I contemplated for a long time whether or not to write this – not because I am at all ashamed of it, but because I’m very unsure of how people might receive this sort of content on my blog. Mental Health is a topic that has been close to my heart since high school, when I first started to understand the struggles of people around me, and unfortunately it is also one that we don’t discuss enough. Every time it is brought up, the words Anxiety and Depression are spoken in hushed whispers, like it’s a secret that needs to be buried and hidden.
Except it isn’t. Not at all.
I have had some degree of anxiety for a few years now and, in retrospect, I think that it was triggered during my years in design school. University is tough and sometimes we have a tendency to make things even harder for myself. My mind has a tendency to make a mountain out of a mole hill and I remember breaking down in tears in second year because I was unhappy with one of my assignments – mentally, I convinced myself that this sort of ‘failure’ meant that I would not be able to support my family. It felt like the world was closing in on me.
Some people may argue that I might have had a strict upbringing or that this was all because I am a perfectionist – and I think that statements like that oversimplify it all.
Although I had a relatively strict upbringing (in comparison to a lot of Western families), I have very supportive parents who have always let me pursue what I wanted in life. They took me to dance and singing lessons, let me focus all of my energy into music – there was never any stereotypical pressure to succeed and be rich; so long as I was happy. Any pressure that I have ever felt in life was put on myself by myself.
I am an anxious person with a tendency to fixate on small things. Little things can make me very uncomfortable, like putting any of my make up out of my perceived perfect order, and when I am put into high pressure situations, I struggle. I am a hard worker and I will put my everything into what needs to be done, but I may also struggle to breathe when I do so and experience states of panic.
I never realised I did that until I started work. I thought that what I was experiencing was normal, and that it was just part of my personality (as so many in the past made me believe), but the people around me noticed that something was wrong. It took a lot of visits to the doctor and to a specialist, who was investigating some digestive problems I was having as a result of my anxiety, before I was put on medication.
Originally, I wanted to write a bit about the type of medication that I’m on and my experiences with it, but I’m not a professional at all and I’m just trying to get by – I don’t feel like I’m qualified to make an opinion on it. Instead, I just want to reassure everyone that I am getting better; not just because I take a pill every morning, but because I want to get better. My anxiety is not severe and, if I learn how to handle it, I can and will get to a point where I can manage my disorder without having to rely on any medication.
I am learning to take deep breaths, to recognise when my anxiety levels are peaking and letting myself take a step back from my work when I need to. I have also gone out in search of things that make me feel happy and that relax me naturally: putting on sheet masks, watching variety shows and writing stories again. These things are basic and will never be fool-proof ‘cures’ for anxiety, but they do calm me enough to keep those panic attacks at bay. I am also exercising more regularly so that I can be more aware of my physical health, in hopes that it will improve my mental health too.
My experiences with anxiety have been strange – at times, they do make it difficult to function like a normal person might: I can’t handle stress well, I fixate over minuscule problems and will lose sleep over it, I actually do lose sleep all of the time and I also have a lot of difficulty speaking to new people because I am certain they hate me already. The latter, while likely a sign of my underlying anxiety and abysmal self esteem, is something that I am also slowly working myself out of but don’t expect to ever fully change. Sometimes, I’m convinced that my anxiety doesn’t exist, and that all of these feelings are just normal because they feel so logical to me but that’s the strangest part of my anxiety, I guess.
Everyone saw it but me.
Maybe I should write things like this more often – to talk about different ways I learn to deal with stress and triggers for my anxiety. For now, this post has really just been me rambling – but I hope that’s okay.
If you’re reading this right now: take a deep breath (one… two… three… fill your lungs… and then release), unclench your jaw and roll your shoulders back. Take a step back from things and remember that the world will always work out. If it feels like the world is closing in on you, remember that this is your body misinterpreting your need for a panic response – a misinterpretation. Things are fine. You’re fine. We’re all going to be fine.