4 Things I've Learned About Anxiety After Months of Hanging by a Thread
My last post was written four months ago. In the daily battle I continue to experience with depression and anxiety, I lost the motivation and desire to write any more, faced with the familiar issues of lack of concentration, lack of interest, questioning the point of writing and sharing, etc. etc. However I have made a promise to myself for the dawning of a new year to try to commit to giving writing a bit more of a go. The last few months have been truly horrendous and I have reached new depths which I never knew existed, and at times the only source of comfort has been reading the shared experiences of those battling with the same issues. So I have decided I want to try and do the same.
As I reflect on 2016. I wanted to share some of the things I’ve learned during my experiences of the past nine months:
1. Having thought in years gone by I had hit rock bottom, I have learnt of new depths way beyond what I previously thought existed. I think one of the main reasons for that is that I now have responsibilities which I didn’t have previously – a wife and two young children. Therefore, the ramifications of any bad episode are now far greater than they ever were before. I don’t just have myself to worry about. However, whilst my wife and children are a responsibility I never had before, they are the reason I keep going and get up every day and try to fight this illness. Whilst at the moment I don’t feel that I am able to offer them much as a husband and father because of my difficulties, they give me a purpose, when all else seems lost. My wife asked me just before midnight on New Year’s Eve what positives I could take with me into the new year. My response was that despite things getting as bad and as tough as they have, I am still here and have made it this far, and as a family unit we are still together. I will try my best to remind myself of that on a daily basis.
2. This illness is sticking around. Yes, I’ll hopefully get back to long spells of being “well,” but most likely dark times will return again, based on the experiences of my life to date. After recovering from previous episodes, due to a combination of youthful optimism, lack of true understanding of my condition and denial, I thought I had learned and experienced enough to stop it from returning. How wrong was I! And no one ever suggested otherwise, including the medical professionals who treated me and could see my case notes going back to my teens. But I realize they would never have been in a position to tell me to prepare myself for recurring episodes, firstly because they wouldn’t want to have put a limit on what I could achieve as I grew up, and also they had no way of knowing whether or not I would relapse. As I sit typing this blog tonight in a house and lifestyle which I can no longer afford, a huge part of me wishes someone could have told me all those years ago to build a life that was fit for purpose given my recurring depression and anxiety, rather than the life I did build thinking everything would be fine — a professional career which came with expectations to always be able to perform/function at a high level (this ultimately has been the undoing of me!), nice house, nice holidays etc etc. I am filled with regrets, but then I suppose most of us probably are for varying reasons.
3. Stop expecting others to understand my illness, my experiences and what’s going on inside my head. This has been a really tough one for me, particularly when it comes to family members, and it is something I still struggle with on a daily basis. I am learning that is unfair of me to expect others to understand. A couple of well known quotes now stick in my head. “Don’t expect everyone to understand your journey especially if they have never had to walk your path” and “Sometimes the people around you won’t understand your journey. They don’t need to, it’s not for them.”
4. Stop hiding who I am. Become a beacon of light to others who are living with the same disabling illness, as several others have been to me. Reading the stories of others in the same boat has kept me going over the last few months. It has provided me with a source of comfort I have been unable to find anywhere else. And the extremely touching comments and messages I have received to my first blog posting have really inspired me to keep writing and keep sharing. A couple of months ago I read an article by a contributor called Kelsey Rozak. I found one paragraph in particular extremely powerful and it is something which gave me a feeling of purpose and has stuck with me. Kelsey’s words were as follows:
“I also share my story to shine my light for others. For the people who can’t navigate the high seas of sadness, I am the lighthouse. For people who can’t find their way through the depths of depression, I am a flashlight. I shine the way because others have shined the way for me. We cannot be afraid of this light. You must shine it for others to guide them through this confusing and terrifying journey. It is a beacon of hope on cloudy days and a sign that we are never alone. Collectively, we will bring light to this condition and make sure no one is afraid of the dark ever again.”
I too shall make that my goal, so that some good can come out of my pain. Thank you Kelsey.
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