I can smile. I can laugh. I can be happy.
Now, I do this without having to fake it, without wearing a perfected mask to disguise the truth of my illness from those around me. I do it because it is finally true, and I don’t want to let it fade away.
I had been letting my mental illness suppress my capacity to enjoy things. I was looking through fear-filled glasses, and they would not break. I knew no matter how much I tried to deny it, the fault was in my perspective — a perspective that over the last few years had been shaped into something that meant I saw danger in everything. By changing my view of anything I deemed slightly scary, I opened the door to so much more.
Little by little, I have branched out and I have become myself: a girl who doesn’t always need to worry or live in fear of danger, a girl who knows how to be happy.
The process has taken months of self-help and therapy; I have tried everything. Mindfulness, reflexology, hypnotherapy, writing — anything I could do to diminish the pain I was going through. I had been living in fear of my own fear – of my panic attacks, and the symptoms coinciding with them. I was terrified of what could happen if I wasn’t kept busy enough to shut out the thoughts echoing inside my head. My head became a noisy place, battling with me on my path to my revival. I set myself small goals and took each day as it was. Pressure hurt me. I knew I couldn’t rush this, but I never stopped trying. I knew I wanted and needed change; it was just going to take time.
I learned communication is the biggest help; distance is the worst.
Positivity, patience and praise became the instruments to my recovery, as the weight of my illness no longer fell on just my shoulders. I didn’t need to run away and hide, fighting my panic attacks by myself because someone was always there. They knew my anxiety was not a personal attack on them. I was picked up, supported and brought on a journey — a journey of health, happiness and comfort I never got from being alone.
After realizing recovery isn’t an overnight process, I knew I could fight my anxiety. Everyone takes a different route, which is never going to be easy. I no longer have consistent panic attacks, I sleep better at night and I don’t constantly worry. I try to see things in a more positive light – I won’t let myself believe any intrusive thoughts I have.
I didn’t control my mental illness, but I certified it couldn’t control me. My anxiety will always be a part of me, but that’s OK. If there are setbacks, I know I am strong enough to get back to how I am. Whatever I go through, I will be OK. I am happy again, and that’s the most important thing.
It was always going to take little steps, but little steps make the biggest changes.
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Thinkstock photo via LeszekCzerwonka.