regret- Regret that nobody would know who I really am, regret that I’ve hidden my true self from everyone I have loved. Rejection is temporary, but regrets live longer. And seriously who would want to be friends with someone who can’t be themselves around you?!

So cheers to breaking that bubble and seeing the world and people around you with a new open, kind and vulnerable filter!

When I wanted to die

I have tried writing about suicide innumerable times and I always ended up deleting it. It was always tragic, triggering and I wouldn’t want anyone to feel that way even in my nightmares. But with the recent news of such a young talented actor passing away because of suicide and all the mess social media has made I think it’s time not only for the sake of writing but for awareness.

I’ve dealt with depression and anxiety half of my life. It started when I was too young to even understand what it was. The stigma around mental illness was so strong around that time that the only way out was to hide it. It was as if I’m living a double life, I wish it was something as cool as 007, but no, it involved continuous sobbing, never getting out of bed and hating everything. The people who saw me everyday saw me as shy, quiet, weird, lazy, irresponsible, awkward, trying way to hard but always smiling, and laughing and ready to help. No one would ever imagine who I was when I was alone. I don’t know how to sugar-coat this, but self-harm and suicidal thoughts were a norm in my day to day life. I’ve seen all the highs and the lows. I’ve been to that particular low where I never wanted to come back, it was enough of life for me. I’m not going to lie, I’d never in my life imagined myself to be old, to be even of 30 years of age, I never thought I would survive.

Gradually, things changed for me. I was fortunate enough to have my family and friends there for me, I was privileged enough to find the right resources. It did completely change me who I am today. I’m in such a better place, I’m the healthiest I’ve ever been – physically and mentally. It was one of the hardest thing I had to do in my life, but it was all worth it. If I had to do it thousand times over I’ll do it all over again. To see my family and friends smiling when I’m around them, to see every sunrise and sunset, to be able to go to places and experience each emotion as it comes, it all feels a blessing now. And even though this is the happiest I’ve ever been there is no denying that ghosts from the past come and go capriciously.

One of those time is when I come across news of celebrities dying of suicide. It deeply triggers me, it makes me feel all the work I’ve done is useless, and it’s impossible to overcome something like this. It breaks my heart to even imagine the pain they might have been through. It reminds me of my pain, how crippling it was and how everything seemed worthless. It doesn’t only bring back all the memories but the thoughts starts clouding my future- what if it happens again, what if I couldn’t survive it then. It’s tough because I’ve been in their shoes, I know what it’s like, that’s why seeing someone lose this battle is the most difficult to take in.

Today, even though we are aware of variety of mental illnesses and how severely they can affect a person, I still don’t think majority of people understand what it’s like. I see everywhere on social media people saying “why would he do that” and I don’t think you really have to know the intricate details of a persons life to know why they did something like this. I hope this quote helps you understand it better –

The so-called ‘psychotically depressed’ person who tries to kill himself doesn’t do so out of quote ‘hopelessness’ or any abstract conviction that life’s assets and debits do not square. And surely not because death seems suddenly appealing. The person in whom its invisible agony reaches a certain unendurable level will kill himself the same way a trapped person will eventually jump from the window of a burning high-rise. Make no mistake about people who leap from burning windows. Their terror of falling from a great height is still just as great as it would be for you or me standing speculatively at the same window just checking out the view; i.e. the fear of falling remains a constant. The variable here is the other terror, the fire’s flames: when the flames get close enough, falling to death becomes the slightly less terrible of two terrors. It’s not desiring the fall; it’s terror of the flames. And yet nobody down on the sidewalk, looking up and yelling ‘Don’t!’ and ‘Hang on!’, can understand the jump. Not really. You’d have to have personally been trapped and felt flames to really understand a terror way beyond falling.

– David Foster Wallace

I feel like the one thing missing from this description is the amount of time: it isn’t minutes of trying to avoid or put out the fire. It’s months or years. Part of it is you can only fight that fire for so long before your lungs are choked with smoke and your limbs are limp with fatigue. And imagine people not believing there is a fire, or saying the fire isn’t bad enough for an extinguisher. Or that you’re weak/ a crybaby for having a fire or needing fire extinguisher. And if that isn’t enough imagine thousands of people talking about you, discussing your life in open as they have every right to do it. It’s inhuman, but we can change this with a little compassion and awareness. I don’t think I need to tell anyone how to do it, we all have it in ourselves.

So if you, or someone you know have these constant thoughts then I want you to know there’s help available, its never too late. I don’t know why some people get what they get and some people don’t, but that doesn’t mean you cannot change those things. You deserve everything you dream of. All you have to do is take the first step and ask for help. Death and change are the only certain thing in our life, so why rush? Who knows if you wait for the next wave of change something beautiful might be waiting for you.

Here is a video that saved my life. I hope it does the same for you:


Anna Akana is a comedian and a Youtuber. Her sister committed suicide when she was a teenager. Anna her self has suffered from depression, anxiety, self harm and suicidal thoughts. Her content is humorous, creates awareness about mental illness and never fails to help me when life gets darker. 

PS: In case you need help or want someone to talk to please DM me on Instagram- @theclumsyvixen

How to practice self love: Step 1

I had a pretty tough summer this year. It was hard. Some old feelings were triggered and I was deeply hurt. I tried to avoid these feelings for a long time and they kept coming back over and over again. I was all over the place. I tried medication, drinking away the pain, being in bed as much as I can, I tried exercising, eating healthy, going outside with as many people as possible, I tried therapy as well, but nothing really worked. Those feelings were still there no matter what I did; it was exhausting. So I did something which I should have done a long time back- Research and Development. So, I sat down one day researched the shit out of it, as to why I do feel the way I do and how do I stop it. And I came to this conclusion:

All my life, ever since I was a child, everyone told me what am I supposed to wear and eat, how do I behave, who am I supposed to be and even how am I supposed to feel. I grew up in a household where I wasn’t allowed to be angry, or sad or be afraid. I was always supposed to put on a brave and happy face even though I did not feel the same. Being vulnerable and being anxious was a sign of weakness. And I grew up, learning how to keep my emotions locked up, closed off and never pay attention to them. No doubt, they kept coming back over and over again because I never in my life learned how to process them.

So, the solution was very simple, but I knew it was going to make me extremely uncomfortable, anyway I had nothing to lose. I only had to give myself permission to feel whatever the fuck I want. That’s all.

I don’t know if anyone ever told you this, but every emotion you feel is what makes you a human (unless you’re a psychopath). It is okay to be sad, and angry, it is okay to be disappointed, rejected or hurt. It is okay to be afraid, vulnerable and anxious. But what’s not okay is if you choose to delve on these emotions. All these emotions are termed as negative only because they make you feel uncomfortable and nobody wants to feel uncomfortable, and people (including me) avoid feeling anything at all for a little bit of discomfort. The only way to get over the pain is to get through the pain.

Giving myself permission to feel whatever I want has given me immense freedom to be the person I really am and the person I would like to be. No, I don’t go around throwing tantrums, breaking things in a fit of rage. I don’t do that, even though it would be fun. But, seriously, don’t do that. What I actually do is, whenever I am feeling a certain negative emotion I tell myself that it’s okay to feel this way. This is temporary and this shall pass too. It’s not easy at first, you’re going to be a mess (larger mess than you were before), but don’t give up, be patient, keep practicing, and you’ll get there.

Yes, I know it all sounds very cheesy, but it worked for me. And, its the first step to love yourself.

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Living with Anxiety.

People think, just because my eyebrows are always on fleek, my lips are always lined, and my Instagram feed is perfectly curated, I’ve got this stable career going on, that I’ve got it all figured out. Little do they know what happens on the inside. I’ve mastered this art of putting up a facade of looking all put together, where no one can tell what’s going on inside my head.

I have Anxiety. No, it is not just worrying about stuff. It is more than that. It is so much more than that. Let me explain:

I’m always fidgeting, digging into my fingernails, my jaws all clenched and my muscles all tensed, it is like I’m trying to hold on to something so hard and I don’t want to let go. I don’t want to let go of the control, sometimes its the only control I have on my body. I have to keep reminding myself to breathe, to relax, and that everything is fine because I keep forgetting. All my mind sees are the flaws or that one tiny mistake I have made and how now I’m not perfect. And if I’m not perfect then I’m not good enough. And because I’m not good enough I’m going to be alone all my life. And if I’m going to be alone all my life, what does that say about me? I’m not good enough. My mind keeps running in a loop, infinite loop, and what happens when your system runs in infinite loop? It crashes, it crashes real hard. And that’s exactly what happens with me.

It is like there’s a demon living in my head, and it continuously tells me, what a piece of shit I am, how I am not good enough and how I’m going to fuck everything again, just like the last time. It tells me to do things, making me feel like that it will fix everything, and then I do those things, because I’m in severe need of instant gratification, even though I know it is not going to help, but I do it anyway. That’s when I lose control over everything, my mind, my body, reality, everything. The more I try controlling things the more they keep slipping out of my hand. Sometimes it is hard to tell which voice is my own, and which ones the demon or are they the same person, me.

And, then there is this fear. Fear of being alone, fear of falling, failing, fear of not being good enough, fear of death, fear of abandonment, fear of rejection, fear of not being perfect. And, how can I forget, this fear of fear, because when it starts I have no idea how to stop. Also, there are these constant nightmares that make me relieve the same past trauma over and over again.

And, if dealing with this whirlwind of emotions is not enough, I also have to deal with people who do not understand a thing about Anxiety. They think I am overreacting, fragile, weak, overdramatic, and some people even think that I’m faking it all together, you know, for attention. Because when I’m feeling like I’m dying, literally, I should not seek attention I guess, right?

So I keep it all in, put on my boldest lipstick, curl my hairs, fake a smile and show up each day and every day. Keep making my Instagram feed perfect, keep my work up to date, because nobody should know what a dark, infinite, downward spiral my mind is.

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What its like to deal with depression.

Days are hard, and the nights are harder. You think the voice in your head would get weaker and you’d get stronger but the opposite is what seems to happen, each day and every day. It gets to the point where the line between you and the voice in your head starts getting blurrier. Some days it’s hard to say which one is your voice. Every morning you wake up thinking, this is the day I can conquer and every night you’re back in your bed thinking, “What’s the damn point! Is this all even worth it?”.
You want it all to stop, so you ask for help. People tell you if you exercise a little or maybe just went out a little more, you’d be fine. So you do that, you try that as well. But no matter where you are, your thoughts don’t leave you alone. You envy people, you envy them everywhere you go. And you loathe yourself because chores like brushing your teeth is an enormous pain in the ass. “Why you cannot be more like them? Because, obviously, something is wrong with you. Very much wrong with you”. That voice is back at it again, continuously telling you what a pathetic piece of shit you are.
The pain of your own existence has started to eat you alive, it is insufferable. You now desperately want it to go away so you’ll do anything, I repeat, anything, to make you feel better. And, when even that fails, you hit rock bottom. You think you’ve hit rock bottom before, but no, you were wrong.
This rock bottom is the worst thing and sometimes the best thing that can happen to you. If you do seek professional help, they do hear your last cry for help and lend you a helping hand and from there, things starts getting better. No, I’m not saying magically the voices go away and you start loving yourself infinitely. It is just that now the days are a bit easier and nights are a little less harder.
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People, anxiety and I

I have anxiety and I was suffering from depression for some amount of time. There, I said it. Yes, I am acknowledging this new information about me on the internet, where I am the coolest person. Its a part of who I am and I am done hiding it.

Living with anxiety is already such a huge struggle and one of the worst parts of it is the people. Whenever I tell someone about my anxiety I get the same kind of responses all the time and I wish I could reply them back with these lines:

  1. Person: but you don’t have to be so afraid all the time, you know.
    Me: I guess my brain doesn’t know this.
  2. Person: you have anxiety because you think you have anxiety.
    Me: wow you’re a genius but my brain is stupid.
  3. Person: don’t blame your crying on anxiety, you’re just a drama queen.
    Me: If I really was one, you had been exiled by now.
  4. Person: are you sure you’re getting an anxiety attack? You probably might be only over thinking?
    Me: If overthinking feels like you’re dying then you’re right, I’m over thinking. Don’t mind me wailing in that dark corner.
  5. Person: you just need to learn how to chill rather than taking pills.
    Me: umm.. those are chill pills.
  6. Person: you know some people have it worse than you.
    Me: so I should be happy? But then there are people who have it much better than me. I’ll just take my anxiety.
  7. Person: it’s all in your head
    Me: you’re right! it’s my brain, and it’s in my head.

Ps: Anxiety and depression aren’t laughing matter. If anyone close to you is suffering from them, make sure all you do is listen, even though you can’t understand.

 

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