4 long years battling anxiety, an illness I would never have considered affecting me. It’s punched me, kicked me, knocked me down and dragged me back up again, I’m like a bruised apple still perched in the fruit bowl, still trying to mix with the others and pretend I’m normal. As time goes on, I have my huge achievements, and my monumental breakdowns. Whenever I’ve shared my story, I’ve been met with judgement, support, indifference, ignorance and assumptions, but the hardest to deal with is negativity.
Anxiety has this clever trick of turning every positive into a negative. Every fun day out, every joyful gathering, every exciting trip is skewered with a large painful twist of anxiety running through every moment until you feel like a failure at even the enjoyable times – and having this confirmed by others only adds to the disappointment we sometimes have in ourselves.
Today I was asked ‘are you alright? Was that blip on Monday anxiety?’. My honest answer is, I don’t know. All I know is I was a little apprehensive about going to a meeting but nothing I hadn’t handled and became overwhelmed with a sick feeling while on my way and had to turn around and come home. Was it anxiety? Was it a stomach bug? I guess I’m at a stage in my life where sometimes it’s hard to distinguish and these blips happen.
Then came the next statement, ‘can’t you get more help for this?’. Now, in theory the thought is there. The person doesn’t want me feeling this way, and rightly so, neither do I, but what this highlighted for me was that even though throughout this year I’ve done some monumental things I’d never even dreamed of, one blip becomes the focus and I’m on the defensive trying to justify myself. Well I’ve had enough.
Over the last 4 years I’ve lost everything, myself, my friends and my happiness, but in the last two, I’ve clawed so much of it back. I do things I’d never have considered doing, I’ve been places I would only dream of at the beginning of this journey. So this is my gift to me, a list focusing on the things I HAVE done, the positive results from battles I’ve faced over the last 4 years:
I can go food shopping now
I flew to Croatia
I can walk shopping centres alone
I have attended meetings
I’ve driven on the motorway
I’ve been to a packed Christmas market
I enjoy eating out again
I’m trying for a baby
I completed fertility tests
I’ve been around a hospital
I’ve been in city breaks
Bought a new car
I went up the Shard
Walked around Buckingham palace
Walked around Heathrow on a work visit
All of these things were impossible for me at one time or another. Fear of open spaces, crowds, fainting in a public place or health related anxiety meant all of the above weren’t possible yet here I am, saying what I have achieved. Yes, a lot of these were accompanied by crippling anxiety – but I did it. Some of these still make me anxious even now – but I do it. Some things I would completely avoid from anxiety – but I did it.
I did it!
There is so much I’m unable to do, and I could write a list twice as long as the one above, but what’s the point. Why should I focus on the negatives? I’ve worked hard to be the person I am today. I’m a caring, loving guy with empathy for others who offers help to people from all over the world. I’m hard working, professional and sociable. Yes, I’m not perfect. No, I didn’t ask for an anxiety disorder. No I don’t ask you to understand. All I ask is for you to understand my positives, not just my negatives. I’ve worked bloody hard to get them and deserve to be recognised for it.