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).
If you’ve concluded, or the doctor has told you, that your problems aren’t clinical, then they’re almost certainly not all in the mind, as some people may have made you feel.
In this blog I want to encourage you not just to look at your life, that’s pretty obvious, but to look at the subtleties of your life.
Who’s doing your thinking?
Your immediate reaction was probably either ‘me’ or ‘a thousand deranged fairies with so many opinions that I couldn’t lay my hands on a single useful thought if I tried!”
The truth is though that your past is doing your thinking, the problem was that your past was programmed into you at birth taken from both your parent’s experiences, and if you think about it logically that means that it isn’t just your past that makes up that mind you can’t make up. It’s your entire ancestral line.
How many times have you heard people say:
You’re just like your father, mother, aunt, sister, brother.
Anxiety runs in our family, my mother, her father…
Everyone on my side of the family has a temper!
We all suffer from stomach issues.
None of us can sing for toffee.
And so on. As of today I want you to realise that all such statements are programming, but they’re not programming you need to continue to live. I know so many people with sad family histories who are duplicating those histories, and yet there is major scientific evidence that we can literally change our minds for a better one! More about that later.
Before we get into Quantum Physics
There is so much information on the mind it isn’t true, but I wanted this blog to be a gradual build up to some of the tools and techniques available to help you, for the simple reason (obviously it was going to be simple that’s my catchword) that it’s important to take control of those thoughts and understand them, in order to change them. You need to know who you don’t want to be.
Most importantly, you may have to make the decision to break the family mould, to start dismissing a lot of what you’ve been taught about life and how it works, and build yourself an entirely new attitude towards being alive.
So your project is…
Start noticing thoughts and ideas in your head that don’t feel right to you.
Have you just said something that makes you uncomfortable?
Are you fed up with feeling that you can’t be different because every person in your entire family was the same?
Do you have approaches to life that aren’t supporting your happiness, but you didn’t consciously start…they just evolved?
Did you try to fit in at school by changing yourself? Do you do the same at work, at home, with your family, with your old friends?
These questions are important, because if you can answer yes to them then you’re definitely not living your own life, you’re living someone else’s past, someone else’s standards, someone else’s patterns. If you think about it, how many more ancestral lines have entered your consciousness and added to a pattern you would never have chosen?
Start working out why you’re not you, the answers will help you to find out who you are.
Because I’m trying to keep this blog short and sharp so that you don’t have to focus for ages when you’re tired or stressed, I wanted to return to the idea of taking prescribed medication for anxiety.Please bear in mind that I’m talking about non-medical anxiety at this point!
Tablets are good
Much as I preferred not to take tablets, I took that decision for the very good reasons that my anxiety wasn’t medical, it was driven by the state of my life. I also didn’t have children – except two cats who were my saviours – which meant that I didn’t have to keep going in the way a working parent, particularly a single parent might, or a carer. I’ve seen friends who are parents and carers and I can tell you now that in order to keep going they needed a lot more support than me.
If your life is hectic, and the idea of you laying in and relaxing whenever you can, sitting down to relax or meditate, taking time for a lovely long hot bath with soft music, candles, and a glass of wine, is quite bluntly ridiculous, then you will more than likely need more support than someone who can create time to relax and reflect. That’s perfectly right and sensible. Some people might sneer at you and tell you that everyone can find time to relax if they want to; frankly that’s supercilious crap (I was nearly more blunt there).
Being realistic is a big help
If you say you can’t do something, bosses, councillors, coaches, maybe some ‘friends’ will more than likely jump on you and say why not? Challenge every word you say. Make you feel worse. This doesn’t help, as I’m sure you know. There you are, doing your best, fighting your own mind, and they’re telling you you’re just not trying hard enough. Blank all that.
I would never encourage anyone to give up, sit in a heap, and let things deteriorate, you are in a battle and you do need to dig in and plod on. By the same token refusing medical help when you’re not coping will not lead to a recovery.
My suggestion, and that’s all it is, is that you accept the medical help you need, but, and this is a BIG BUT, also create a plan for changing what’s wrong in your life. Use the medication as you would a crutch for a leg injury. You need it to move forward, but you don’t need it forever. At the end of the day if you don’t solve your problems and take control of your life, then your recovery moves one day further away, every day.
So talk to your GP, take the help you need, but make a deliberate decision that it’s only whilst you work out what you need to do to create a life that doesn’t drive you to distraction. Get your GP to keep you on track.
In the case of a loss, family illness, etc., always give time for the grief, fear, and loss process to work it’s way through before you put any pressure on yourself. If you have gone through those hard situations, I would suggest that 18 months after the event – if you haven’t felt better before – you start thinking about your future. But grief and shock must be worked out, get help with them, and take it one step at a time.
Whilst I have suggested time-frames, being in control of your own mind and life means that you do everything at a pace that feels right to you. Modify what I say to work for you.