Stories, skills, and positivity- to anxiety sufferers from anxiety sufferers.
Choosing to get better
By: Erin Longo
Anxiety and depression have been a part of me for almost a decade now, and I’m only 23. There have been some really high highs and many more really low lows. And there are still times that I think ending it would be better than trying to work through my problems. But let me tell you how normal that is.
Anxiety doesn’t come in one shape or form, and any one person can react differently. Myself, I’ve been physically sick, tired, sad, extremely angry, scared, and I even have some OCD tendencies to compensate when I think things are really out of control. And feeling like giving up is one shape that doesn’t seem to want to leave me alone. But no matter how bad it gets, I’m telling you it can get better. Yeah, yeah I know, everyone says that, but from experience, and after close to 10 years of dealing with sometimes very severe anxiety and depression, I can tell you that it can get better. I can also tell you that it has to be YOUR decision to get better, not anyone else’s. I can also tell you that it won’t be easy under any circumstances. To get better you need to change the way you think and the way your brain works.
I always thought of anxiety and depression as a weakness, that my brain is at a distinct disadvantage because I couldn’t control my thoughts and behaviours. I thought that for a very long time, and I just let my brain ravage the rest of my body for years. It wore me down until last year I barely even got out of bed. I didn’t eat, and what I did eat was utter crap. I felt terrible about myself, and I tried to get through it on my own by exercising and eating well, seeing friends, among other things, but I got to a point that I could not get myself to get out of bed. And if I did get out of bed, I didn’t get dressed for the entire day and just went to bed again. This was a very, very low point in my life. My brain was telling me that I wasn’t good enough to be a student, a friend, a co-worker, a unique individual, and that staying in bed was a better option.
There wasn’t a defining moment when I decided to take back control of my mind, and it was only a few months ago that I really started to work on me. But whether there is that moment or not, you just have to start. Start somewhere. For a very long time, I was against medication and I was very against counselling or therapy. I thought that if I wasn’t a strong enough person to fix this on my own then it couldn’t be fixed. But I’ve found it’s sort of the opposite. It takes mountains of strength for people in all situations to sit down with someone and say, “I have anxiety”. It was probably one of the hardest things I have ever had to do (and a lot of tears were involved), but I am so glad I had the courage to stand up for myself and stop letting my brain bully me into thinking I’m any less of a person.
I started counselling about four months ago. After explaining about my lifestyle, and barely even getting out of bed, the first thing the counsellor said was, “Get out of bed”. We took an hour to discuss ways that would help me get out of bed because the whole day begins there. She told me that that the moment I decide to stay in bed was me giving up on another day. So task 1 was for me to get out of bed. And that’s what gave me light. It wasn’t a huge elaborate plan that lasted months. It was one thing that was easy to do. It was one thing that I could control. And that’s how I started getting better. As I said, it’s only been four months since that first session. I still have a long way to go, but doing something that I was so against for such a long time turned out to be the one thing that showed me the way. Recovery has to start somewhere.
It takes a long time to find what helps you. Being able to bring out the things that are going on internally is the one thing that worked for me. Don’t see anxiety as a weakness that incapacitates you, see it as a way to start becoming the best version of you. Use it as a reason to work on yourself. Make anxiety the thing that started your journey to becoming who you were meant to be. Choose to get better.
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Katie McLean holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, and bases her anxiety aid in personal experience, as well as techniques that have been passed on to her by counsellors, friends, and fellow anxiety sufferers.