Around this time 3 years ago, I had locked myself in a hotel room in Belgium over fear that there was no way I would make it home. I didn’t want to be there, but I didn’t want to move either. I was terrified. I never wanted to travel again. It’s hard to know what actually happened to put me in this state of panic, but the feeling had been creeping up on me for a while. This was the moment that I realised that something needed to change, and that this was not the way I wanted to live my life.
Anxiety had crept up on me so slowly that I didn’t even realise what had happened. I was so convinced that the world was terrifying and that something terrible was going to happen to me, that I thought it was normal. I kept myself busy with work and university, and convinced myself that everyone else felt the same. The stress of the months leading up to my trip all came to a boiling point on that day.
It was the lowest point of my life, but also a turning point that forced me to build myself up again. It was going to be difficult but I was determined. For a few months, I battled hard against my anxiety and tried to push the anxious thoughts out of my mind. I thought that if I tried hard enough, I would be able to force my brain and body to revert back to how I was feeling before the anxiety took hold. It didn’t work.
The realisation that I needed to understand and accept my anxiety was my first step in getting better. I started seeing a counsellor who helped me to understand my thoughts and feelings, and provided me with different coping mechanisms. I also started reading books about anxiety and mindfulness such as ‘The Anxiety Solution: A Quieter Mind, A Calmer You’ by Chloe Brotheridge. There was no quick fix. It took patience and perseverance, and the changes were small and slow. I began to understand what happens to my body when anxiety hits. The more I understood about it, the less it seemed like the scary, huge dark cloud over my life.
My anxiety hadn’t gone, but I started to learn to live with it. Rather than trying to block out my anxious thoughts, I let them in and then let them go. Instead of fearing my anxiety, I faced it.
One year later, I set out on a road trip to four different countries. It was something that I thought I would never be able to do again. Don’t get me wrong, it came with it’s challenges, but I did it. In actual fact, I think the worry of becoming anxious was the worst part.
Three years on from that experience, and my life has changed dramatically. I have travelled further, done things that I never thought I would and found that happy, care-free girl that I’d been before. Don’t get me wrong, my anxiety sometimes pays me a visit and life isn’t always easy, but the journey of learning about myself has given me a new outlook.
My journey towards living an anxiety-free life has shown me the importance of self-care and development, even when you don’t think you need to. Pick up that self-development book, take that mindfulness course, or talk to someone about anything you might be feeling. Treat every day as another opportunity to shape a happier and healthier you.