World Mental health day
This is a post I never thought I would be writing but I believe it is super important to show anxiety is for one, not all of me. I do lead a relatively and more often than not a very optimistic and happy life. A life which I love. I also want to highlight that even with the struggles I have had, good things have come from having anxiety which I will say it, I am grateful for.
Since the beginning of this year when I began to open up about my mental health I have felt a huge weight lift from my shoulders. Yet, still, it feels as soon as you mention mental health people are quick to assume a big grey cloud of gloom follows you around like you are Eeyore.
I know everyone’s battles are different and I have reached a point where I can function quite happily most of the time. I want to note that I am certainly not speaking for everyone with this post. I find the physical symptoms of anxiety such as feelings in my stomach, lack of concentration, feeling on edge, insomnia etc more of a burden than the thoughts.
If someone took me back ten or so years and said Jade here is a life with no eating disorders, no anxiety, you can live a fairly relaxed carefree life, you can bet my life I would have run with that idealistic future life. I am not saying I am glad I have battled with anxiety and that I wouldn’t wish it away if I could (something my therapist tells me I try too hard to do with no success, it is not possible) because I would. Nonetheless, like everything, what doesn’t kill you, and after the storm and whatever else they say, there is always some good to follow the bad. So for World Mental Health Day today, I have made an attempt to cover the good personality traits I have gained from my anxiety.
It has made me a thoughtful person
Easily done when all I do is think but my overthinking, my note-taking, diary keeping and just being organised in general makes me remember a lot, or unable to forget most things. I am good at remembering birthdays, special occasions, to do nice things for people and so on. I remember when I need to text friends and if they need a little pick me up. I remember if someone says they are feeling low and how the little check-ins in the past have really helped me, so I do the same. I know how I have relied on other people being there for me a lot which as a result has made me into a much more compassionate person.
It has made me enjoy exercise
I was so bad at exercise when I was a child and throughout my school years. I made up having asthma to get out of the school cross-country run. The only thing I could do was horse riding and swimming as my Mum never let me miss a swim or netball practice. Girls lined up on ‘period absence’ as I continued to swim and play netball whilst still never getting picked for any team, thanks Mum killed my ego. I was crap. I let my self conscious self hide away from these ‘elite’ sports such as running because I knew I wasn’t a runner and I had no idea how to get into a gym let alone what to do in one. I wasn’t concerned about exercising for weight because I had an eating disorder so I was already skinny. It was post-ED when I had a healthier relationship with my body but a terrible relationship with my mind I started running and going to the gym and soon the girl who couldn’t run 100m was suddenly semi enjoying a 10 Km run. I honestly don’t know where my mental health would be now without exercise. My anxiety put me in a position where I now enjoy exercise to clear my mind instead of seeing it as something which has to be endured.
It makes me productive and organised
I can get a lot done in a very short space of time. I don’t know why. I sometimes don’t know how I do it all either. I don’t sit still much I guess, I hate having things ‘to do’ on my mind and I am very good with time and for those reasons alone it makes me very productive.
My extended family joke that I am the PA of them all. I arrange the present buying, send birthday reminders, plan all our days out. I plan the holidays for my friends, keep up with friend’s special occasions, post cards and presents out to arrive on time. I can juggle running a business, a blog, a full-time job, reading, riding, photography, exercise and seeing friends because I am good at organising my time. I know I am a thoughtful person but I don’t think I would have been as organised without my trouble with anxiety. If I hadn’t been able to organise myself this well it would have given me another thing to worry about.
It has given me a healthy perspective of my body and how I look
Often because I have bigger things to worry about and I know I don’t want to fall back into bad habits. I am happy with how I look. Of course every now and then I wish I was a little thinner, very occasionally I wish I was a little fatter.
Criticism, however rarely comes in the form of how my body looks. This is not because I look amazing, it is because frankly, no one gives a shit how I look. I can grow from others critiquing areas of my life I can improve, this is what I take note of. Without my Eating Disorder, anxiety and the struggles, I have faced with myself as a whole which did once include my physical appearance I know I wouldn’t be this confident now.
It has made me empathetic towards others
I think this is the most important quality of them all. I started talking about my mental health more because I wanted to be more honest to help others. I was seeing daily updates about adults my age taking their lives after battling silently and I thought, if I don’t say anything, I am no better. I wanted others to know they could talk to me, I wouldn’t judge and I would offer what advice I could.
Struggling with anxiety myself has made me a lot more empathetic towards others because I know it is not just ‘feeling a bit nervous’ and that just ‘forgetting about it’ and ‘seeing friends’ often won’t help.
This is not mental health alone. I have found my anxiety struggle has made me more mindful of those who say they have IBS for example or ANY other illness we cannot see. Just because you can’t see it and you don’t understand how it feels it doesn’t me it doesn’t cause that person a tremendous amount of pain.
I am a very good listener – unless I have no concentration
My social anxiety doesn’t come in the form of not wanting to go out or see people. Often I am on the flip side, I love a night out, I love dancing, live music and being with my friends. My social anxiety makes me incredibly shy and quiet around people I like when I first meet them. This is so often misunderstood for arrogance, boredom or rudeness which is not the case. I become engulfed by nerves and take too long to say what I want to say and then I feel as though I have missed the moment. I also struggle with replaying what I have said to the point I convince myself I have been an absolute fool. This may sound like a nightmare to most people but from it I have learned to be a really good listener, to let others talk and let myself chirp in when I feel more comfortable with the conversation.
It makes me take care of the work I produce
One of the ‘symptoms’ if you can call it that, of anxiety is perfectionism. I am not saying I am perfect at anything but the constant need to strive for that level can be exhausting. You can suffer from imposter syndrome and it can prevent you from pushing yourself towards goals because you never feel good enough. It can also have the opposite effect. I often felt whatever I did was not good enough but my anxiety has pushed me to work harder, try harder and keep doing things until I was happy about them. I genuinely think my work has benefited from my anxiety because without it I just wouldn’t care this much.
I learn so much keeping myself busy with books and podcasts
One of my least favourite anxiety traits is not being able to sit comfortably with my thoughts. They are not dark or scary, it is just that I like to keep busy which means I either need music or podcasts on whilst I am working, walking, running etc. This has resulted in years of me absorbing information, jokes, comedy or recommendations via podcasts which I value. I also feel much better if I relax properly before I go to bed so you will always find me with a book on the go. I have always loved reading since I was a child, but I know learning to keep my anxiety at bay has heightened my love for reading.
It has made me a lot more confident in myself by sharing things to help others
I am a notoriously quiet person. I can go without speaking until someone speaks to me. It is not out of rudeness or arrogance as I have mentioned, I am just quite happy with my own company. Despite my love for solitude, I do have a strong circle of friends which means I never get the chance to feel lonely. It doesn’t matter, however, how much love and company you are surrounded by (trust me I have it in abundance) anxiety can make you feel so bloody alone, even in a room full of your favourite people. I didn’t want a life where I always felt like this so it pushed me to be a lot more confident, to talk to others and to push myself in situations I didn’t like. I leaned on Instagram to share things which have helped and which keep me motivated as a result I have become so much more confident and open about sharing who I really am and how I feel online and in real life.
It has pushed me out of my comfort zone because I don’t want to be controlled by it
Similar to the above I believe having anxiety has pushed me out of my comfort zone to do things I don’t think I would not have done if I didn’t worry about things so much. These worries often start as an internal dialogue which makes me go against my worries I know are just in my head and then I go do them anyway. I think without this I would have probably just bobbed along.
And this is my list of positives. I know for many of you reading this, thinking up positives for an illness which can often feel so isolating and limiting is incomprehensible but I am down the line of therapy and a lot of help. It’s not an easy place to get to but I hope it gives others hope. For anyone interested in mental health, either because you are struggling with your own or you want to help someone you know with theirs I recommend reading ‘It is not ok to feel blue and other lies’ it has helped me so much. I know it is a book I will lean on in years to come.