The answer is, yes and no. Yes, there are still days where I don’t really feel anxious at all and I can enjoy myself and be productive and function normally and be independent and happy. But on the other hand, no; living with anxiety is difficult and it can be a struggle and it can be tiring and exhausting and draining.
What makes a difference is the things you can do to become a little happier and to reduce a little bit of the anxiety you feel. CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) has helped me decide which methods of calming down help me and which don’t; however, none of the methods completely reduce my anxiety and make me feel normal. They simply can’t do that. Learning which methods help you personally is a learning curve, but the importance of finding out what helps you feel better and more able to deal with things is essential, and the quicker it’s done the better. If you’re reading this and you’re unsure of any coping methods that help you, you can read my blog post all about what I took from my counselling sessions at CHUMS and how I apply it here.
This post is designed to ease the minds of people who think that when they’re diagnosed with any type of anxiety disorder (there are many more than you will know about) their life will just continue to go downhill until there is no further to fall. It’s also to ease the mind of people who think that their struggle with anxiety is personal and that they are alone; there are always people who are available to talk and help, and you are never alone.
Living with anxiety gets easier in the sense that you grow to understand it more, and that allows you to learn more about yourself and also the illness. For example, I’ve come to understand that the times I’m most anxious are when I’m tired or stressed (which can be quite a lot) and that birthdays or special occasions can also make the separation anxiety a little worse. You can then use this to your advantage and let the people around you know that if you are tired you’more likely to be anxious which could ultimately end up with you being a little moody, and just telling people this can avoid any conflict easily. You also learn that there are good days and bad days, and the bad days can make you want to crawl up in bed for the day and the good days are really what makes it worthwhile.
It can also be pretty crappy; as I mentioned, bad days do happen and if you aren’t careful these bad days can morph into bad weeks. Having said that, there are many ways to be more positive and to work on not letting the bad days become a frequent thing – an easy way to challenge negativity is to plan things that you look forward to and enjoy. I often do something with my friends on Friday evenings as an incentive to get through the week, and it’s lovely as I then get to spend an evening socialising and doing something fun. It doesn’t even have to be a big expensive night out – scheduling a walk or a stay-in movie night with a friend or family member is always fun and costs absolutely nothing.
If you do go to counselling or get regular help over the phone or online, it’s a huge help to some but others can feel it doesn’t change a lot. When I went to counselling, it was definitely helpful but it didn’t get rid of my anxiety; don’t go with the expectation that you’ll leave the session without it, as that won’t happen. However, it was still a useful experience and again helped me to understand my mental health disorder – you can read about what I learned and how I use that in daily life here.
So, if you’re still here, I’m guessing you’re looking for a solid answer that will leave you feeling better about having anxiety. My answer is that yes, it gets better. For some people, anxiety can completely disappear with counselling and hard work, and for others, it can stay with them for decades. In some cases it can appear when the person is very stressed or may be going through a difficult period of time, such as after the passing of a loved one or after a specific traumatic experience. I thought that it would be a good idea to add in a few tips that I frequently use to combat anxious thoughts and to simply boost my mood:
- Speak out! If you’re lucky enough to have lovely friends or a supportive family, use them and reach out to them when you need it. If they love you they will do their best to understand what you’re going through and at least be a friend to talk to when you need it. In return, of course, be a good friend when they require someone to talk to as well. I’ve found that just talking and opening up to somebody can make me feel much less alone and also more loved; you’ll realise what lovely people you’re surrounded by and hopefully start feeling a little better.
- Take a break. Having a busy school life can definitely affect my mood sometimes, so it is important to take a step back and take some time for yourself if you’re beginning to feel under pressure or too tired. Your mental health is always more important than any work.
- Stay offline. Social media and the internet are two amazing things but using them too much can damage your mental (and physical) health. Taking a day or two offline and just relaxing a bit can improve your mood dramatically and free up some time for something else – a bath, a run, anything you fancy.
- Go out more. Easy to do but sometimes so unappealing! I use running as a way to destress and cool off, and when I started it really did make an impact. You can take ten minutes out of your day and just go for a walk; the results will be noticeable and exercise is good for your physical wellbeing too.
As a final note, this isn’t meant to say that having anxiety is fun and it doesn’t alter your life and change you as a person: it does. It’s just meant to give people who are struggling something to help and to let people know that they aren’t alone. If you do feel anxious a lot, or you worry that someone you know has anxiety in any of its forms, reach out and say something. There are hundreds of places you can simply talk to someone anonymously and get the help you need, or you can always email me at email@example.com.