Where it would be a gross overstatement to say that I lost my teenage years to mental health. There are some truths within it. Notably that I missed out on lots of things others did at the time. What is more, throughout my struggles I didn’t really know who I was and what I really wanted to do. In the years since getting help I have tried to work this all out.
Anxiety says ‘No’
When I was really struggling with anxiety. I dreamed of doing so many things. The things I always wanted to do, things that I imagined I would be doing and things other people were doing at the time. The desire was there but I just could not do them because anxiety always got in the way.
Over time I simply resided myself to the fact that I would never do all these things. I gave up and gave in to the anxiety. I just let things pass me by. Even when I finally got the help I needed, for so long I felt defined by the anxiety I struggled with. Without it I did not really know who I was.
Who am I exactly?
In the months and years that followed, it felt rather like putting a jigsaw together. In terms of finding out which pieces fitted in the puzzle that was my life and those that did not. Without the ever present spectre of anxiety looming over and controlling me this was particularly difficult.
I had so many questions, yet so few answers. What was my purpose? What was I now meant to do after overcoming this massive thing in my life? I was confused, so I set out on a journey to try and find some answers.
Part of that journey was doing all the things I could not have done when struggling with anxiety.
I did some amazing things. All the things that I simply could not have done in the past. I moved out of home, learnt to skydive, I travelled to far flung places by myself, started relationships and stood up to speak to crowds of people.
I became more confident and self assured. And I realised that fear had held me back from doing things that I was more than capable of doing. Yet still the answers to those fundamental questions still eluded me.
It was frustrating and worryingly it made me feel anxious all over again. I started to fall back into old habits of both fear and blame. Once I became aware of this however, I had a revelation. I realised that ultimately seeking those answers did not matter. Both the questions and the answers were meaningless.
What was important was the journey. The opportunity to explore and discover what was most important to me. Living life and not holding back was the thing that defined me as a person. It was the antidote to the anxiety I suffered from for all those years.
Whereas the anxiety was all about control. Living life post anxiety is all about freedom and choice. In attempting to answer those questions I was just pandering to that old way of thinking. I did not need the answers, for they would ultimately come in time. I simply had to live.
And in doing so, rather than looking for them and getting frustrated, they would come to me. By coming to this realisation I broke that last thread that held me to the anxiety I struggle with.
I have to admit I still have days where I struggle. Still wanting to know those answers. I feel my frustration grow and I feel fear creeping back in. That old familiar voice, tinged with caution asking ‘what are you doing?’ or ‘where are you going?’. I can sense its desire for control and I resist. It is only when I let it go do I find the peace of mind I need.
Dealing with a mental health issue will leave you with many questions. Questions that will want the answers to. That you feel that because of all that you have been through, deserve the answers to. Not getting them can be incredibly disheartening and can make you feel like a failure.
However by letting go of any expectations you may place on yourself you can gain the peace of mind you need to move on. And really start to live the life you deserve to live. Free from all those things that held you back.