World Mental Health Day: Coping with anxiety

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Mental Health campaign

The world is full of so many brave people who deal with mental health problems every day. World Mental Health Awareness Day is a day when these people are able to share these experiences, and provide a little insight into what’s going on inside their head. Sometimes, that’s incredibly scary. It’s also incredibly important. 

I’ve had problems with anxiety since I was 11 years old. I’m not completely sure what caused it, and some of the details are a little blurry. I remember sitting in a therapist's office, with a strange churning feeling in my stomach, clutching a cuddly rabbit like it was a life raft, frightened of what might be waiting on the other side of the door. I would always imagine monsters, when really it was just a slightly scary middle aged lady who wore a bit too much lipstick. Although, to be perfectly honest, that round of counselling wasn't going to work. Even at eleven years old, I was sure truly effective therapy involves that much colouring in. However, I digress.

As I got older, it got worse. Nobody had ever thought to tell me how violent anxiety could be. There are days when I would scream at my family, and cry, and throw things, and feel so trapped inside my own head. Other days I would drift through life aimlessly. I wouldn’t talk, or eat, or sleep. It was like drowning, sinking into this horrible dark place where nobody could reach me. It’s been difficult to deal with at times. Well, almost all the time, really. The list of things that cause me to break out in a cold sweat and screw my eyes shut could probably fill several books. Public transport, lifts, busy roads, the dentist, phone calls. I think the scariest one of all was talking about what I felt. It was actually when I was sitting at the kitchen table with my parents, crying over a particularly difficult history essay, that I realised I couldn’t keep going like this.

To anyone reading this who feels the same way, you are incredibly brave. Getting help is scary, but you will feel so much better. You’ve already accomplished something great just by continuing to try. Be proud of yourself, and do what’s best for you. Life might be hard right now, but things can only get better. I believe in you.

Another thing I didn’t realise was how scary getting that help was. I remember trembling in a doctor's waiting room, headphones blasting music in the hopes it would distract me. I remember my legs almost buckling when I walked into the office. But when I sat in that chair, I suddenly couldn’t stop talking. I talked for an entire hour about everything that had been festering in my head, and when I left I felt lighter and freer than I had in years. The fear in my head had tricked me into thinking that talking about it all would make it worse. It was wrong.

That was a year ago. I still see a therapist once a week, and I still blast music through my headphones sometimes. I almost never scream at my family, I usually remember to eat three meals a day, and most of the time I sleep pretty well. I’m not cured, and I’m not quite sure if I’m ever going to be completely better. That’s ok. Where I am right now is actually pretty good. 

So, to anyone reading this who feels the same way, you are incredibly brave. Getting help is scary, but you will feel so much better. You’ve already accomplished something great just by continuing to try. Be proud of yourself, and do what’s best for you. Life might be hard right now, but things can only get better. I believe in you.

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