There has been much discussion recently about what’s really important. Comparison culture has reached new levels of impact during lockdown. Social media is dictating our election results and the mental wellbeing of our teenagers. The internet and television streaming has become a crutch for many in replacement of quality mental health support. When was the last time any of us slowed down to appreciate what we have around us - and who?
As someone who has suffered from trauma induced anxiety for most of my adult life, I know very well what it feels like for the world to feel overwhelming. Panic attacks have been part of my life since I was a teenager, although thankfully they happen less often now. Anxiety, however, still loves to creep up on me when I’m least expecting it. Its irreverent, clawed grip is still as strong despite how infrequently it visits.
Anxiety is experienced slightly differently for everyone. For me, the signs tend to be that I become irritable with myself, that I control my food, and that I repetitively start to complain about my weight to those close to me. This fixation on my exterior is typical of how my mind works when it is overwhelmed. I am not a vain person yet my mind reaches for body image crucification when I am feeling overwhelmed.
I used to think that I was the only person in the world who suffered from anxiety. I cannot tell you how deeply embarrassed I have been when a paramedic has realised I am not having a heart attack and ‘only’ a panic attack. As my breath returned to me and the ambulance teams began to pack up their kit I would feel wretched and guilty for wasting their valuable time. I think perhaps I still do.
I receive very similar responses from others when I reveal either that I am a domestic abuse survivor or that I battle anxiety. The same words are shared no matter which one I am speaking about, and they never cease to astonish me. I am told that I ‘just don’t seem the type’. What does an anxious person look like to an outsider?
They see a confident girl who bounces into a room and introduces herself to everyone.
They don’t see that I use a meditation app before I go to sleep to interrupt my thoughts of counting the food items I have eaten that day.
They see an ex-circus aerialist and former professional dancer who still loves to perform.
They don’t see me excuse myself to go to the toilet every time I arrive into a cafe to meet a group of friends, to remove myself from irrational panic of where to sit.
They see a girl who shares her story with the world to help others, very happily.
They don’t see the girl who talks to her reflection in bathroom mirrors before heading into formal meetings.
They are all versions of the same person. I am not my anxiety. I’m just a girl who gets stuck every now and again, as we all do.
I am very happy in my life now after overcoming a lot. I am grateful for my healing mental health. I am VERY grateful to experience true, caring love with my partner each and every day after years of the opposite experience. I am very lucky indeed, and I am happier than I ever thought I could be.
But hey, I’m also human!
I am writing these words to you for the same reason I write all of my blog posts. Because I hope that my voice might be some use to whoever might otherwise feel entirely and painfully alone. I spent years wondering who else might be out there feeling how I felt, like an alien searching for others in the Universe who could identify. Consider me the ET who came to find you.
We’re in this together, pal.
My life changed for the better when I finally stopped trying (failing) to hide my anxiety. I accepted that I do suffer from it sometimes. But I am not defined by it. Just as I am not defined by my previous relationships, dinners, choices, or outfits. We are all working life out as we go along. You are not how you feel, and your emotions don’t own you any more than anyone or anything else does. This I can tell you for sure.
Don’t suffer unnecessarily, like I did. Seek the support that you deserve if you are struggling. I avoided therapy for a long time because I falsely believed I could cope alone. I was wrong. I actively implore you to not be like Helen from years 2012 to 2018. Revel in the joy of healing and accept that it won’t be a smooth ride.
This is your journey.
Need to talk? Reach out, anytime. I operate an open door e-mail policy and you’re welcome to come find me over on Facebook and Instagram too. I have lots of free resources about mental wellbeing on my site along with relationship health content. It’s there for whenever you're ready.
As my Nana would always say; ‘mind how you go’.
- Helen x
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