This is, by far, one of the hardest topics for me to write about, but it is also one of the most important! The topic itself terrifies me. Just thinking about the word, ‘anxiety’ makes me feel as though a tornado of uneasiness, fear and pure panic is about to hit my 5 foot 2 body and knock me out. My palms being to sweat, my chest feels tight, I feel like I have to fight for breath, my heart is racing and feels heavy in my chest, so many thoughts are circling around my head, making me truly notice the weight of it on my neck. And the worst part, all this is happening and I physically cannot make it stop. The whole thing is so terrifying that all I can do is cry and pray that it passes.
I suffered from this feeling at least once a day for a year. Once that horrific rush eventually came to an end, I would feel embarrassed and ashamed to even speak about it. Mental health is a topic that is so misunderstood in today’s society, due to the label attached to it. The words ‘mental health’ (unnecessarily) scares many people, and I was one of them. I will never forget the sense of shame I would feel whenever a friend would suggest that maybe I was suffering from anxiety. Me? Not possible. I don’t believe in anxiety.
Growing up in a Middle Eastern family, the issue of anxiety, depression or anything along those lines was looked upon as a myth. Just an excuse people use to get out of things. Of course, not every Middle Eastern family thinks this way, but mine certainly did. I don’t blame them. Growing up in the Middle East meant having to fight for every single thing you had in life no matter what mental state you were in. In a culture where ‘what will people think?’ is one of the most common questions fretted over at the dinner table, you can sort of understand why issues like this were brushed under the carpet.
My family’s inability to understand the state I was in was agonising (for lack of a better word). I would call home crying, still in bed at 12pm, scared to leave my uni room and I would get told to get my act together. I was trying. I was trying so hard, but I physically couldn’t. The thing with anxiety is, it is so difficult to put into words. The best way I can describe my utter inability to ‘get my act together’ is by trying to explain how I felt.
Opening my eyes in the morning, the first thing I would notice was my heart pounding against my chest at a speed that made me think I was about to have a heart attack. Then, a stampede of thoughts would rush in my head, listing all the deadlines I had, worrying about the future, even worrying over menial things, ‘did I turn the straighteners off?’, ‘did I clean my dishes from last night?’, ‘my housemates must think I’m so rude for always being in my room’, the list goes on. How strange! I felt like I could possibly be having a heart attack, yet my main concern was what others will think! It seems so silly now looking back.
If you still are having trouble understanding how anxiety feels, I found a metaphor online which explains it perfectly (in my opinion). ‘Anxiety is like swimming in the ocean with no land insight.’ Imagine the utter fear and panic you would feel if you were in that situation. You feel completely alone, have no clue what’s going to happen next and have absolutely no hope. That’s anxiety.
Anyway, now let’s get to the good bit…
Hypnotherapists, several doctors appointments, medicine for heart palpitations, talking about how I felt…I tried it all. Whilst hypnotherapy taught me to calm down and relax, and heart medicine made the pacing heart I woke up with every morning slightly slow down (the one time that I was brave enough to take it) nothing really helped me get away from this feeling like reading did!
I’ve recommended books that helped me in previous blogposts, but the main thing that truly helped me was reading The Secret. For those familiar with the book, or the documentary, you know this book is about the Law Of Attraction. In short, it states what you think, you attract. Your thoughts are a magnet which bring you the situations you face in life. I know that the topic is extremely controversial, but nothing helped me overcome my anxiety like becoming familiar with the Law Of Attraction did. Whilst I didn’t constantly beg the universe to take my anxiety away, I really learnt to monitor my thoughts and be grateful for the things that I already had in my life. It made me realise the awful way I was talking to myself, the lack of belief I had in myself and how overly negative my view on life was. Thinking about it, the concept of giving more attention and weight to positive thoughts than negative thoughts sort of relates to Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, a method commonly used to treat depression and anxiety.
The more I practised being positive, the more often I woke up without feeling like my heart was about to escape my chest. I was able to finally have some mental clarity, and not beat myself up every time a panic attack came and passed. Of course, anxiety is something that comes and goes, much like depression, and there is so much more to it than just learning to monitor your thoughts. But out of all the things I tried, reading about the Law Of Attraction is something I truly connected with. It did not involve hourly rates, taking pills or talking to a stranger about how I felt. It taught me to be ballsy and choose to be happy (as cringey as that may sound).
There are still times where I feel anxious, but I would say this is now only about four/five times a year, as appose to every single day. Also, the Law of Attraction’s focus on meditation and self-care has helped me manage this feeling anytime it comes back. So, if you haven’t read about the Law of Attraction, all you have to do is google it- cheap and easy!
Accepting Anxiety and Becoming Unapologetic for it
This was the hardest thing for me. I did not want to carry the label of ‘mental health,’ and the stigma attached to it, around with me. I would deny having it to friends, avoid talking about it to family and definitely did not want anyone I was trying to impress knowing about it. But the truth is, more people are suffering from anxiety than you know. When I finally learnt to talk about it, I found out so many of my close friends were also going through the same thing, we were just all too ashamed to talk about it.
Anxiety is common. Maybe even as common as the common cold. But it definitely is not as easy to understand or as widely accepted as the common cold. If you are suffering from this, know that you don’t have to feel this way forever, and there is no reason to feel ashamed as it is a common problem that can be overcome. But in order for this to happen, you first need to accept it.