I have been an anxious and neurotic person for as long as I can remember. I think back to my childhood, back when I didn’t have the language to identify that I was anxious.
I would walk around convinced that my appendix would explode at any moment. This anxiety didn’t stem from anything, I’d never experienced severe stomach pain but I was so sure that my appendix would burst and that I’d be alone and vulnerable and no one would be around to help me. (By the way this never happened and my appendix is still going strong… also I just touched wood to make sure I haven’t now jinxed myself). The years of therapy haven’t quite sorted out my neuroses.
There are little moments like this that I reflect on and realise that I’ve always had anxious tendencies. Whenever I walk onto a plane I have to touch my forehead to guarantee that it will be a safe flight (the weird looks I get are worth it). However, it wasn’t until 2009 when my parents were getting a divorce that my anxiety developed into a debilitating mental health issue.
I was away in Victoria for boarding school at the start of their divorce (my family were based in Sydney). I was so far removed from family life that I was able to avoid ever having to talk about it. It wasn’t until the summer holidays of 2009 when I came home to face the reality that my family was falling apart that I felt like the rug had been pulled out from under me.
I am a total homebody, I rely heavily on being in a home environment despite leaving for boarding school when I was 12. I needed security and a base; I was desperately trying to find a sense of home somewhere. My anxiety led to a fair few days in bed where I couldn’t get up and go to classes and be with my friends.
During all of this, I never wanted to burden my friends so I kept a lot of my anxiety to myself. Trying to deal with my anxiety alone and not talking about it only made it worse, it wasn’t until I felt entirely hopeless that I realised I had to reach out and get help. I am so lucky that I was able to talk to a psychologist and I am so thankful that my family were (and still are) pro-therapy. I am aware of how privileged I am to be encouraged to access this resource and understand it isn’t as simple as this for everyone.
There is a lot of stigma around seeing a psychologist — there are people who believe that therapy is ‘weak’ or ‘self indulgent’ or ‘unimportant’. However, in my experience it not only massively helps you, it helps those close to you. Therapy has made me a better friend, daughter and sister. I can say without a doubt in my mind that seeing a psychologist saved my teenage years. It gave me the strategies and tools I needed to help get through my anxiety.
In my experience, seeking guidance and support from professionals when you’re suffering from mental health issues is crucial because it teaches you strategies that you can implement in your day-to-day life. And it’s not just me who thinks this. Musician Tash Sultana took to her Instagram to speak about her struggles and how important it is to reach out when you’re not in a good head space. She wrote, “There are people listening, nothing lasts forever when you accept that things will change. Feed your brain with beautiful thoughts, things and people. Keep going on.”
For me, when my anxiety was at its worst I thought I’d never recover or bounce back. It felt almost impossible to see the light at the end of the tunnel. And then one day I woke up and I felt a little less shaken. I could do a task that would usually create a huge amount of anxiety with little to no stress at all, I felt stronger and braver. The joy I felt when achieving these tasks was indescribable. Once you know the power of your own strength and resilience and know that you will bounce back, combating anxiety becomes less and less daunting. That first tiny victory paves the way for many more to come.
Take it from someone who sat mid panic attack, crying hysterically into their Dad’s arms multiple times asking ‘will I ever feel okay again?’ Trust me, I did. Anxiety isn’t something I’ve cured, it’s something I manage. Therapy and the resources that are available have helped me manage and understand my anxiety far better.
Have some faith in yourself, it will get easier. YOU WILL GET THROUGH THIS. Reach out to loved ones, have faith and reach out to the support available — it WILL get better. If you’re struggling with some mental health issues, there are resources support networks you can reach out to. You can read more about some of the many available mental health resources here or via the links below.
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Looking after your mental health is mega important. If you or someone you know is experiencing mental health issues there are free and confidential services you can access. Headspace is a free service for young people up to 25 years — visit the Headspace website. You can also access Lifeline 24/7 for crisis support and suicide prevention (ph: 13 11 14) or beyondblue (ph: 1300 22 4636).