If you’ve been reading this blog you’ll probably have realised by now that there’s been about a 3 month silence after the initial rush of enthusiam.
I’ve found throughout my life that I’m given to wild splashes of activity followed by completely forgetting that I was doing this thing in the first place.
Case in point – this blog.
Important or not?
This blog is extremely important to me, I suffered from anxiety for over 22 years undiagnosed and 35 years before I felt I’d mainly beaten it. So you’d think I’d keep writing wouldn’t you?
However, the most important thing I’ve learned in recent years, which has taken a heck of a lot of pressure off me is:
At times I will lose track of things and let myself down.
The second most important thing I’ve learned is:
I don’t beat myself up about it.
Yes, I started a blog that I hoped would be helpful, kept meaning to do another post and became side tracked. No that isn’t ideal. Yes, I’m only human. Vitally:
At least I’m out here trying to do something to help, trying to do some good.
Instead of Beating Yourself Up…
…and feeding your anxiety over not being good enough:
Learn to accept your humanity as a fact
Apologise if necessary (and I am sorry)
Get back on track
And in my case…read your to do list!
We’re all imperfect, we all try, we all fall down sometimes, but your anxiety will thank you if you relax into who you are, understand that life gets in the way, get back on track, and find solutions to help keep you on track.
During this most unusual of years I’ve watched social media carefully, as I do. It’s the place where I get most of my inspiration, and learn about how many ways people can find to upset and stress themselves, and others.
For those suffering with anxiety and depression, social media is often not a good place to visit. Never more so than now.
Theories and Facts
Social media has been awash with some very alarming theories and ‘facts’, facts that so far I’ve seen no proof of other than someone somewhere says so. Various ‘experts’ have been trotted out, on both sides of the equation, and those who believe one thing the other is an idiot, and vice versa.
Because we don’t know what’s going on, we’ve never had to deal with a pandemic on this scale, it has been a steep learning curve for governments, the medical profession, scientists, and individuals. Obviously mistakes have been made, and it should have been obvious that they would be made.
As you grow through a new process you learn, re-learn, and eventually have a clue what you’re doing, until the next time when it’s different. There was a Spanish Flu pandemic in 1918, it spread as far as it did as military people were returning home after the war. It was particularly cruel as many had survived the war, then the flu hit the camps, and their families had to be told that after surviving years of horror they had died, abroad, of the flu.
As you may imagine, people reached back to that pandemic as an example of what we should do during this one, over a century later. In a time when international travel is rife. It was always going to be bad.
Many humans push the responsibility for their lives onto the government, whilst complaining about living in a Nanny state. Opposition parties see their role as constant criticism. MPs and PMs are not medical experts, they are not education experts, they are not scientists, and so on. As such they must rely on the people who are experts to guide them.
It’s been clear throughout this pandemic that some people will try to help, some will do as they please, and many are bewildered.
So What Does This Mean for Anxiety?
It means that you have to distance yourself from what’s going on. If you’ve been, or still are, engaging with social media, the news media, and various conspiracy theories, it’s likely that you will be feeling much worse than you need to. Apart from knowing what it is safe for you to do, you should be focusing your mind elsewhere.
It’s not avoidance, it’s common sense when there are no real answers and few real facts. Why subject yourself to the pressure of the opinions of others when it makes you feel ill and frightened?
When it comes to conspiracy theories, I have a nice upholstered armchair firmly on the fence. Undoubtedly there are things going on in this world that would make my hair stand on end, and probably had a peaceful person reaching for a bat. However, I can’t prove any of those things and frankly I wouldn’t know where to find proof I could trust nowadays. Between computer hackers, the media, and social media, I’m not even sure the truth is out there anymore. There are so many factions interfering in so many things, unless you have absolute proof it’s better to sit back and wait. Work out what you believe when you see some concrete evidence.
This is a bad time, accept that it’s a bad time and it will have affected you, but you have the power to decide how much it’s going to affect you. Never forget that. Your mind is your own, and only you have the power to protect it.
We’ve all had the feeling of being judged and found to be less than someone else thinks we should be, but have you ever stopped to consider the kind of person who would be judgemental, especially towards something with mental health issues?
Sometimes it’s easy to think you’re less than them because they’re saying so, but isn’t judgement cruel and unkind? I would say that’s far worse than struggling with your own mind for good reason.
However, the stronger you get, the more centred you become, the sooner they will fade to the edges of your life and disappear once and for all.
Here’s something I wrote in 2004 when I was feeling judged and found wanting, from all sides.
Just a quick aside. I have an alter-ego called Mildred Scrunge, where the idea came from I don’t know, but I am a creative writer. Mildred is a law unto herself, refuses to conform with anything or anyone, and lives life by her own terms.
What I find therapeutic about her is that she forces me to look at life in a different way, more importantly she used to force me out of my acute anxiety in order to make her funny.
Sometimes, when you’re feeling low you need to think about different ways to help yourself. I started with poetry, some of which I will put on here, some of which I tore up years later because I couldn’t bear to have in writing how awful I used to feel. I moved on to plays, then self-help books. However, I’m having far more fun channelling my crazy alter-ego than I was doing anything else.
What is something totally different that you’ve always wanted to do? It might be the time to grit your teeth, screw your courage to the sticking post, find your stubborn gene, and try it. You might think that you haven’t got the energy, but in truth it’s staying with the old habits, old thoughts, and old ways of being that is draining your energy. However, small it is, try something different!
By 1984 I was in such a bad place that I decided that the only thing I could do was find something more important in my life than myself and what I was going through. I was fighting so hard to stay sane that my entire mind was taken up with the battle.
Having been terrified of cats since I was 9 years old, I suddenly decided that the answer was two kittens. As you may imagine that surprised everyone that knew me. My ex wasn’t keen (understatement) and it took me 3 months to talk him into having a cat; they were 3 months old when we got them. I now see the spiritual support in how that happened.
I called a few rescue centres and one told me that they had 3 kittens a ginger and white, a black and white, and a tortoiseshell and white , I knew that where we had to go. My ex said that if he had to have a cat it would have to be a ginger tom as they’re crazy and fun. Before we went I chose two names, Gingernut to placate him because they were the only biscuits he liked, and Marbles for the girl on the grounds that if she ever went missing I could go to the police and tell them I’d lost my marbles. It stopped being amusing when they hid under the sink and I couldn’t find them for two minutes.
When we got there, there were only two kittens, those two, and the lady said it was really odd because they’d called him a ginger nutcase that morning, and commented that her colouring was just like a marble because none of her colours blended, she was either black, ginger, or white. It’s these things that showed me, and still do, that our spirit guides, guardian angels, and soul group will always help us if they can, and we allow it.
The immediate change I hoped for
I had been under the hospital for two years by that time with gynae issues. I will say they’d been magnificent and I couldn’t fault them, but as a sufferer from medical anxiety being under a hospital was torture for me.
They were spayed and neutered a month later, and the next day I was due a check up which included a test many women do not look forward to. I walked in, hopped up on the couch, said “Can we get this over quickly please because my kittens were spayed yesterday and I really need to get home?” I spent the test time worrying about Marby, who had decided that the only possible place to hide and demonstrate her displeasure was under a pile of grubby decorating equipment (I’m wiser to those shenanigans now), in case she got her wound grubby. For the first time ever I wasn’t impacted. It was exactly what I’d hoped for, I was no longer living trapped inside my own mind.
The Marby and Geris Lesson
What those two beautiful beings taught me was that it’s important for someone with anxiety to have something important in their life, somewhere they’re needed, someone who needs them. You might fear that you’ll let people down by being unable to cope, and not everyone would be suited to looking after animals, that’s not a criticism, we all have to find our own way and why.
I would though encourage you to find a why, a purpose, something where you know you’re contributing. It doesn’t matter what it is, it doesn’t matter what you do, this is your journey, as long as it has the Marby and Geris effect of freeing you from your own mind.
Obviously I lost them
Having homed them in 1984, I lost Geris in 1999. That was something I didn’t think I could survive, but I did because of them. I lost my darling girl in 2001, and the loss of the second one of my saviours was so, so hard, but again I survived it, because of them and what they’d taught me.
Our path has been to home other cats in trouble and need, and when I say our, I mean the second husband who actually likes me, Tony. He’s as cat crazy as I am, and we’re up to 11 and 12 now, technically speaking, with 5 living with us, including 19 year old Jo-Jo. That’s an entire other story and I’ll tell you in one day to really demonstrate the power of believing that there’s more to this world that what we can see, hear, touch, feel, smell, and sense. Much, much, more.
Just grab the take away, that finding something important to you can be a complete life changed, and the life belt you can cling to as you work on your recovery.
Attitude is everything is one of those clichés which is in fact a simple statement of fact. Everything you think about creates the attitude with which you approach and live your life.
At the moment we’re in a particularly turbulent time, perhaps the most unsettled time in my entire life – of over 63 years. To complicate this we have social media. A million different opinions, a billion gurus, and thousands of people who think they’re attitude is right because they’ve chosen the evidence that supports it. That’s true of the vast majority of humans of course, but what keeps things balanced is a flexible approach and the willingness to listen, and that’s often lacking.
Engage With Care
If you suffer with anxiety it will come as no surprise to you that I’m recommending that you’re highly discerning as to to the conversations you engage in, and the people you engage with. If your wall drives you crazy and adds to your stress, have no embarrassment in reducing your connections to people that you can deal with.
There is an attitude that to be ‘someone’ you need loads and loads of Facebook friends or Twitter/Instagram followers. Unless you’re famous you don’t. You need to be enjoying your life and controlling your social media threads will help enourmously.
Does it matter what they think?
Does it matter what you think? I’m an arch communicator, handy for a writer and public speaker, but by the same token it’s not been the greatest thing when it comes to social media. I always have an opinion, which has turned out to be a very bad idea a number of times, and I try to be a voice of reason, which is generally well received but not always.
One thing I have noted and had to accept though, is that thinking about life, having an opinion, and then defending it, is emotionally and mentally exhausting. I’ve tried to dial back considerably on the opinions I share, and come from more of a perspective of world peace and how on earth do we find ways and reasons to like and respect each other.#
If you’re suffering from anxiety one of the things you may need to do is to lessen your levels of communication. This does not mean not talking to people when you’re down and struggling, it does mean not engaging with people who are angry and convinced they’re absolutely right, when your energy is low and you’re struggling to cope.
Would they subtitle the X-Files differently now?
If you were a fan of the X-Files you will know that the subtitle was “The truth is out there”. I’m not so sure it is now. So many billions of people are engaged in this truth, so many more are playing fast and loose with the truth, interfering wherever they can and trying to destabilise something or other for some reason or another, even more have become researchers without research training. So they’ve looked at information, which they share, but you never see the counter-arguments, pointers to those ‘facts’, and why they reached their conclusion. There’s a real skill to ensuring that your conclusion is based on facts.
The only truth you need to be engaging in at the moment is your recovery. Wasting time on social media arguing opinions is unlikely to help you. Plus, those opinions can be rather unkind, and many people have said recently that they’re becoming scared to have an opinion. You can’t afford to use your energy in this way.
Happy Thoughts = Happy Life
Amongst other things I’m a Law of Attraction Practitioner, you may call it cosmic ordering, and actually my preferred term is manifesting – because it reminds me to get off my butt and be proactive about my life. Basically they all mean the same thing. Crystalise your thoughts about the life you really want, keep visualising it in great detail, then get out there and live and see what comes your way. Not limiting yourself to your current dreams, always ‘this or better’.
The real beauty of Manifesting though is that it requires you to keep your mind in a good place, focused on what you do want not what you don’t. That is an incredibly powerful way to think.
Just try for a week to say ‘stop’ to any negative thoughts, and redirect your mind to a dream life. Visualise the house, the job, your appearance, your leisure time, the holidays, visualise it in great detail. Take 10 minutes every day to do this, and then turn your mind back to it if it decides to wander into the past or focus on a current irritation. See how you feel? If you manage to do it you should feel things starting to change, maybe a bit of a spring in your step.
Just try…and also try to think carefully about where and when you engage, what on, and with whom.#
Your mind will thank you…no…it will absolutely adore and worship you!
This might seem like an aside from the subject of anxiety, but it’s not. When you have anxiety, and even when you don’t, you can start blaming yourself for not coping with life in general and unexpected developments in particular. These thoughts, feelings, and corresponding emotions are completely understandable, and an equally complete waste of time and energy. What you need is…
Failure to cope is one of the greatest fears you can experience, it’s all wrapped up in failure to control everything so that you can feel safe. If you’re not coping then anything could happen, and there’s nothing more uncomfortable for someone with anxiety – whose mind will spend inordinate amounts of time looking for all the possible anything’s that could happen, and worrying those anythings to death.
Perspective requires us to stop, breathe, reflect, consider, and relax.
It requires us to stop reacting and start thinking, to analyse the situation and get to the truth of it. The truth is that some situations are extremely difficult to handle and they do undo us. That happens to everyone at some point in their lives.
It’s Not a Disaster
As an ex acute anxiety sufferer I know that things feel like a disaster and it’s very difficult to pull away from that feeling, but you do need to.
Realise that many other people would be struggling with this, whatever it is, too.
Obvious as it sounds, realise that difficult things are difficult, for everyone.
Your difficult may not be someone else’s difficult, and that does not matter. Own your difficult!
Don’t blame yourself for being anxious when times are challenging, a real challenge is a real challenge and it’s not dictated by your anxiety.
You might feel that you’d cope brilliantly if you weren’t anxious, but that may not be true.
Back to Perspective
So the perspective is that difficult times are difficult, everyone struggles, and you need to take a mental step back in order to cope. No one can allow their mind to run amuk when life is challenging.
A simple perspective is often seen as over-simplifying things, and if you wish to believe that you will, but my spiritual training tells me that the tougher the going gets the more simplistic we need to be. Pulling back into our centre, dealing with what is happening, in other words what we can see and hear at any one time, and refusing all temptation to complicate the issue.
No this doesn’t mean that you’ve got to put an hour a day aside in order to become a meditation master really fast. It means you need to work out what calms you down and do it. For example:
My husband runs, that’s where he can connect to his guides.
A friend cleans her oven.
Another friend walks in nature.
People go to the sea (water is cleansing for emotions).
Some listen to really loud music, and dance.
Some do Yoga.
It doesn’t matter what you do as long as it relaxes you.
If you feel that meditation would be helpful to you but have never tried it, it’s really simple to start.
Get some music that you love, preferably orchestral.
Put some headphones on or in, make sure they’re comfortable.
Find the right setting, don’t face the sun but if you love the sun then sitting in a warm shaded corner may be best for you.
Sit comfortably, it doesn’t matter where, you don’t have to cross your legs, just be comfortable. As you master your mind you will be able to assume all the right seating positions.
Instead of listening to the music, listen to the music. Make it a deliberate choice, try to pick out various musical instruments, note how the music flows over and around you. Allow it to absorb you.
You probably will find that thoughts surface, and people will tell you to just let them go, it isn’t always easy, so just allow the thoughts but don’t engage with them. It won’t take much practice before you will just let them float free.
Your first meditation, or even first few, may not be relaxing, and that is understandable. If you persevere in a relaxed way it will become easier. It’s worth noting that experienced meditators have days when they can’t get into the space at all, so don’t ask too much of yourself.
A guided meditation might help.
I hope that’s simplified the idea of difficult times for you, taken your anxiety to one side of the equation, reminded you that real issues are real and they can undo everyone, and given you some tips to manage these situations.
When I was first told I had this I felt really insulted, I do believe in God and to be told that I had a God complex was horrifying. However, my counsellor explained to me that it was a way of describing someone who tried to be too perfect all the time, and was wearing themselves out doing it. That was me to a T!
This often comes from situations where you’re asked to please someone, then that’s not good enough, so you try harder but could still do better, and however hard you try the goal posts just keep moving. Many of us have had a parent, friend, or boss like that I think. This makes you try so hard to be a good person that you’re guaranteed to fail, and that destroys your confidence in you. Just ponder on this for a moment..
There are 7 billion people on this planet and not one of them is perfect.
Even the best had their detractors, Jesus, Gandhi, Buddha, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Mother Theresa. Yes there was those who found all these wonderful, amazing, courageous people wanting. Buddha’s dad was not impressed when he walked out of a palace in order to find enlightenment.
If you think about things in this way, you may find it easier to forgive yourself when things go wrong; easier to mess up sometimes; possible to keep your sense of self despite your humanity…or maybe because of it.
I’ll leave you with something I use as a healing mantra for many reasons, but when I fall short of my own standards is one of them:
This is a Hawaiian healing mantra that you can find out all about on the internet, suffice it to say that it’s something you use at difficult times, sometimes when it’s not even your fault. It heals and clears the energy around you, amongst other things. I encourage you to study it.
I apologise Forgive me Thank you I love you
You can send this to another person, and to yourself at the same time. It might feel odd to do so if someone else upset or insulted you, but if you have to see them again it will help to change the energy between you, and it recognises the humanity of both of you.
Sometimes if I stress myself out I put both hands on my heart and repeat that mantra 3 times (the power of 3), and I feel the stress leave me as I apologise to my body and mind for allowing the stress to take hold.
Give it a try! It might work and anything that works is good, especially if it’s simple.
So, your anxiety isn’t clinical, that means that there’s something wrong with your life, which is good news because anything external can be changed, from the inside out!
Change your mind change your life
Although it’s obvious that physical factors will have to change in your life, if you don’t change the way you think then you will struggle to do more than tinker with the surface of change.
The person you are today got you to where you are now, and great respect to you, but in order to make different decisions and bring about happier healthier outcomes, you need to become a different person. Throughout this process I will be offering you all kinds of ideas, book suggestions, etc., that will help.
However, let’s start at the very beginning (sorry, Sound of Music moment) because it’s a very good place to start (there I go again), but as always the blindingly obvious is also the correct thing to do.
Make a list…
This might feel very scary, just remember that knowledge is power, and negativity is your best teacher and a clear road map out of this situation. Grab a piece of paper and write down everything you’d like to change from your hair to your toenails, your partner, your job, your house, area, country, shoes, car, umbrella. Doesn’t matter what it is. Make that list. Then prioritise it from easy to hard.
Letting myself learn the easy way?
There is no rule that says you have to learn everything the hard way, it’s perfectly possible to love learning.
Yes, if you’re feeling low then it’s likely you’re also lacking energy both mental and emotional, so if you go straight in with separation and divorce it’s likely that you won’t have the energy to maintain the momentum. Perhaps you’ve tried to leave before and failed, that’s why, you didn’t have enough mental and emotional go juice!
Whereas, if you decide to get a new hairstyle that you like, and learn to style it yourself. That’s a small but important accomplishment; it makes you feel better, which will make you feel stronger, as well as representing a decision made, carried through, and problem solved.
Then take the next smallest thing and sort that out, and keep up that pattern. Gradually you’ll become a person who creates positive change, then a person who enjoys creating positive change, and by the time you get to the big stuff – career, divorce, emigrating – you’ll be so used to creating change it will just be the next logical step. Okay, some steps will have bigger ramifications and include emotional upheaval, as such they will take longer to deal with. But you will be stronger, have grown in confidence, know what you want, trust yourself, have self respect, and you will just stick at it until things change.
So pigeon steps, small changes leading to small successes, leading to big changes and big successes. All in your own good time. You might not feel like it but…
You are the master of your life and the commander of your own destiny.
I thought it worth popping a bit of my story in at this point to illustrate how messed up I became. I’ll keep it short.
By the time I was 23 there was nothing right in my life. I was in a miserable marriage, living in his grandparents old house (or shrine) with 4″ moth holes in the curtains. I was in a job I hated, that my father forced me to take, and I got caught there by the 1970’s recession, and by the time it was over I was institutionalised as ambulance service admin. Nothing we did translated into the world of business.
My ex didn’t like my parents’ daughter
My parents didn’t like his wife.
My in-laws didn’t like my parents’ daughter or his wife.
My parents didn’t like my in-laws daughter-in-law.
My colleagues didn’t like me because of who my father was!
My wider family didn’t like me out of principle.
My friends wondered where I’d gone.
In order to stay out of trouble I started mirroring and agreeing with whomever I was with, and of course they all talked and I came across as a liar. When in fact all I was trying to do was remain slightly sane. I landed up hating myself too, but one session with my mentor, who was also a hypnotherapist, put paid to all the people pleasing, and returned me to the person I am now, who either tells the truth or diplomatically has no opinion. Nobody’s truth is true for anyone else.
Reassembling an anxious person
I’m not going to lie to you, putting myself back together and becoming a person I wanted to face in the mirror wasn’t easy, but of course I can help to make it a lot easier for you.
Firstly, take a deep breath and don’t worry about who you’ve become, anxiety is an illness and just as someone with a broken leg struggles to walk, you’ve struggled just to be. Forget all the blame, you’re seeking help just by reading this, and you’ve taken charge now.
The way I put myself back together was to decide on a set of standards by which I would live, if I have an upset with someone, if I haven’t broken my own standards then I’m comfortable in my own mind. If I have, I apologise, and I don’t feel lesser for it.
Every human makes mistakes (and saints have often died horribly!)
So standards, have a think about this list.
Integrity – secret keeper who hates gossip!
Authenticity – say what you mean, mean what you say, do what you say you will do!
Self respect – taking care of you, not allowing yourself to be hurt.
That’s just a few to get you thinking, in the end I plumped for kindness as my word to live by, as I felt it encompasses everything good.
Kindness to others, animals, the planet, and myself. All equal, all equally valuable.
Find a set of standards, teach yourself to live by them, measure yourself against them, if you haven’t failed you then don’t back down (kindly).