A few months ago, my life changed in a way I never anticipated. I was enjoying a quiet Sunday evening and the next thing I knew I was hyperventilating, crying, throwing up and having heart palpitations. It was anxiety, and that was the day it went from something I had never had to think about, to the invisible strings that seemed to be controlling my actions, or rather the actions I couldn’t take.
From that night, I fell into what felt like one of the darkest times of my life. I couldn’t find the motivation to get up in the morning, I was weighed down by a hopeless sense of dread and everything I loved couldn’t make me feel better or give me enough relief. My mind has always been powerful. I have manifested achievements, come up with creative ideas and written some of my best work with my thoughts. But that mind, that person and those achievements suddenly felt far away from me. I felt like a different person, a shadow of myself - someone who obsesses over the worst of everything, someone who actually can’t see any light or hope at the end of the dark tunnel. It terrified me because I was never this way, I felt unfamiliar to myself, a terrifying notion for a person who has always prided herself on self-awareness.
The months that followed were a nightmarish loop of fear, panic with moments of relief that made me wonder why I got anxious in the first place. Sleep became a struggle, caffeine made me even worse and the harder I tried to come out of it, the more I felt like I was being pulled down into the darkest corners of my own mind. To make it worse, I had more free time that I have had in a while, and for a self-confessed workaholic too much free time can become the curse that causes your brain to go on overdrive. To ease the fear and fill up my time, I took a deep dive into all the research I could get my hands on - I read about successful people who have faced this monster and defeated it, I tried to find reasons for my own brain turning on me and I tried to understand as much as I could, my new reality. I joined Subreddits, I checked hashtags and I read books but it couldn’t shake the questions I had about myself and this anxiety, and even greater questions about what this meant for me, my work, and all my relationships.
“Will I ever lead a normal life?”
“Will I ever get out of this darkness?”
How do I talk about this, who do I talk to?”
The other thing I just couldn’t shake was the shame. Maybe it was the way society talks about anxiety, or the fact that I hardly heard anything at all about it, but I felt so much guilt about not being able to just suck it up, get over it and just get on with my life and my work. I’ve struggled with low self-esteem before, but this time my confidence really took a knock because I felt like what I had wasn’t an illness, but a weakness that I had to just be a grown up and face. That shame ate at me, and it still does. I have told very few people about my struggle and it was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do.
Anxiety can eat away at the truth you believe about yourself. When I’m calm and normal, I know who I am, I know what I am capable of and I know my truth. In the worst moments, all this goes out of the window and it’s exhausting to go through this roller coaster regularly. My current reality is fighting for my inner peace, silencing that inner voice that keeps me up at night and stops me from being me. What I do know is, my truth doesn’t change no matter how much my anxiety tries to convince me otherwise. I’m still beautiful, I’m still strong, I’m still capable and even though anxiety is a part of my life, it isn’t all of it and it doesn’t take up my whole identity. These reminders come in handy during the hard times.