As I lay in bed last night I felt panicked. Panicked that a stranger, or even someone I knew, didn’t like me or thought I was getting notions of myself above where I should be.
Nothing had happened, no confrontation, no passive aggressive conversation or troll commenting on a post; this was an imaginary panic of my own creation.
For the longest time I believed that I was cursed. This ridiculous notion was probably down to that one time a witch came to my christening and said something about a spindle on a spinning wheel, I can’t be sure, I wasn’t paying attention.
This aversion to happiness manifested itself in my complete inability to say the phrase: ‘I am happy’.
As far as I was concerned, every time those words came out of my mouth something bad would happen. It could be some small inconvenience but I would attribute this solely down to my having said that phrase.
I never really considered myself a superstitious person (apart from only putting volume on to even numbers or it would cause a chain reaction resulting in the apocalypse; but everyone thinks that, don’t they?) but I would wholeheartedly refuse to say those three words out loud.
It took a long time for my husband to notice this, mostly because if he asked I would just smile. If I was happy, I wasn’t stupid enough to actually say it and ruin everything.
During the last 90 day challenge (which is treating the last 90 days of the year like you would the first of a new year) I wanted that to change. I wanted it desperately and despite achieving weight-loss targets, getting a handle on my depressive episodes and finally taking the leap into writing fulltime, I was still unwilling to be proud of these because I was convinced that as soon as I did the universe would definitely smite me.
Writing this down, now, I realise how ridiculous it sounds but it’s all part and parcel of anxiety. Being worried about ‘something’ that doesn’t exist and letting it stop you from functioning. It’s horrible.
I couldn’t feel proud of what I’d achieved or talk about my ambitions for fear of this unknown force and what it would do if I did. I was terrified of people’s opinions and the wrath of complete strangers who would belittle my efforts. I was afraid of staying where I was and afraid of growing. Something had to give.
One evening, in the throes of an anxiety-filled episode, I finally admitted the fear of that phrase to my husband and he did his best not to laugh. He said to me: “I mean this in the best possible way: the universe is not out to get you, it’s too busy.”
It wasn’t a light bulb moment nor did it make me instantly change my thoughts on how I was in charge of my own happiness but it did make me feel better, even if it was just for a minute, and I tend to tell myself that piece of advice when I can feel panic creeping up.
Anxiety is a strange one for me. At its worst, I was too afraid to go downstairs in my own house for fear of ‘something’ and even when I feel like I’m having a great day some ridiculous scenario will pop into my head and it will stop me in my tracks.
What works for me:
Breathe. Pretty basic, I know, but this is the most effective technique for me and works fast. Deep, slow breaths and keep them coming until your brain can catch up with the make-believe danger.
Stop. Stop what you’re doing, even if it’s just mindlessly scrolling through your phone. Just stop the sensory overload and really try to pinpoint what’s going in that moment.
Find the truth. This can be difficult and may not be possible if you’re in a particularly bad attack, but try. Force yourself to speak out loud about what you know to be true. For example: worrying about what other people are thinking about you or how you’re living your life is impossible to know unless they walk up to you and say it to your face and frankly, it’s none of your business.
Keep breathing and keep repeating these three steps for as long as you need to, remember: this too shall pass.
I may never be completely comfortable with certain aspects of social media but I write because I love it and if being proactive on it means more people will read my work then I have to keep pushing through and not letting the fear of putting myself out there stop me from achieving what I want.
Not everyone is going to like me, I get that, sometimes I don’t particularly like me; but I do love myself enough to keep trying to be a better person and working on forging my career as a writer – which has, so far, been the best decision of my professional life.
If you’re worried about taking a leap into some place new, then I urge you to do it. Whether it be a career move, personal growth or even just trying a new hairdo, don’t let the fear of the unknown stop you. Breathe, stop and find the truth. I’m 100% sure that your decision will not result in the destruction of the universe – unless you’re a diabolical dictator, hell-bent on destroying the human race.
I’ve spent the majority of my adult life plagued by fear and self-loathing and maybe it will take the rest of it trying to undo the lies and damage that I’ve put myself through but you’re damn sure I will be doing the work. I love my life and my children too much not to give it my all and because of that I make sure to spend a few seconds, every day, to say one phrase and mean it:
I am happy.