Anxiety, It’s Everywhere

About 2 and  a half years ago, I quit my job. I was a GM in the hospitality industry, I was earning good money, I had been there for 5 years so I knew what I was doing and I was good at it. It all sounds pretty positive right? But I needed to get out, I needed to fix my work life balance, and think about the next step in my career. So I quit and took a 3 month break while I worked out what to do next.

I started this blog with the full intention of writing consistently as a challenge and to work on being a better me, if you look back through my posts you will see that I didn’t follow through with the writing. It had all started with a hiss and a roar and then it all fell away, so what happened? Why did I stop?

Because the challenge to work on myself took an unexpected turn.

Anxiety

Its a term that you hear about more and more these days, people talk about being anxious about the big things, a new job, trying something new or adrenaline sports like skydiving, but what they don’t talk about is the small things. Very rarely do you hear people talking about being anxious about going to the supermarket, meeting their friends, leaving the house or even getting out of bed but yet here I was, dealing with these things on a daily basis, so what was wrong with me? As I discovered, absolutely nothing.

You might think reading this far, that my anxiety is long gone, a chapter of my life that has closed and exists only in the past, however it has only shifted, never gone. I still deal with anxiety on a daily basis, whether it is going to the supermarket or the bank, going to work and having to be the centre of attention in a meeting (I love my job by the way), or the challenge of meeting up with friends, the truth is, inside I’m terrified. People who knew about my anxiety when it first came up say to me now “You seem so much better”, in reality it’s like being Bruce Banner (AKA The Hulk), I always have some anxiety hiding somewhere.

“That’s my secret Captain, I’m always angry anxious” ¹

Speaking About It

At first, I didn’t want to talk to anyone about my anxiety, I was naturally worried about it Every time I thought about telling someone, a million thoughts went through my mind. Things like:

  • What if they think its stupid?
  • What if they think I’m weak?
  • What if they tell everyone about it?
  • What if they don’t understand?

It didn’t feel like it was a normal thing, if it was I would have heard about it right?

Wrong

1 in 4 New Zealanders will experience anxiety at some point in their life*. When I first read that, I knew it must be wrong, 25% of the country? Really? Of course there are differing levels of anxiety and everyone’s experience will be completely different but it made me think, maybe I can talk to others about this. So I started, slowly and very selectively, talking to people in my life about it, friends, family, my boss and work colleagues and the response I got shocked me.

  • Nobody thought it was stupid.
  • Nobody thought I was weak.
  • Nobody shared it with anyone else without my permission.
  • Everybody understood.

People, who it seemed had all the confidence in the world, started sharing their experiences with me back. Not everyone, but the majority of people I spoke to, had their own experience with anxiety to share. It was one of the big things that has made it easier to deal with, not only had I found out that I wasn’t alone, but I had all these people who I knew could support me and that I could support back.

My Next Steps

This journey has felt like a long one, there have been countless dips and crests on this rollercoaster, and I’m not done yet. As I move forward I am constantly finding out new things about my anxiety and I am often surprised by how activities that used to root me to the spot with fear are becoming easier with time. This is called exposure and has been one of the hardest tools to use. It consists of putting myself in situations where I know my anxiety will take hold, and then battling it out as long as I can.

The Hill Analogy

You see, anxiety is like climbing a hill. It starts off as an uphill battle, and the closer you get to the top, the harder it gets, the more exhausted you are. If you can make it to the top, you’re exhausted but the downhill journey becomes more simple and soon you are at the bottom looking up at what you have conquered. This is your first time in the situation.

The next time you try the hill, you know it’s going to be hard, you know how it feels on that uphill struggle. Even just thinking about it makes you want to go back to bed and hide under the covers. But if you can push through this and finish, you realise it didn’t seem as hard as last time. Your exposure is kicking in and its a combination of increased fitness and a bit of wearing the hill away. The process then becomes a “Wash, Rinse & Repeat” pattern. The more times you do it, the fitter you get. The more you wear down the hill, the less the anxiety hits. It’s like making mole hills out of mountains (yes you read that right!), eventually you are just walking along a flat piece of land. You can pass freely and enjoy the beauty of the world.

Resources

If you are in NZ and experiencing anxiety or depression, lifeline is a wonderful organisation where you can get help 24/7.

Depression.org.nz also has some great resources for both depression and anxiety.

Many workplaces can offer support through services such as EAP. If you are unsure what support your workplace can give you, there are usually ways to find out without talking to anybody but if you feel comfortable to, speak to your employer.

*Te Rau Hinengaro: The New Zealand Mental Health Survey. Wellington: Ministry of Health. 2006

¹The Avengers. Dir. Joss Whedon. Marvel Studios, 2012. Film.

Disclaimer: The above post is not my professional opinion, it is merely just my own experience. If you are struggling with anxiety or depression, please seek help from a professional.

 

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