Living with anxiety

Living with anxiety

1 October 2021

Before my nervous breakdown, I appeared to be in a good place. I ran my own successful business, owned my own house and I had a happy family life. But under the surface, I had always lived with anxiety and worry, and I was struggling to hold everything together. The final straw was feeling under pressure to decorate my home, and I fell apart. My anxiety rocketed sky-high, my eczema flared up, my fears overwhelmed me and I crumbled. I had to stop work, look after myself and get some help. 

After a lot of work and support, I’ve changed and I’m now in a much better place. I want to share my advice for living with anxiety.

Confide in someone and open up 

Recovering from a mental health episode is a journey, and opening up is the important first step. It will feel very threatening and you may feel embarrassed or even ashamed. I was worried that my world would fall apart if I exposed the secret that I couldn’t cope. It felt like a huge and scary secret that it would be disastrous to expose. Surely, no one would like me? Surely, they would think that I was stupid and useless? I felt that I should be able to cope, and that I was a failure. Also, I thought it was just me who couldn’t cope and that everyone else had their life completely sorted out. When I finally found the courage to push through the shame to talk, it was a huge relief to find that family and friends didn’t judge me, criticise me or think that I was stupid. They wanted to care for me and help me. Also, strangely, they admitted that they had issues too. But, how could this be true, I had thought that everyone else’s life was perfect … Slowly, my friends, my family and professional support has helped me to move forward. 

Be aware of your personal minefields 

During my recovery journey, I became aware that I had been clinging to “truths” that I had learnt during my childhood. For example, I needed to keep others happy and keeping busy. Also, I believed that it was wrong to take time out to relax. In later life, these were distorting my perception of myself and pulling me into feeling useless – The tension between the old truths and my real feelings was pulling me apart. With help, I have slowly learnt to question those “truths” and to try to walk a different path. It’s been really hard to push against those old familiar thoughts and feelings Now, I’m much better at recognising when those old truths are surfacing again, when I’m starting to walk into that minefield. I also know the situations when it’s most likely to happen – when I’m tired, when I’m with difficult people or in challenging situations. So, I’m now able to navigate life better – to avoid the minefields.

Be kind to yourself 

I’ve slowly learnt to challenge those old thoughts – for example, the drive to be productive all of the time, to never stop and smell the coffee. I’ve learnt to believe others when they praise me or thank me. So, be kind to yourself. Give yourself a chance. Other people love you, learn to love yourself. Learn to accept yourself, warts and all.

So, what’s life like now? 

Life is so much better. I’m comfortable with myself most of the time. I can usually manage my anxiety and avoid my personal minefields. I talk about my feelings more. I have family and friends who I can be real with. I read, I walk, I relax and I try to look after myself Did my anxiety go away? No, but I feel stronger and it has less power. Life is good and I’m moving forward.