Anxiety, it’s something that everybody feels. It’s an emotion that even babies feel, animals feel, you feel. For some people, controlling anxiety is as easy as undoing a shoe lace, pull one string and the knot comes undone. For others, for people like me, anxiety becomes that best friend that you don’t want. It stays by your side, it makes sure you know that you’re not alone, but all you want is for it to disapear. It doesn’t. It can come in simple little questions like, “Did I lock the front door?” or, “Did I turn the gas off?” The answer is usually yes, but you still worry because it’s a natural part of life. Then for others, questions like, “Am I dying?” or, “Am I going to make it through tomorrow?” plague the mind, 24/7.
It causes physical problems: nausea, headaches, loss of appetite, muscle tension. It causes mental problems, depression being the main one. Who’d have thought such a common emotion could cause so much damage. For those who can’t control it, these are daily recurrences. It’s a vicious circle. A loop that one can’t get out of without breaking it, but the strength you need to do what seems like something so simple… it feels impossible.
At seventeen, I have mental health issues. Anxiety is the cause. Since I was a little girl, since my parents divorce, I have struggled with anxiety attacks that take over my life. When I have a headache, my mind tells me that I have a brain tumour. When I get a rash, my mind tells me that I have meningitus. Recently, after taking out my retainer, my gums started bleeding. We were in Spain at the time for my brothers wedding. For that week, a week that was supposed to be a happy occasion, I was ill. Why? Because I knew that gums bleeding was a sign of Leukemia. I believed I was dying. I didn’t eat that week. I nibbled on toast, but nothing. I was being sick and my stomach was in agony, and this only made me more anxious. When we got home, I began being sick and not sleeping. My body ached and the rooms were spinning. I got all the symptoms of Leukemia. My mom was getting so annoyed with me because I just wouldn’t listen to anyone. I’m seventeen years old and I spent every night sleeping in my mom and dads bed because I was determined that I wouldn’t wake up. The doctor gave me a blood test to prove that I didn’t have it. Surprise, surprise, the blood tests came back and I don’t have it. I had mild gum disease. Even with that evidence, my mind didn’t let me settle. I carried on worrying. I had a breakdown in the car. I told my mom, “The voices in my head are telling me that I’m dying!” I told her, “I don’t know who I am anymore!” I slept with my mom that night too. I still stopped eating, no apetite whatsoever. That’s caused me to have too much acid on my stomach. Now I’m on tablets to get rid of that. I’m still in pain, still not sleeping and I still have no apetite. Although the doctors, three different doctors, have told me that it’s only acid and IBS, my head keeps telling me that I have cancer. In the past week and a half, I’ve told myself that I have a brain tumour, breast cancer, pancreatic cancer, Leukemia. The worry is making my symptoms worse which makes me think I’m dying. It’s a horrible cycle, one I can’t break.
You wouldn’t think that anxiety could cause mental health issues, but it does. It causes depression. I’ve been told that antidepressants are an option for me, but I don’t want to be the girl who needs tablets to make her smile in the morning. I still struggle to accept that I have mental health issues, but that’s the first step of getting better. Accepting the fact that yes, I have issues. I’ve had counselling many times. When I was ten, my dad tried to take me into school after I had been down for such a long time. I held onto him. Screaming and kicking, the teachers had to drag me off of him and he had to walk away. He says to this day that it was the hardest thing that he had to do.
I have watched many people around me die. A close friend, ten years old, died of cancer. A very close family friend, she died of cancer. My grandma, she died of cancer. My moms old partner, he died of cancer. My aunty was diagnosed with a brain tumour. Another close family friend was diagnosed with cancer. A girl I knew at school, she died of cancer. All this time, I ask myself, “when is it my turn?” Then the anxiety kicks in. Even if it’s a three am in the morning, the anxiety finds away to get to me.
I reread an old diary the other day and the last thing I wrote in that book was, “It won’t be a disease that kills me. It will be myself. So, why doesn’t that scare me as much?” I’m seventeen years old and this is what goes through my head on a daily basis.
My point, anxiety doesn’t make you weak. I don’t look in the mirror in think, “Shit. I’m a pathetic mess.” I may think it sometimes, but I know that’s not true. If anything, having those nasty thoughts in my head makes me the strongest person I know, It gives me courage. If you can deal with the panic, the depression and the hateful voices in your head on a daily basis and still tell people that you’re ok, you may be a liar, but you’re a strong one.
Drugs, ok they work. Antidepressants may make life feel that little bit easier, but you don’t need them. What you do need is to break that cycle. Now I know I’m not the person to take advice from because I can’t break it myself, but I do know how it feels.
When the doctor asked me what I thought of myself, I told him, “I may have mental health issues, but I’m not mentally ill.” Yes, I struggle. Yes, I need support on a daily basis, but I’m not ill. Neither are you. Your brain is the strongest part of your body. One thought and it can tear you down, but at the same time, one thought and it can build you back up.
As soon as you wake up, don’t lie in bed because your head will tell you to worry. Get up, get on some baggy clothes and go running with music in your ear. Happy music. Uplifting music. A bit of Shania Twain or the Spice Girls. The running will give you a boost, it will wake you up and it will make you breath. When you panic, your breathing becomes irregular and that only makes you panic more. It releases endorphins which produces analgesia and makes you feel better within yourself.
The food you eat contributes to it all. In the morning make yourself a fruit smoothie, eat just a bowl of fruit and yogurt. You need your vitamin C to boost your immune system. Eat berries, tomatoes, citrus fruits and kiwi. Avoid the fatty foods, the McDonalds and the pizza. Not only does the stuff inside of it not help, but a lot of the time you feel bad after eating it anyway.
Take extra vitamins. I take multivit and iron tablets in the morning and slowly they will give you what you need, but don’t use them instead of eating correctly. Eat right, take the vits and let them work together.
Don’t spend your day lounging around and allowing yourself to worry. That doesn’t work. Get up. Get out and lose yourself in the fresh air. Meet friends and keep your mind on everything but your anxiety. It’s difficult, but if you have the determination then you will do it.
Make yourself look pretty. Dress up, wear your finest clothes and the shoes you just love. If you feel that you look good then you will feel good within yourself. It’s not about impressing others, it’s about impressing yourself.
Open your mouth slightly. Don’t keep it closed. You store a lot of nervous enjoy in your mouth. Just let your jaw drop and you’ll feel so much better, you’ll feel that much looser.
Don’t be afraid to cry. Bottling up all that energy will just lock you up even more. If you want to cry… cry. You’ll feel better afterwards. Don’t be afraid to say what’s on your mind. If you want to snap, then snap! Don’t keep your anger inside or it will just add to the stress you already feel. Maybe keep the snapping at people in proportion. Don’t go yelling at your boss for stepping on your foot… I don’t think that would go down well. Go home and let it out. Just don’t store in all that negative energy.
Don’t spend the day saying, “I can’t do that.” If you look at a plant pot, ignore the dead flowers and look at the living ones. Don’t focus on the negative of something beautiful, focus on the positive. You CAN do everything. Nothing, but licking your elbow, unless you have a freaky long tongue, is impossible. It’s not about whether you can or can’t do it, it’s about the determination you have. If you want to do something, do it. You can do it!
As hard as it sounds, don’t let the anxiety get in the way of life. I met someone recently, we had been speaking online for a few years and he came for the first time to stay with me. He came for the month…he stayed three days. I let my anxiety control me and I had to ask him to leave because I couldn’t physically or mentally do it. I don’t think we’ll be talking again. Don’t let it control your life. If it comes along and tries to ruin something for you, tell it to F**** off. It doesn’t own you.
The most important thing, the one thing that we can all do on a daily basis, is SMILE! Look in your mirror, look in every reflection that you can and just smile at yourself. Smile at the stranger who walks past you. Smile at the local stray cat. Smile at the man cleaning your windows. Smile at the woman serving you your coffee. Smile at the parking officer who gave your last parking fine. Smile at the people who said you need professional help, and smile because you know that you don’t! Smile because you’re helping yourself.
Remember that you have a family who love you; children who look up and adore you, mothers and fathers who cherish you, partners who can’t believe how lucky they are to have you, friends who count their blessings every day to have you in their lives. Remember that you are not the only person who struggles with anxiety and depression. Remember that you’re not alone and there is always somebody out there who knows how you feel. We all have issues and we’re all damaged, but none of us are unfixable. We’re human and we struggle, but we’re not alone.
Enjoy your life. Enjoy every minute of it. Cherish it and follow that saying…