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.

If you like this post then you can also subscribe to my blog below. I swear I won’t spam you.

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!

Is there any end to this emptiness

I have so much of this love to give, things to do, and life to live that sometimes it gets so overwhelming and I don’t know what do with it, where to put it all. And as time goes on this feeling keeps digging deeper and deeper into my heart. Now it’s so deep that it seems as if there’s this neverending pit which I am not sure how to fill it up or heal, or how to not feel this empty anymore.

I think people lie when they say time heals everything, it doesn’t really. You just get better with filling that hole and keeping your mind distracted with meaningless things. And while you’re busy distracting yourself, some day, someone comes along and shows you other side of the world, shows what you’re missing. And you cant lie to yourself any longer, you want things to change, and you want to be a part of that other side. 

So the only option you are left with is to be, open and vulnerable and hope that they’ll do the same. But mostly no one does. They are somehow so good at concealing it all so well that its always me who is left behind wearing my heart on my sleeve. I’m afraid I’ll die with this endless hole in my heart. I wish there was some way I can fill it up with my own love. May be with time I’ll learn that as well. May be some day, but not today. Today is just another day where I sit through my feelings and curse everything and everyone.