This post was contributed by Khadra Fraser from The Good and The Human blog. You may also know her as @TheGoodTheHuma1 on Twitter. She was kind enough to write a post about her own experiences with anxiety. It’s a really good read and I am so happy that I have the opportunity to share it with you!
The Elephant in my Head
You know the whole “the elephant in the room” phrase? Well, that’s my anxiety. The elephant in my head. A major problem or controversial issue which is obviously present but is avoided as a subject for discussion.
I’ve had anxiety since I was a child, but I wasn’t able to name it until I was an adult. That alone makes me sad – mental health just wasn’t spoken about when I was a child and going into my teens. Even as an adult I practically self-diagnosed myself first as suffering with anxiety before a Doctor did.
My anxiety has pretty much controlled my life. I’m a “just in case” type of person, or a “better safe than sorry person.” I’m chronically sensible in order to keep myself alive and un-hurt. My anxiety controls more than I’d like to admit.
I often describe my constant state of emotion to appear like a duck. On the surface, floating on the water, I look calm, collected and moving along, whilst underneath, I am splashing around desperately trying to keep myself afloat! It brings a new level of exhaustion. I’m constantly ready for the next “hit” that life wants to give me.
I used to live by the saying “prepare for the worst, hope for the best.” And then I trained to be a Counselor and things changed. My anxiety hasn’t changed, it’s still with me every day – what’s changed is my attitude towards it. I’ve accepted my anxiety. I take care of it, I offer it love when it’s freaking out, and give it time to express itself when it needs to.
My anxiety is the human part of me. It doesn’t make me bad, broken, or less valuable – it makes me real, relate-able and human. Acceptance, empathy, taking care of, offering love, time, patience – everything I would give to a client, I now give to me.
Coming to terms with the fact that I am a really anxious person has enabled me to give greater compassion as a Counselor. It’s given me greater compassion for mental health as a whole. If I,
someone who loves to get out of their head whatever is in it, struggles to articulate what it’s like to live with anxiety, than I can’t imagine how hard it must be for so many other people.
The frustration that comes with struggling to get your message across and then for it not to be met with a non- judgmental attitude must be the most defeating feeling. My approach is this – if someone feels it, it’s real. Therefore, let’s talk about it. If you’d like, that is.
My anxiety has forced me into getting to know myself better. I have had to spend hours with myself, exploring my mind to even try to make sense of what I feel. I’ve used mood cards on myself, done drawings of how I feel onto a silhouette of a blank face, called helplines, wrote journals, spoke – all in order to just try to get it. I want to get it. I want to get me. If I get it, I can offer it some love.
I’m the most self-aware I’ve ever been. Does that make serious bouts of anxiety a breeze? Absolutely not. It does mean that I don’t feel lost in it, and I don’t feel consumed all the time because I know how I function and I praise myself for finding a way to do that.
On the other hand, acute anxiety is brutal. It’s controlling, exhausting, hard work and sometimes pushes me into a state of not wanting to be here anymore. When it becomes too much, I allow
myself to feel the feelings. Just like in the film Inside Out, we can’t ignore sadness or a perceived negative emotion (anxiety in my case).
I put myself in a safe place (both mentally, emotionally and physically), usually my bedroom, with some soft lighting and let myself feel – its bloody horrible and it feels agonising, but I’d rather feel them, work with them, and offer myself some love rather than ignore them. Ignoring those feelings may make it go away in the short term but long term those anxieties will come back.
Remember life doesn’t give us any more than what we can handle. You’ve all got this, I’ve got this, and if we don’t we'll tell each other about that and together we’ll work through it. Anxiety or mental health issues as a whole can make us feel so isolated and alone, but 1 in 4 people in the WORLD will be affected by mental health issues. We are not alone, but we just don’t love to talk about it.
Take care, please DM me on Twitter, or leave a comment on this post if you have any questions or queries for me. I hope your day is peaceful.
Sending love, Thank you for this post, Khadra!
Like Khadra, I couldn’t name my anxiety until I was an adult. I had no clue what anxiety really was. I just thought I was socially awkward. I, too, had the “just in case” mentality, and was worried or scared of certain things happening.
Do you struggle with anxiety? What have your experiences been with it? Let us know in the comments!