If there’s one thing I’ve come to learn in stumbling through adulthood, it’s that the mental battles you’ll fight will be just as tough, if not infinitely more so, than the physical ones.
Mental health is a complex issue. It’s one that everyone will battle with, in some way, in their lifetime. It’s as simple as that.
I wanted to talk a little about one that affects me. One that’s hung around me for years now and that I’ve come to accept will never really leave. The A Word – and no, that’s not a Pretty Little Liars Reference. I’m talking about anxiety.
It’s crippling. It starts in your stomach and it spreads to the rest of your body and you start to ache. Except it’s not a physical ache; it’s a mental ache. You’re hurting in your heart. Do not underestimate the power of it. Do not underestimate how it feels for you brain to swiftly run away from you. To make you see things that aren’t there; feel things you shouldn’t feel.
Sometimes the walls start closing in around you, for absolutely no reason. You feel trapped in your own body. You can’t run away from it. You can’t lock the doors and wait for the storm to pass. You become the storm. Grey clouds hang around you. They totally envelope you.
Your only choice is to sit there and wait for it to pass. You’ve got to hope it doesn’t wreck you too much; that it leaves you with enough strength to survive the next one.
My anxiety has made me cancel dates. I’ve ended relationships over it. I’ve called in sick to work and I’ve bailed on plans with friends. That’s what is terrifying. It affects everything.
It’s irrational. Completely irrational. And knowing that makes it even harder to deal with. Feeling your world crash down around you when the tiniest slither of a worry flits across your mind is fucked up. It’s waiting on the other shoe to drop. It’s never being able to accept when things in life are going well because there’s a constant fear it’s all going to go away.
Even when you think you’re through something, all it takes is one tiny thing to set you off. Seconds later the waves will be crashing around you. The shallow breath. That sick, twisty feeling in your stomach.
A few weeks ago both my housemates went away for the long weekend. I spent the majority of those days in the house alone. A new house in a new area, away from all the people. It was completely silent. And that silence was deafening.
The world can be a very lonely place, but there’s nothing wrong with it. Sometimes it helps to get lost every now and again. Just don’t shut people out. Your friends and your family get to call themselves that for a reason. They might not necessarily understand what you’re going through, but never underestimate how much company can help when you’re hurtling towards rock bottom.
Your twenties are such a roller coaster, in every sense of the word. My life today is different in so many ways to my life a year ago. I guess we grow up with these big ideas about what our lives are going to be; and how they’re going to look. To reach the point you’ve been working towards, and to find it infected with a dissatisfaction you can’t explain, is not easy.
I’d love to say that after all these years, I’ve devised a way to manage it – but the truth is I haven’t. All you can do is learn to know yourself. To know your triggers. Always remember when things get rough that you’ve survived everything that’s come before – that you will keep coming out on on top. You’ll keep fighting. And you’ll keep winning.
Every day I go to battle with myself and if I can make it to that night in one piece I feel genuine pride in myself.
That’s what it comes down to, really. Taking life one day at a time. Celebrate your victories, but don’t be afraid to mourn your losses as well.
Change is natural. For someone who deals with anxiety on a daily basis, it’s fucking terrifying. But it’s also inevitable. And in accepting the inevitability of it you can start to respect the pattern of life; we feel these things for a reason. We go through moments of weakness to make us stronger.
We’re always moving forward – never back.
If this article has bought up any issues for you, you can contact Lifeline on 131 114. Beyond Blue and The Black Dog Institute are also a fantastic resources for you to learn more about depression, suicide and for any help you may need. Remember that you’re never alone in this.