A New Chapter: Goodbye Anxiety, Hello Life

'Your life does not get better my chance, it gets better by change.'

Generalised Anxiety Disorder (and numerous horrific bi-products) consumed my mind and my life for far too long. The lines are blurred when it comes to 'recovery', but I realised recently that for the first time I referred to my struggle as a thing of the past. My name is Amy, and  I had anxiety. Yes I am still battling… yes every day is a struggle… yes sometimes I still want to curl up and give in- but I don't. And that, for me, is what 'recovery' is all about. It's not ridding your mind of the thoughts altogether, but having the strength not to act upon them.

People often struggle to understand mental health issues, especially when these situations happen to people like me. People who come from a loving family, live in a nice house, are well educated and on the outside appear to have everything required to live a happy and healthy life. But despite that, I was trapped by my own mind. It started out very simply: the death of my granddad confused me. At 8 years old I watched a strong man I loved and cared about more than anything in the world become weak as he battled with Cancer. There were a lot of thoughts inside my head which I couldn't piece together, and the only rational way my mind could possibly comprehend the situation was to convince myself that as long as my granddad remained stronger than me, was bigger than me and was proud of me, he would be OK. Eventually, he lost his five year battle and passed away. Distraught and guilt ridden, I couldn't bring myself to attend his funeral, I refused to accept the reality that a man I admired and cared about so much was no longer there. And I felt immensely guilty about it. What started out as grief developed into a relentless ten year inner battle of self-destruction.

Anxiety was like a friend. A friend that bitched behind my back, and didn't invite me to parties, yet I loved it unconditionally despite this. It lured me into a false sense of security and then trapped me. It used me and humiliated me, but it also protected me. Anxiety made me fear everything, but anxiety was my comfort blanket. To let go and take on the world alone was a frightening prospect- anxiety lessened this fear, but all the time I knew that it was the root of all my problems. Anxiety was both the cause and the solution. I stayed locked up in my room where no one could see me, speak to me or harm me. Never once did I realise that the very thing that was harming me was my own mind, and being alone with the most destructive weapon I owned was the quickest way to ensure I sprinted head first into disaster.

It all came to a head when I was 18. When I was no longer just feeling stressed, no longer just feeling lonely, no longer just losing weight, but also losing my reality, my personality, my friends. I began a destructive cycle in which I pushed everything away from me and became an empty shell of the person that I once was. Internally I have always been very strong willed, but externally I have continually searched for approval from everyone around me. From as young as I can remember I have always allowed friends to control me. As I grew up, I allowed boys, hormones and emotions to control me. And then I allowed stress to control me. And then I allowed food to control me. And then I lost all control. Anxiety was in 100% control of me and my life. I was no longer Amy. I was a reclusive, destructive, introverted shell. 

A shell so frightened of life that I no longer lived at all. So frightened that I not only stopped eating, but stopped drinking water too. So frightened of myself that I refused to look in a mirror, some days refused to switch on a light, and some days refused to even open my eyes and leave my bed at all.

And then I realised that I had two options: 1. To spend every single day of the rest of my life existing in the way I was currently existing. 2. To live.

And I chose to live. I realised that life was hard and life was unfair, but being cruel and horrible to myself was not going to make it any easier. I was a bully. I spent ten years of my life treating myself in a way that I would never dream of treating another person, yet I never regarded myself as being worthy of the same treatment as anyone else. In my head I was worthless, I didn't deserve success or happiness because I was weak and guilty. I tried to redeem myself through working, becoming a straight A student, but it wasn't enough, I tried to make myself as small as possible, hoping that I would eventually fade away so maybe people would begin to see past me and ignore me, but it didn't work. So eventually I stopped doing anything at all, and would lie in a dark room for days with no other human contact. I deserved to be ill. The countless blood tests and doctors visits were punishment to myself. But deep down, I no longer wanted to be punished. So I tried really really hard to stop. The two years and five months since I made that decision have been the hardest of my life. It is physically exhausting battling with yourself from the moment you wake up at 4am to the moment you go to sleep at 11pm, but here I am, stronger and healthier than I ever dreamed I could be.

I realise now that strength is not what I once thought it was. My granddad never lost his strength, he was and always will be the strongest person I have ever had the honour of knowing and loving.

I'm not really 100% sure why I was inspired to write this blog post… maybe it was the recent realisation that this journey is a slow process, but quitting won't speed it up. The realisation that on a day to day basis things don't seem any different, but when you take a moment to step back everything has changed. Maybe it was the fact that it was reading blog posts similar to this one that encouraged me to seek help in the first place, the fact that reading other people's stories gave me the strength to see that there is another happier and healthier life beyond anxiety. Or maybe it's the hope that someone in the world will be feeling like I once felt, and this may help them to realise that there is always a choice.
I chose life and you can too.