Today is my birthday. I turn 28 this morning and it marks 10 years since I had my breakdown due to anxiety. The time has gone really fast but I think it’s important that I document how it’s been and what I’ve learnt.
If you don’t know who I am, I was a generalised anxiety disorder sufferer for almost 20 years. You can read my story here, and then come back to this article to continue.
I think it’s important that I lay out what I’ve learnt about anxiety, and in particular, generalized anxiety disorder over the last decade. (Wow, using the word ‘decade’ makes me feel old!)
So because I was highly anxious and consumed by anxiety, it was difficult to see another way of living.
Here are the 10 things I wish I knew when I was 17 that would of helped me overcome my anxiety faster than I did;
1. It Can Make You Feel Insane
It can make you feel like you’re going insane, but don’t let it!
There is still plenty of stigma attached to mental health. Maybe when I was 17 I thought I wasn’t normal. It wasn’t talked about much 10 years ago and so I hadn’t really come into contact with anyone else who had anxiety problems.
2. It Tries To Define You
When you suffer with generalised anxiety disorder, you often feel like you’re defined because of it.
I always judged myself on how anxious I always was. It ended up defining me as a person. I was shy, anxious and a huge introvert. The thing is, it doesn’t define you and I’ve learnt that everyone has the ability to change the way that they think and behave.
Sure, it might be harder for some personalities, but because I spent the best part of 20 years feeling highly anxious and then I trained my brain to think differently, I know you can.It just takes a little will power to start.
3. It Stands In The Way Of Goals
When I was 17, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with my life. I had no direction like a lot of people and my interests were few. I know now that I lost passion in many things due to my anxiety and medication and it stunted my creative thinking.
What I would tell my younger self is – set goals. It doesn’t matter what it is, just try something. I was too scared to come out of my bubble and try new things/ I know now that you have to keep an open mind and strive towards something.
Setting a goal, no matter how big or small, gives you purpose, and that purpose is part of the recovery process that worked for me.
4. It Makes You Feel Like This Is Forever
I used to be so into my own head, stuck in the present but always worrying about the future. I remember thinking to myself, ‘am I going to endure this feeling my whole life?’
Everything felt very permanent. I don’t know if it comes with age, but as I got older I realised that time is short, the days start to go faster and before you know it, you’ve left school and it’s another year down the road.
When I understood that everything in life is temporary, it made me see the world in a new light.
5. You Can Feel Like You’re Not Worth It
Anxiety has a funny way of telling you that you’re not good enough. I felt for a long time that I wasn’t as capable of doing things as others because I was always held back by second guessing myself.
The best way to overcome the self sabotaging is to just start learning new things. The faster you star, the faster you’ll see results. And when your anxiety starts to tell you that you can’t do it, just push past it and ignore it. Good things will happen.
6. You Forget Life Is Short
You can get so wrapped up in how YOU feel that you forget that life’s too short to worry about stupid things.
I’ve learnt in recent years that life is short. As older relatives pass away and old school acquaintances pass through illness or accidents, it starts to put things into perspective. My anxiety used to paint a picture in my head of a long bleak life of being completely on the edge the whole time.
When you understand that 17 years old turns into 20 years old quickly, 20 years old turns into 25 years old even faster, you start to appreciate things a but more. I wish I knew this when I was 17 but I guess we all think things last forever!
7. It Can Make You Feel Insecure
Of course, worrying goes hand in had with anxiety. My generalized anxiety disorder was no different. Infact, one of the worst things I’d worry about was how others saw me or how they thought of me.
I’ve learnt that you’ll probably never really know what most people think of you. Either way, it shouldn’t influence how you behave. I’ve learnt we don’t have control over others minds and so when you can learn to just be yourself, you can find pure inner peace.
8. It Can Make You Hold Onto Things, But You Gotta Let Them Go
I spent so long dwelling on things. With my anxiety came so much mulling in my head. I used to go over the same situations in my head over and over without coming to any meaningful conclusion.
Thanks to the help of mindfulness practise. I’ve been able to let things go a lot easier. Once of the things I used to struggle with the most was just letting go and leaving things in the past.
Once you can let things from you past go, only then can you truly concentrate on the present moment.
9. It Can Make You Over Think But Just Start DOING
Because I always pondered around, I never really did what I wanted. For example, this site was built after years of procrastinating. I’m so glad I did take the leap and start it. I love learning new things and starting a website was a lot of interesting learning for me.
If I could, I’d tell my younger self not to worry so much and just do things. If something bad happens, so be it. I’d tell myself just to enjoy the moment and say ‘yes’ more.
Actions speak louder than words for a reason. I love taking action now, especially on things that I’m passionate about. These days I don’t dwell on outcomes I just DO.
10. Anxiety Makes You Doubt Yourself
Your mind gets masked by ‘what if’s?’ and nervousness constantly. I get it, but just have a little self belief. You can do anything but it has to start within you. Others can only help so much – your the one that has to start taking the actions which will lead to recovery.
I think that people don’t fully understand the potential within themselves. When it comes to anxiety, it difficult to imagine a different way of feeling however we all have the potential to change and get over whatever it is that’s stopping us from living life.
I think that with most things you have to fully experience them to understand them before you can start to find a way of coping or recovering. A lot of times it just takes time to go through each motion before you can see a light at the end of the tunnel.
These ten things I wish I could explain to my 17 year old self are all things I picked up and learnt over time and so hopefully by reading this now, you can get a little bit of hope and inspirations from someone who’s been there and survived.
I hope this was interesting for you in some way,
Here’s to your success – Sean
This post was previously published on Project Engergise and is republished here with permission from the author.
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