Twenty-Four

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So tomorrow is my twenty-fourth birthday. If I could use one word to reflect on the year that has passed between my twenty-third birthday and now, it would be strength. I have found a strength that helps me to get back up when I fall. I have found an inner strength to do what I know I am meant to do, teach. The road to being a teacher is going to be a hard one but I know that my passion, dedication and strength will get me there.

I have also realised the importance of gratitude and appreciation of the little things that make me happy. It isn’t easy for me to be positive but I always try to think of at least three things I am grateful for each day. No matter how bad my day may be or how I feel about the direction of my life, I always try to step back and evaluate the blessings in my life rather than the imperfections.

Some days I do feel stuck, like the world is passing me by, the clock is ticking and I am no closer to getting the life I want, but I am learning now to stop, notice my negative thoughts, then change them. This is something I learned in therapy and I am starting to slowly apply it to my life.

I have to keep telling myself that my life path has its own timeline and what may take someone one year to do, may take me five, but it doesn’t matter. I strongly believe that in life ambition will lead you to success, perseverance will lead to positive actions and positivity will lead you to happiness. I remind myself on a daily basis of my goals and I always see each day as another small step towards achieving them.

My challenge for myself during the next year of my life (before I reach the grand old age of 25) is to start living in the present moment. This is something that I struggle with and is the root cause of my anxiety. With a combination of studying Buddhism, meditating and practicing yoga, I am slowly but surely on the way to learning how to be mindful and just ‘be’.

Another challenge in my path this following year will be balance. I know that when I start my teacher training in September (if I pass this maths test), I will struggle with the work-life balance. Finding time to relax and enjoy life, with the chaotic, stressful and challenging year of studying, working and learning.

Whatever happens in the 365 days between now and my twenty-fifth birthday, I hope that I find joy in the little things, I hope I learn to believe in myself more, to laugh, love and live each day with a positive attitude because life is passing me by and I don’t want to waste any more time worrying about things I can’t control or choosing to live an unhappy life or surrounding myself with people that don’t allow me to be the best version of myself.

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Reaching A Mental Health Milestone

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During the past few years, I have struggled with my mental health. I have General Anxiety Disorder (GAD), which means I constantly worry about everything and experience high amounts of anxiety for no reason at all. It took me a long time to accept that my anxiety was part of me, something that I couldn’t erase, something that couldn’t be ‘cured’ with a prescription of pills from the doctor.

A few months ago, when I reached a dark place with my anxiety and depression, I finally admitted to myself that I needed help. I would go days without leaving the house, I would sometimes sit and stare into space, pondering on the bad things that have happened in my life or bad things that ‘could’ happen in the future. I felt like I was trapped by my own mind, it’s a horrible feeling and I wouldn’t wish it upon anyone.

Having an anxiety disorder is unpredictable. You may go through periods of time without any anxiety at all and then all of a sudden, it’s back and suffocating your thoughts like a dark cloud. I thought I was strong enough to battle my mental health issue on my own and convinced myself that I was ‘in control’ and my anxiety would get better over time, but it didn’t.

I had tried all of the ‘self-help’ options and nothing worked. I was crippled by anxiety, always worrying about the future or feeling sad about the past. I reached a dark place, where I thought medication was the only option for me to proceed. Then, a shining light appeared and everything changed for me. I found the strength to ask for professional help. It was a waiting game but I finally got on the list for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).

I have to be honest, I was sceptical at first. I had convinced myself that my natural way of thinking, the negative way I approach life and every situation couldn’t be reversed. After a few weeks of therapy sessions, I started to notice a change. I had unconsciously started to think more about my ‘unhelpful thinking style’ and started to rationalise with the voice in my head when negativity surfaced. The great thing about CBT is that it strips back to the bare bones of how you think, how this effects your behaviour and how you can change this in the future.

David, my therapist was amazing. He was honest, critical and helpful in our sessions. Always sending me home with ‘homework’ to do, such as thought diaries and weekly schedules, he discovered what my triggers were and how to remove them from my life. For me it was during my alone time that I experienced more anxiety and more depressive thoughts. The answer for me was to always keep myself busy and distract myself by colouring, reading, doing yoga or simply doing some meditation.

Ever since I started CBT, I managed to pull myself out of the depressive state that I found myself in for months, started to fight against my negative thoughts and made small changes in my life that were going to improve my overall wellbeing. I am going to do yoga as often as I can, learn how to meditate, practice mindfulness and make sure I find time to relax each day. I’m going to still have bad days and now I realise that it’s okay to feel sad sometimes and it’s normal to worry, as long as it doesn’t take over your life.

I feel like I am reaching a mental health milestone. I have learnt in the past few months that anxiety cannot be ‘cured’ it can only be ‘managed.’ I have discovered that if I give attention to my anxiety and say to myself that I am mentally ill or there is something wrong with me, it only fuels my negativity and it will probably erase any progress that I have made.

I feel like I have reached a pinnacle of understanding. I accepted my anxiety was a problem, I asked for help and now I no longer feel alone on this journey to achieve a positive mindset. I have a long way to go but I finally feel like I can see the light at the end of a dark tunnel of worry, insecurity, anxiety and doubt. Like a butterfly, I feel free to go anywhere I want to go and do anything I want to do. I want to believe in hope instead of fear. I want to see the glass as half full instead of half empty. My anxiety will never ‘go away’ but I’m confident that I’m now in control of how I think, how I feel and how I behave.