Anxiety Battles

Anxiety has consumed a lot of my life in the past year or the past week or past month, maybe, honestly at this point – I can’t tell or remember the difference. It often feels like the same miserable, self-pitying feeling you get when you have a cold. When you’re full of the flu and your nose is blocked, you lie there in bed surrounded by tissues with the stark realization you didn’t damn well appreciate what it was like when you didn’t have a blocked nose and sore throat. Except at the moment I feel like I’m stuck in an occasional limbo of nostalgically looking back to whenever I felt full of confidence, hope and positivity. I earn some days and nights for the last time I went outside and didn’t have intense paranoia about random possible scenarios that had a 1 to 1000 chance of happening or harrowing discomfort whenever a stranger looked slightly in my direction. The nauseating bubbles in my stomach or the tension headaches from staying up with my mind buzzing of ‘what ifs’ and ‘hey what if this happens?’ or ‘what if this thing you think negatively of yourself is true?’ is so draining and not in the way where maybe I’ll get a good nights sleep when I finally hit the pillow because lately it’s been at least an hour or two sometimes before my mind will calm down enough to let me sleep.

Now you’re probably thinking, hey Helena where are you going with this? Is this meant to be a story of anxiety struggles but something marvelous has happened and it has a happy ending? Is this a set up for a post to give advice about anxiety where you act as if you know how to handle it when really you’re probably the least tactful person when dealing with your own anxiety? Is this really a sneaky review for something? Honestly, this is just a chat. From me to computer screen to whoever may feel like reading. If you’ve made it this far, I commend you. The past few nights and especially after watching a video on Youtube, which I’ll mention in a bit, I’ve considered expressing my struggles, my aspirations, my ideas and my hopes and goals a lot more through my blog. It’s almost egotistical in some senses but maybe this will benefit me, maybe this’ll benefit someone else, maybe there’ll be one word or phrase in something that I word-vomit onto this blog that could speak to someone. Two of my current goals in life that I feel that I, honestly, need to do better at is – a) Looking after myself more and b) Looking out for others and helping others more.

Kindness and empathy are two traits I think are so important in day-to-day life and in the world we live in at the moment. I absolutely adore reading stories of people doing random acts of kindness, people setting up charities and movements that they personally run to help others, people creating art and media to inspire others and reflect a positive mental attitude. It’s something that gives me hope and lately I’ve needed hope really badly. On some nights it feels like I’ve been housing a nocturnal, pessimistic demon in my brain who likes to send my brain into a spiral as I’m trying to sleep and the funny thing is, is how I don’t feel I’ve ‘given in’ to this demon at all because deep down I want so much good for the world, I want to be an activist, I want to create things, I want to actively work towards helping others even if its small things like smiling at someone or being there for them when they feel a bit down, or making people baked goods just to see them smile – I want to do better, I want to be the ‘change you wish to see in the world’ and all that cliché, but the catch is my anxiety is almost weighing me down with opposing negative thoughts. Because of my anxiety I feel so much fear, distrust and fatigue. I feel so nervous around other people, I feel so nervous about doing new things, I feel so nervous that going out of my comfort zone will end up with me hurt, people I love hurt or embarrassment or a bigger knock in confidence. Sometimes I feel like I do not trust anyone and my anxiety makes me think everyone is out to get me or doesn’t like me unless proven otherwise.

The video I watched that randomly stirred a new feeling of being absolutely sick and done with this anxiety was weirdly a Markiplier video. Now if you don’t recognise that name, he’s a big youtube name who does gaming videos mostly but has also done quite a lot of charity work and I believe is working on an interactive project? I’m not engrossed enough to know completely but essentially the video I watched is Mark discussing ‘pain’, what some of the worst ‘pain’ he’s been in his life has been and how it’s changed him and changed his perspective. What stuck out to me is how he talked about after having quite a horrible doctor during painful recovery after surgery how a lot of his family were telling him to sue but he talks about how he never wants to be a ‘revengeful’ person even if he feels like he can be quite spiteful. He talks about how if you only ever use anger as a release for stuff, it’s going to be very toxic and damaging to yourself and it spoke to me because lately, especially during at university, I’ve had so many occasions when either things have gone wrong, people have upset me or taken advantage of me and all I’ve felt is anger and stress. Both at other people and then after trying to teach myself to understand other people’s perspectives and take responsibility, I’ve been angry at myself and when you get to that point, there’s never really any letting go of that completely. So now, yes I’m pissed off at my anxiety for how much it’s drained me and taken over my life, my perspectives and my attitudes towards things, but I want to teach myself how to not get so stressed about things, especially when they go wrong.

Being angry is completely valid. Being upset is completely valid. When people hurt you or let you down, you have every right to be upset. What I wish to learn though is how to make that passage or journey after something like that so less stressful and draining. I want to learn how to not let stuff like that be extra building blocks for the walls my anxiety puts up. I want to learn how to feel something, feel the feelings I am allowed to feel as a human, but then communicate with people who care about me and take the steps and responsibility to not let it break my confidence down but instead learn from it, distance myself from the pain and carry on. I don’t want anxiety to be my definition or control parts of my life.

So I don’t really have any happy ending or resolution for all this but that’s kind of how living with anxiety can be, isn’t it? Some times you will actually feel a release or something will happen and you’ll be told by others how much ‘better you’re doing’ and you think ‘Wow, I’ve done it, I’ve beaten anxiety’. But the reality is sometimes it’ll come back and come back hard and honestly that’s what I’m going through right now. I hope maybe as time goes by, I’ll be able to figure out how to live with it and accept it.

 

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surviving real world responsibilities: what I wish I had known when I started college

In England, we tend to start college/sixth form at the age of 16. I’m completely unaware if this is still the situation, I always hear people rambling like “ooh we (my age group) were the lucky ones, everyone has to stay on school now” and I’m never sure what they mean cause I see 16 year olds doing many different things, but right now I cannot be bothered to look into it.

Nonetheless, when I left high school and got my results I immediately enrolled onto my local college. I had the options of local colleges or my high school’s sixth form and I went for my local one. I did a BTEC course in Art and Design which meant it’d be the only subject I’d be studying but on a full-time course with projects and working in units instead of studying towards exams, like A levels.

I remember absolutely bricking it my first day. I’m one of those people who can get very excited for new starts – I love buying new stationary, clothes etc. for new college, work or school year. But at the end of the day, when I start I still feel like I’m not ready enough. So here is my best advice for starting your first year of college, and mostly things I wish I had known.

1) Your class will more than likely do ice breakers. They are tedious, but don’t mean a thing. – As someone with anxiety, and just general fear of talking in front of huge groups, I absolutely despise ‘ice breakers’ in classes more than anything in education. “Tell us your name and something interesting about myself”; oh god what if I pronounce my name wrong?! oh god I don’t know anything about myself?! god don’t teachers know thinking you’re interesting is not hip and cool anymore?! – breathe. Everybody is nervous on the first day, and if anything when you’re standing up and going “Hi I’m [x], and erm… I have a pet dog called Spot”, somebody will be panicking inside about if their sweat patches are showing through their shirt or if they’ve brought everything they need on the first day.

2) Please have a good breakfast before you head to college and have a bottle of water on hand. –  I’ll be completely honest, I could do with this advice being ingrained on my forehead for every new situation. A lot of places will suggest this during life. Before college, before an exam, before a job interview, when you get a tattoo/piercing, when you go to the dentist or doctors. Why? Because it’s damn good advice even if you don’t think it is. Nerves feel horrible and nauseous in your stomach on the first day, and having them on an empty stomach and when you are dehydrated is even worse. Grabbing some fruit like blueberries or a banana before you head to college is a great idea as both are great stimulants plus bananas are low-release energy snacks which will help you through the day and blueberries are known to help with anxiety! If you are scared you will be in too much of a rush for breakfast, I suggest packing fruit based snacks in your bag the night before. My favourite quick breakfast snack is Nakd Bars. They are vegan, dairy/gluten/GM-free fruit and nut bars which are delicious and come in such lovely flavours! My favourite is definitely the ginger bread ones!
3) You will make new friends at college. High school friends aren’t always forever. – Whenever I had friendship drama growing up, my sisters would always advise me with “my best friends now I didn’t meet until college/university” and I would  ignore that because I thought, who’s going to make friends with me in college when everybody already has their high school friends?! I was very wrong, and I’m glad I was. When I look back, me and most of my high school ‘friends’ had nothing in common. Some of us got along cause we were in the same classes and would have to see each other everyday and I would immediately consider them friends. Some of us only spoke because they were friends with my friends. I only talk to about one friend from high school now and that’s because we actually have stuff in common and we are actually close friends who make an effort to talk when we barely see each other. Some of my high school friends still talk to each other, but a lot of us have new friends who we met in college and if anything that friendship does seem to last longer than a high school one. So don’t worry about if you are starting to drift from high school friends during college, you will make new ones.

4) Talk to your tutors if you feel something’s wrong – In my first year of college I had a lot of stress on me from several different sources which caused me to cripple quite hard under college pressure and I switched to a different college for a month or two in the second year because I was in the mindset that my art course wasn’t good for me and that I wasn’t good at it. As soon as I got into my new course doing a different subject, I immediately missed a lot of stuff from my old college that my stress had blinded me from. Luckily enough talking to my tutor over email allowed me to join back on my art course and catch up with the work that I had missed. From then on, whenever I had anxiety or stress about anything I would communicate with tutors I trusted and got along with and it definitely helped me get support with my work and my final art project. Tutors are there for a reason and want you to do the best you can. Don’t stress alone.

5) Remember at the end of the day you can go home to your comfort zone. – A lot of people say interesting things happen when you leave your comfort zone and do something you’re scared of. If your first day at college feels like an extreme step out of your comfort zone because of all the new people, new situations and having to take down loads of information for your next two college years. Remind yourself you have a comfort zone to go to after. Whether it be your bedroom, your parents, your pet,your friend’s house, your favourite cafe, library or youth centre. Keep your comfort zone as your end of day target and know you can get through your first day!

If there’s any other tips you have for young teenagers starting college please feel free to add in the comments! Childline UK also has some brilliant notes on starting a new school or college, dealing with exams and making decisions as well as other things you may encounter in college including relationships, your future and jobs!

Thanks for reading
Lenah x x