milestones

Reaching A Mental Health Milestone

beating butterflies

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.

 

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Opinion

Lost At Sea

bird s eye view of sea water
Photo by Asad Photo Maldives on Pexels.com

I feel like I’m lost at sea and I am barely keeping my head above the water. I kick my legs to stay alive and I can see the sun on the horizon but no matter how hard I try to swim towards it, the waves take me in a different direction. Some days, I feel the warm sun on my face and I believe that I will make it, to where I want to be and other days I feel like I can no longer stay afloat.

Clear blue water, I can see everything around me, the past, the present and the future and the images blur in my mind. I try to look forward, to stay in the moment and forget the past. Why does it feel so difficult to think of it all? My legs are tired and my heart is beating quickly in my chest. What’s the point of all of this? I try and nothing happens. I want to swim straight. I know where I am going but I don’t know how to get there. The waves are taking me away from the control I thought I had. The sun is disappearing and soon it will be just me and the night sky.

When the sky is dark, my feelings are too. Everywhere I turn I see nothing but black water, it swallows me up and I feel so small and insignificant. The moon is high in the sky, it seems so far away. I know that there are people in the world struggling to survive and I should feel happy that there is breath in my body and life in my eyes but sometimes I lose that spark, I lose my light and I give into the temptation of negativity. Wouldn’t it just be easier to not care? To bob along in the waves of life and see where the wind takes me? Why can’t I be free from restrictions? Why can’t I close my eyes, picture a place and be there? The answer is simple. Life is unpredictable like the sea, the waves can pull me in various directions but as long as I keep looking at the horizon, I will be okay.

The waves carry me into morning and the light from the sun gives me hope again, I smile, all I can do is hope that the day will bring me some happiness.