Started writing this piece in February 2018. Within 3 months, how things have changed – I’ve picked up a few good habits, and am now in one of the greatest mental states I’ve been in since I left the normal life in 2016!
I didn’t know if I should publish this – dirty laundry being permanent on the blockchain, all that. In the end what got me was that there is still such a stigma attached to mental health that more people should speak up about it. I hope that my story would help anyone who is going through the same thing. You're not alone!
I used to live in a permanently anxious state.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 1 in 13 globally suffers from anxiety. At the time I thought it was a normal thing that happens to everyone when you live in a fast paced society. Keeping busy + being on top of things were the order of the day. Everyone around me was either stressed out about work or finances anyway. I mean, that’s how life is, right?
At this time,
some days were great,
some days I just wanted to pack up,
give up, go home.
But where's home?
On the outside I was always calm and unruffled, but the anxiety became a lot more noticeable when I left my job in 2016. I didn’t hate my life, but I can’t help feeling that there must be something MORE out there.
Why do we do the things we do, if not for a better life?
Anyway, the stress that came with the uncertainty and anxiety of not having a steady stream of income got to me. I was breaking down and crying. I was fatigued and had no energy to do anything. I alternate between being extremely motivated to "find my path" and signing up for all kinds of courses promising to help me figure out what my life purpose is, to being completely unmotivated + in a dark spiral; feeling like I could never crawl out of this black hole I’ve put myself in.
There were SO MANY doubts – that I may be on a never ending journey, that I may never find what I was looking for... money issues... first world problems. At the same time I’m also completely aware that I brought this upon myself. No one told me to quit my job.
It wasn’t an impulsive decision – I've prepared for months to get to that point (even gave my work a 2 month notice), YET it was still extremely scary to be jobless. I've had a job all my life; everyone around me had worked all their lives. I was brought up to think that hard work = money, and to climb the corporate ladder. But why was I so unhappy doing that?
This is what anxiety feels like for me.
A crippling fear that latches on to your heart, a constant sinking feeling in your stomach, sweaty palms, cold feet, racing heart, feeling my face go numb, nausea, a pressing need to hurry somewhere even though I have nothing on, sleepless nights watching the sun go up, a perpetual sense of dread, crying at the smallest thing – no, it's really not your fault, I'm just crying about the state of my life, and what a massive failure I am. Let's be clear. Anxiety shows no mercy. It is invisible. All mental conditions are. It manifests in an aching jaw from holding tension there all day without noticing that you’ve been clenching your jaw. It shows up in frantic energy, because “if I rush from thing to thing I'll get everything done and it will all be alright. RIGHT?"
In my case, the anxiety doesn’t follow me around 24/7. There are times when I could be "happy". It usually hits when I’m alone, with nothing to distract me from myself. So, shouldn’t I go back to my old life and the busy busy busy routine so that I don’t have to think? Well, I've learnt that that's just a band aid over an old wound. To banish it from my life completely would require changing my lifestyle and habits. I’m not saying that this is what YOU should do to get better. This is what worked for me. Each of us has varying levels of anxiety / other mental health issues to deal with. Some people find that medication and/or therapy helps. Others find comfort in religion...
I turned to meditation and self-love!
It’s been 3 months since I started writing this. In the midst of this I’ve been travelling Europe and working on a freelance project. Having some kind of small steady income gave me room to breathe. That’s when I realized that I’ve been holding my breath for most of 2017. I can’t say I've come out the other side. But I’m hopeful that if I keep meditating and other positive life habits up, I may create lasting change for myself.
I'm extremely lucky to be able to self-treat and manage my anxiety. There are many out there who're struggling and fighting to breathe. If you're reading this, I'm sending you a HUGE hug. You probably think that you can't go on, but you can.
You're stronger than you think. We all are.