My earliest experience of anxiety would have been around the age of 12, when I used to have panic attacks from being left at home for too long. Often these attacks would leave me paralyzed on the floor of the house in floods of tears whilst franticly trying to call my dad who was at the pub. Having grown up with these feelings I am no a stranger to this subject. In my case the ‘trigger’ was the sustained years of childhood trauma I had suffered from. The brain has a funny way of coping with trauma, it often manifests itself years after in forms like Depression, Bulimia, Anxiety etc. In the early stages of PTSD, I would say that was when my anxiety started. Being alone was what I feared the most. The flash backs I experienced from my period of trauma felt so real to me. I would believe scenarios that didn’t exist, such as, thinking my dad died when driving back from the pub. I would end up calling him so many times just to check that he isn’t dead. I felt absolutely terrified I would be taken away from my dad again. Along side the anxiety, I was also very socially awkward, I was never like the other kids. I guess I was much more withdrawn, quiet and lonely. In school as a young kid I was often bullied, picked on which made my insecures so much worse growing up. Small insecurities can often develop into self-hatred and body dysmorphia, as I found it did with me. It’s easy for your mind to take these seemly harmless words, twist them to make you believe
something so much worse. I would constantly compare myself to others, why were they defined as ‘beautiful’ and I was ‘ugly’ according to the guys in my year. Still to this day I have days when I cannot even look at myself in the mirror. However, as a teenager, I would take out this hatred for myself in forms of self-harm, bulimia and restricting what I ate. The way people deal with underlying childhood trauma is to take it out on our bodies especially when the sort of trauma we experience is that of physical, sexual or mental. In my case I experienced sustained physical and mental abuse. I became so self-conscious of my body and my appearance it was obsessive. Of course, as you grow older the stresses of life start to multiply and for some people it becomes harder to cope with everyday stresses. Especially if you have gone through a particularly difficult period as a child. The way you deal with everyday life is different to people who haven’t experienced these things. For me especially at university, the stresses of my course and sometimes the little reward I received for my hard work left me feeling unworthy, and well just not good enough. During my period of trauma, I often felt so unworthy that I nearly took my life at the age of 10 years old. Sometimes these feelings return, in my periods of depression.
The thing with a lot of people dealing from say depression often also have bulimia, anorexia and anxiety ect. Imagen a map where one major road links to many minor roads that form a network. I guess my ‘major’ road was my self-hatred and depression, these are the things that I find hard to control. Getting up in the morning feels so hard in these periods. Working becomes nearly impossible. Furthermore, the ‘minor’ roads are the things that perhaps are more controllable, which in my case was bulimia, perfectionism and anxiety. It was something that came when that ‘voice’ in my head came. Its very hard for people who have never experienced these ‘voices’ to relate to this. But let me try to explain. Perhaps the best way to describe this is like a hallucination. It feels so real that you believe it and its very convincing. For me this voice would constantly put me down, tell me I was never good enough, I was not beautiful enough, I was not talented enough and that I should work harder. When you experience a lot of these sort of symptoms it just becomes a physical and mental drain on you, trying to also live a normal life, have friends, have a social life is far harder for people experiencing these emotions. I think perhaps I can start to explain ways or methods that I have in place to try to cope. and that perhaps can help you to keep your mental state in check.
One and the most important would be to know the source of your pain.
What is it that defined you? What triggers from the past? So, in my case the source was my childhood abuse. I know that what I experienced in the past was horrible and I would never wish it on anyone. But it is also important to look to the future and not live by your past.
Find a hobby that ‘distracts’ you.
Say for instance I am feeling a sudden wave of self-hatred, I will try to go for a run, blog or take photo’s as these are all things that make me happy and distract my mind from that initial dark thought.
Talk about your pain.
Perhaps taking your quote on quote disadvantage as an advantage, start talking to others about how you feel. Its okay to not feel great sometimes. For me having a strong group of friends where I can be opening talk about my mental state is important. These people are the anchors to me in my difficult periods, I know I can go to them no matter what and they will be there for me. Even try to journal your emotions, writing how you feel always helps me if I cannot say them out loud.
Get into a routine.
Maybe one the most underrated methods, but having a strong daily routine is a great way to keep your mind in check. In my case I love to wake up early, go for a run, and go to bed the same time day in day out. Also having meals at the same time each day helps you to make sure you are eating well and getting the energy your body needs.
Finding a place of complete peace is important to keep your mind in balance. Taking a few moments out of your day to bring yourself back to your mind and body is super important. Understand that you need to care for yourself, do the things that make you feel calm and you will find you will be less likely to spiral down a hole.
Accepting that you will make mistakes.
Being the perfectionist that I am I wanted to get ride of my negative thoughts so badly that when I did mess up I would often get so down upon myself and literally feel like I wanted the world to swallow me up. This is still something I do struggle with. I find approaching my negative thoughts from a purely analytically sense really helps. Having a ‘problem solving’ mentality has helped. Being like ‘hey have xyz issue’ now what can I do to solve this issue?
You are never alone.
What I have realized especially in the recent months as I have talked to many people with these kind of issues is that you are never alone. I felt so alone in this, like no one would understand me if I talked about my emotions, they would think I am crazy. I was so scared of this thought. They say when you bottle things it, it will eventually explode. This is so true. I want you to know you are never alone, you should NEVER be shamed to talk about your emotions.
I really hope I have been able to inspire you in your journey and give you an insight into how I am able to keep cope with negative emotions and thoughts.