Updated: Jan 12
It is a question I am often asked when people read about how my business came into fruition or during discussions when I relate to the often relentless, exhausting, on edge feeling some people experience because of anxiety.
The short answer is…
However it is not as bleak as it seems.
After extended talking therapies, I can look back and say I developed anxiety at some point around the age of eleven.
On the outside I often looked like the strong one, the perfectionist, constantly alert, striving for high productivity, fearing not following the plan and rarely ever asking for help. The manual for how life was meant to be done had been digested and now I just had to do it.
With every life event that took me off that path I felt like I had failed. I also knew that the manual said you just had to dust yourself off and get up again… carry on… back on that path.
A professional called this stage High Functioning Anxiety.
I did this on repeat for many years until I couldn’t.
I also developed depression and slowly disconnected to things, experiences and people as if subconsciously trying to conserve the small amount of energy I had left for just functioning on an hour by hour basis. I wanted to retreat from the world and all the thoughts that manifested themselves inside my body as some sort of unexplainable pain. I wanted to be looked after and I asked for help. It didn’t come in the way I needed it to until I asked the right people and until I was open to relearning the way I had learnt to digest expectation in my adolescence.
Although help arrived in the form of Counselling, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy through my GP, friends and family it did not wrap me up in a soft fleece blanket and let me do nothing as I thought I needed it to. At first this hurt because I just wanted to be nurtured back to health by others.
In reality comfort came in the form of self care; not candles and bath salts although these are a nice focus from time to time as they can be part of the ritual, but the self care that helps you understand yourself and what you really need.
I have written about how Reflexology works for me as a form of grounding and meditation in a safe space, but there are other tools I learnt to use to rewire my mindset in addition to CBT and Complementary Therapy:
Listening to podcasts and reading to learn about anxiety, but also to focus my mind on something other than my own thoughts on repeat.
Audio books kept me company when I felt alone or wanted to switch off but like novels, films and who I followed on social media I started to pay attention to whether the content was helping or hindering my thoughts.
I know I have to get moving every day; sometimes that’s yoga and other days it’s a walk into the mountains, round the community gardens or along the beach. When I started I would need a focus like finding three interesting or beautiful things to photograph; this was an activity the children would also participate in and is something we have continued to do from time to time.
Thinking about what I was going to eat and mindfully preparing healthy meals became part of my everyday, at least it did eventually after lots of reverting back to less nutritious snacking. There are so many super foods and supplements I wanted to invest in but to start I drank a pint of water on an empty stomach first thing in the morning, and increased my water intake throughout the day because that feels like nurturing every cell in my body.
Giving myself time to stop; just ten or twenty minutes to lie on my heated blanket with a guided meditation playing gives me that sense of being held with nothing else to do but melt into the safe space.
I see my anxiety as the eleven year old girl inside me; sometimes she still seems confused and hurt. She needs me, as I am now, to breath deep into my belly and hold her hand. She needs me to acknowledge her presence, to listen but to reassure her that there are ways of doing things that are different from what she learnt but no less valued.
I did not get over anxiety but I did learn to nurture all stages of my being from a place of love and understanding.