I see that it’s World Mental Health Day today. Here’s something about anxiety from my own experience. I hope it will help others making their way through the storm.
Think of when you have a burst of adrenalin. Anxiety feels like that, but all the time.Your heart beats too fast. You breathe too fast. There’s too much air in your lungs.
Eventually, you reach a point when it moves in and occupies you, body and mind, and it never goes to sleep.
On top, sits a good old dose of guilt. What right have you – well fed, clothed, sheltered, loved, educated – to feel like this? Why can you not celebrate and enjoy life?
It makes you incredibly selfish, completely wrapped up in yourself. You snap at people who ask a simple caring question because your head space is used up just existing. You hate the selfishness, the snapping. More things to feel bad about.
Anxiety is worry that’s so out of control, it’s running around naked swinging its pants around its head. It’s hard to think straight, let alone curvy. Before you know it, even though anxiety is rushing through you, blurring your lights, you are stuck. Living is on pause.
If you read books about anxiety, you will learn that sufferers frequently catastrophize and indulge in black and white thinking. This means always thinking that the worst case scenario is going to happen, regardless of any other options or possibilities, and despite considerable evidence to the contrary.
What I finally worked out, with a bit of help, was that I was using my imagination to tell myself a story that always had the worst ending. For me, that worst ending, apart from the fear of horrible things happening to people I loved, usually involved being embarrassed, feeling stupid, not getting things 100% right, not being perfect. In other words, human.
I began to resent anxiety for stealing my imagination and I wanted to take it back, reclaim it and write a story with another ending. And that’s what I did. I got back to writing. I made things up. I wrote stories about people who were nothing like me and some who were.
Writing is my thing, but I believe a creative outlet of any kind can benefit the anxiety sufferer. Instead of channeling your imagination into creating your worse case scenario try painting, drawing, singing, dancing, drumming, baking, gardening, game design…whatever rings your bell.
Keep it to yourself or show it to the world. Be kind to yourself – it takes time. Baby steps.
I cannot say that writing alone saved me. I had some hypnosis and counselling. Exercise, especially outdoors, is also a factor in maintaining my mental balance. And some days, the anxiety returns. Of course, it does. But it’s not as strong, and it doesn’t hang around so long.
I say: Alright, Anxiety? How you doing?
And then I get on with my life, you know, writing, talking to myself and, of course, procrastinating…