This is a long chat I wanted to have with myself, and you reading this, about anxiety. More so, my own, and how I’m dealing with it. It’s important to open up, it’s important to be honest. I thought I’d tell you what’s on my mind. I hope you’re all well. Love you .xx
I think letting go might be an age thing and to be honest, a lot of the changes / realisations I have in my life these days are (an age thing) – there comes a point in life where you’re suddenly able to just…let things go.
I really do believe it’s an age thing, or for me it is anyway, so unfortunately I can’t really offer any advice, but through getting older and experiencing life longer, you learn so many invaluable things. I change without even noticing and it’s such a strange phenomenon – it’s nothing I’ve experienced before since I’ve never been older than I am right now in this here moment, therefore I haven’t got anything to compare it to. It means that as time continues to pass, I continue to be surprised at the ways in which I’ve changed and continue to change without realising.
Things that would crush me before…don’t. I’m so brave these days, I still have crippling anxiety (that unfortunately I believe will still only probably get worse throughout life) however, I’m brave enough now to push past it. Some of the things I’d shy away from before (and which I still would given the chance), I don’t now – I literally do anything I want to. I still feel as anxious as I’ve always felt, if not worse, but I’m confident enough to push past it and say Chloe, calm down, it’s all in your head.
I’ve achieved so many things – small, tiny things that other people would look at and think “…you were going to have a panic attack over that?” and yes, I was, but I didn’t. I went ahead and did it anyway and I was so proud of myself for it. I guess I always kind of thought that one day I’d just wake up and the anxiety wouldn’t be there anymore – I’ve realised lately that I thought a lot of things would just magically disappear over time because I always pushed them away somewhere into the distant future, but that’s not how it works – I have to consciously make the change myself.
Anxiety will always be a part of my life and while that’s not a positive, it’s something I’ve still learned to accept. I’ve had anxiety for as long as I can remember, before I even knew what it was – when I used to think it was normal to feel like your heart was literally going to stop and your body was going to shut down at the slightest inconvenience – I just assumed everyone felt that way – why would I think otherwise?
I don’t believe even therapy would cure it fully, it’s an integrated part of me that will always be there. I’ve been raised as a worrier and someone who cares too much about what everyone else is thinking, and that will never change. However, I think I was always looking at things the wrong way – instead of learning how to deal with it, I was learning how to try and get rid of it. No one wants a mental illness and no one should have to live and deal with one either, but I’ve always been taught that the end goal is to wipe it out completely rather than try and deal with it slowly and steadily. Because of this I was always looking at ways to try and get rid of my anxiety completely to a point where nothing would make me anxious in my life again ever, but that’s unrealistic and unobtainable. Being nervous about things is normal human behaviour, anxiety as a mental illness isn’t a normal way to feel, but nervousness in general is – it’s a part of being human. We get nervous about things because we care or because we’re scared, and those too are part of being human. If we didn’t have those feelings, what would we be?
So, I’m learning to cope with it and push through it. Like I said, my actual anxiety hasn’t subsided in the slightest (if anything it just continues to get worse), but my confidence to actually go ahead and do things anyway is overriding it and therefore I’m still achieving things that I wasn’t before anyway, and I’d like that to continue. The first step is to just bite the bullet and have the confidence to do the thing in the first place, after that when you realise it’s not as bad as you thought it was going to be and despite what your brain was telling you, you didn’t actually die and the sky didn’t cave in, you’ll have the confidence to do it again. Doing things multiple times reduces your anxiety around them as you know what to expect and you get used to it and therefore, your confidence increases. I think it’s just about slowly learning to do that, and it really is in the grand scheme of things, as simple as it sounds.
I’ve mentioned before that I’ve now been able to separate my brain into two separate people and therefore points of view, if that makes any sense. It’s like there’s the me that’s stuck inside my head, claustrophobic, frightened and suffocated, clouded and bombarded with these horrible thoughts from my brain that won’t subside and are so very loud, screaming at me and telling me to stop, and then there’s the other side of me that’s outside of my brain, looking at everything from a bird’s eye view and telling myself to calm the hell down because it’s all in my head, and nothing is as bad as I think it is. I have to constantly remind myself to be present and focus on the current moment, rather than getting lost and swept away inside my own head which is something that unfortunately happens way too often.
If I could describe my anxiety to someone in very simple terms, it would be this – there’s a voice inside my head constantly yelling at me and projecting horrible thoughts, and it does not stop. This voice does not shut up or quieten down, it only gets louder, and the more things I’m exposed to, the more heightened my anxiety gets and therefore, so does the voice. It’s constantly telling me “shut up, no one cares, they think you’re ugly, god you’re so ugly, you’re disgusting, shut up, they don’t care about what you have to say, that wasn’t funny, they think you’re weird, did I tell you you’re ugly? your voice sounded horrible just then, don’t make eye contact, this person hates you, that person probably doesn’t like you either, you need to lose weight, what if it all goes wrong? What if you don’t know where you’re going? What if you make a fool of yourself? Don’t do it. Don’t. shut up. you’re so stupid, just shut up” – this voice is the loudest thing I can hear, on constant loop, 24 hours a day, every day. It does not stop. Do you know how exhausting that is? Even as I’m writing this, the voice is still there. Even as I’d be explaining this to someone else, the voice would still be there, it never goes away.
But I think for me, instead of my instant and initial goal being getting rid of the voice completely, my goal has to be to override it and to turn it down. For example, I was getting out of my car the other day and I felt like I was going to combust because my head was just screaming and I couldn’t hear anything other than the voices trapped inside my own head and in the end I just stopped. I shut the car door, stood there and said to myself “Chloe, shut the fuck up. Just shut up. Calm down. Stop it. No one is looking at you, no one cares. Calm down. Think about something else.”
Not the kindest words of wisdom I could’ve given myself but as I said at the beginning of this post, I’m not in a position to be offering advice, this is just what works for me, and it did. I carried on walking and everything went quiet again, I embraced the moment and took note of the world around me, grounding myself and removing myself from my intrusive thoughts.
I have to constantly remind myself that no one cares. Like Chlo, you think that all of these people are focused on you? Judging you? Thinking about you? I think even your anxiety knows they all have better things to concentrate on and worry about. Of course, my anxiety isn’t an arrogance thing, but in those situations I have to treat it like it is because then I suddenly come back to myself and realise wow, you’re right, who actually cares about what I’m doing? Who’s bothered? Nobody. So stop thinking that they are.
I have to have conversations with myself, tell my brain to shut up and to think about something else – focus on another thought. When you’re learning to drive you get told you have to re-check your mirrors every time you turn into a new road in order to familiarise yourself with your new surroundings, and I kind of think of it like that. Snap out of it, focus on your new surroundings and change your thoughts. Think about something else.
I’m at the point where I know everything is gonna make me feel like I want to die anyway, so I might as well just go ahead and do what I want. Even if I’m sitting down comfortably and someone asks me to stand up, instantly my brain is like “lol here we go” and the loop of intrusive thoughts gets louder and louder until I can’t breathe, because standing up would mean suddenly I’m exposed and I’ve been forced to leave the comfortable setting I’d just made for myself in my seat. If the stupidest, simplest thing such as being made to stand up from my chair makes me feel like my body is about to shutdown and I’m therefore going to die, I might as well go ahead and do something wonderfully crazy like travel halfway across the world since my anxiety would still have the same effect anyway. Might as well just throw myself straight into it because my heart feels like it’s going to stop either way, so why not go ahead and do the things I actually want to.
Like I said, it’s very exhausting. Every single second of every single day and therefore every situation I find myself in, I have to make myself comfortable. Everything makes me feel like I can’t breathe and everything makes me uncomfortable, so I’m constantly in the process of trying to undo that and help myself relax. Even the slightest change and I have to start back from square one since my anxiety would have started up all over again. It’s a constant work in progress and on the outside I’m calm and collected however, the inside is a completely different story.
I don’t really tend to watch people talking about anxiety because it seems as though theirs is never as bad as mine which results in me feeling even more alone, but I saw an interview the other week that sparked my interest, however, when I tried to watch it, it just made me feel worse. I think it’s because this person was being so in-depth with their explanations and the way anxiety had affected them it actually made me feel like I was going to have a panic attack myself. It was like their anxiety was triggering my own because it just made it all real and I started thinking well, if that’s happened to them then it’s gonna happen to me, and I basically just ended up working myself up over it. Even as I’m writing this now I feel anxious because once it’s out into the world and no longer something that solely exists in your head, its suddenly very real and you don’t want it to be. I feel like talking about it (and now as I’ve discovered, listening to other people talking about it) only seems to make it worse.
When I say crippling anxiety, I mean it’s crippling. Like, really. If my anxiety levels could be shown on the inside, I’d literally just be a shrivelled up, crumpled mess because my body just can’t cope. Or if you could have a brain scan that showed your levels of anxiety and the trauma and effects that have therefore come from it, my brain would be covered.
But this was not the point of this post. This was actually supposed to be a positive post but I realise that yet again (surprise surprise) I’ve ended up going off on a rambling tangent and have therefore made this all sound really negative. It’s not. I’m okay. My point was that despite all of this going on in my head 24/7, I’m pushing past it. I’m drowning out that voice and going ahead with things anyway because really, what do I have to lose? Like I said, you’re gonna feel like you’re about to die whether you have to stand up in your seat or whether you catch a plane to the other side of the world, so you may as well go ahead and do the thing that’s actually worth feeling anxious over. Your anxiety will be present and in full force either way, so may as well go ahead and do something great.
Anyway, that was a ramble and a half but what’s new. My point was, letting go is something I’ve learned to do over time and with age because it’s allowed me to separate myself from…myself. Instead of closing in on myself and shutting myself away from anything and everything, I’m stepping out of that mindset and having the confidence to say actually, despite feeling the way I do and despite these intrusive thoughts, I’m going to go ahead and do it anyway.
The world really is your oyster and my new life motto is “might as well”. My anxiety is going to make me feel like I’m going to have a heart attack either way so, might as well. Might as well just go ahead and do it and do something great. Your opportunities are endless and your mind is limitless, despite what it may be telling you. You have to realise that you are in control here. Not your brain, not these voices and intrusive thoughts that keep telling you you can’t. You can. You are in control. You. So listen to these thoughts, acknowledge them, ignore them and smile.
Might as well.
“everything, everything, everything goes. it rains, it rains, everything passes.”
All my love,