I had always been a nervous child; worrying about more than most, panicking about things that most children my age hadn’t even considered a problem. I brushed it off for years as me just caring more than other people, meaning I worry more about the outcome.
It was only as I reached my 20’s that I began to accept this ‘worrying’ as anxiety, with my first full blown panic attack at 20 confirming that to me. It was manageable most of the time - panic attacks being rare - so I felt very fortunate throughout most of my time at university.
However, when I reached third year that all began to change. The combination of the most intense academic stress I’d ever been under, challenging relationships and being far away from my home and safety net was too much to cope with. This sent me in to the worst bout of anxiety I’d ever had - I was housebound more days than I’d like to admit and unable to talk or communicate during my lowest moments.
I’d love to be able to give you a list of things that I used to help me ‘cope’ with it all, but truth be told I didn’t cope, at least not in the traditional sense of the word. There weren’t some magic techniques that made it all go away and made me feel better. I suffered. I made bad choices, lost friends, locked myself away and worried those I loved most. This year saw me go through my loneliest moments and I’d be lying if I said there was a bright side to it all, that there was something that ‘fixed’ me, but there wasn’t.
Each day brought new challenges I didn’t feel prepared to face, but to my own surprise I made it to the end of the next day without my chest imploding or the world falling in on me. Then the same thing happened the next day, then the one after that and so on. It didn’t get easier, but I still got through it. I survived without ‘coping’. I knew I had people who loved me unconditionally and understood that I wasn’t going to be bright, bubbly and sociable all the time and that was all I needed to make it through.
My point is, I didn't need to try any magical techniques that a book or counsellor told me to use but if you do its okay if they don’t work: do what you need to do to survive, don’t focus on ‘fixing’ yourself, and use your energy to make it to the end of the next day. Take comfort in the fact that pain is temporary. Life goes on and so can you, be patient and let your mind heal in its own time. One day your burden will lighten and you will stand tall again.
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