First things first, I want to state that obviously I’m not a doctor and this is just simply my experience with anxiety. I’ll further explain throughout, but I went through various methods to help me, and there were some things that helped and others that really hurt. This article is purely meant to help anyone find comfort or maybe just further educate themselves and possibly even find comfort. Side-note: my Instagram is linked below, please feel free to reach out!
The Beginning and How it Evolved
I’m pretty sure I’ve had anxiety since I was little, but it wasn’t until I was 19 or so that I realized it was anxiety. From what I’ve read in various articles and social media posts, it’s very common for people with anxiety to almost mask their anxiety. A lot of what I went through was me overworking myself to the extent of depriving myself of sleep, food and a lot of comforts. Mind you, this was while I was still in high school, so between the ages of 14 to 18, I was slowly driving myself into a truly unhealthy cycle of not allowing myself to function properly. At the time I knew I wasn’t sleeping and had a very unhealthy relationship with eating.
I used to tell myself I couldn’t eat certain meals until I had finished a certain amount of work, which is just about as self-manipulative as it can get. I don’t want this to sound like I had a miserable time in high school because I did actually really enjoy high school. I had a great group of friends, an amazing education and a multitude of other positives. I still had anxiety though, and that meant my brain controlled me in a lot of ways that it didn’t have to, which was something completely out of my control. Looking back at it now I can see how unwell I was health-wise. I drove myself to these intense fits of sickness where I would be so sleep-deprived that I would feel very nauseous and it was very difficult to stand for certain periods of time. It wasn’t until I got pushed to a single dorm where I was with myself almost 100% of the time. My family formally refers to that dorm as ‘the shoebox’ and that also took quite a toll on me by just having only a limited amount of sunlight and human interaction that was very limited in a single room on the fifth floor. This was where I realized I wasn’t very good at being alone, and as easy as that sounds to understand, realizing that really changed the game.
What Helped Me Grow
If I could give you any advice it would be to please move. In the state that I was in, I was lower in serotonin than I was deep in student loans. It’s strange because I still don’t consider this my low point in feeling overwhelmed. I think a lot of the time we have to go through a massive event and have the time to heal and comprehend before we get to change anything, and sometimes that takes time, which is perfectly okay. I needed to literally move out of my dorm, but before I could do that I needed to move my body. Getting help and talking to people is so important, and please still prioritize that, but finding ways to relax your mind and let the overwhelming thoughts pass through so you can calm them and talk them through. My friend and I started going on regular walks at the gym where we just walk around the track and talk for hours, which is honestly so therapeutic. If you don’t have someone you can talk to, thinking through your own thoughts is something I’ve put a lot of effort into to make sure I still love being with myself. I can proudly say that I’m very good at hanging out with myself, while I’ve still also gotten better at letting myself be present with myself and not freaking myself out of random things.
Where I am Now and What Got Me Here
I promised myself I could only write this article after I could say out loud ‘I feel healthy and happy, and that is completely enough.’ I’m fully aware of how cheesy and Dear Evan Hansen-like that is, and I will fully embrace that. I am on medication now, which I take daily. It’s a lower dosage, but whatever someone needs or doesn’t need is also completely perfect for them, because everyone is different and requires different methods of help. Saying someone needs help with their mental health used to sound like such a dramatic saying, which is a lot of why I think I avoided believing I needed anything to help me. I think a better way to say it is we just need a little push. Whether you have anxiety or any other thing you need a bit of help with, we all need a little push sometimes, especially when it’s something scary. One thing I noticed after I started my medication was I wasn’t what I would’ve called at the time ‘happy.’ I had this very convoluted idea of happiness where I thought I should always have this pull to happiness at all times of the day. If you’ve met me, I feel like I tend to give off a happier personification of myself, which is something that I really admire about myself, however, that really messed with my idea of happiness. I’ve come to terms with the fact that happiness and contentment can be the same thing. Happiness and joy can be the same thing. Excitement and happiness can be the same thing. Limiting yourself to saying you are one thing does nothing but skew your perception of yourself. Sometimes you don’t have to be happy, and that’s perfectly wonderful. I wouldn’t say I’m particularly happy when I’m editing a video, but I’m certainly overjoyed to say I made an entire project myself and am teaching myself more things. All feelings are valid, and that’s something I’ve come to terms with in a better light, rather than just telling myself that.
Things that Helped Me:
Weighted blanket – I don’t utilize mine as much as I probably should, but a lot of that is because I got it within the past month, so my experience is quite limited. However, I feel like this is an easy way to not feel constricted in your own body. When I get really anxious or go through an anxiety attack, I feel very tense and shaky, and my weighted blanket has been very beneficial to ease that restricted feeling.
Walks – I live in Ohio, so winter walks are not always as fun as summer walks, however, I’m also a massive nature and snow fan, so I still get a lot of benefits! If you’re not an outside person, moving your body in any way is still super helpful for your mind to breathe and not feel as static. I highly recommend yoga. There are tons of easy YouTube tutorials, and as a very flexibly-challenged person, that’s something that was vital for me! I did sports growing up and love being active in general, so I tend to get anxious more so when I don’t move for long periods of time, but I completely understand the other side of this, especially when the weather starts getting colder and going outside is more difficult.
Personal Fashion Shows – This one may be too specific for others to relate to, but I have an intense love for fashion and beauty as an art form, which I hope doesn’t sound as terribly conceited as it sounds in my head! Sometimes when I’m not feeling my best emotionally my immediate desire is to make myself feel better on the outside. I feel like this sounds very self-care like, but there’s a reason it helps! If you’re a creative and artsy person, I’m a first believer in fashion and beauty as an art form. From my experience, trying on new clothing styles and choices that you don’t immediately always gravitate towards can be really freeing.
I’m still new to medication, but it’s been a work in progress for a long time coming. I’ll always have work to do on myself, but now it’s a much healthier pace and system of caring for myself. I started literally scheduling out time for myself, and if that’s something you need to, even just for a while, that can be so beneficial, so get out there and do some self-love!