Immersing yourself in friends

I love to immerse myself in my surroundings. This is when I feel most alive. When I can truly be there, in the moment, taking in everything about it.

Last evening is a great example. The day had been rough, I’d had a panic attack and couldn’t defuse myself from my thoughts. I couldn’t think about being in the moment because all I could think about was anxiety.

Then my housemates came home and I dragged myself down stairs to make dinner with them. I spent the evenings with my friends, totally forgetting the rest of the day and was finally able to distance myself from the panic attack.

It was great to be immersed in my friends. They make me laugh and cheer me up. I feel at home with them. They make me remember that although I have anxiety it’s just one part of my life, and in fact I can have anxiety and still be with the people who make me happy. I love being able to be absorbed into their fold and to feel like I am okay again, because it can be hard to know everything will be okay when you feel totally the opposite.

via Daily Prompt: Immerse

Chapter Nineteen

One of things that causes anxiety (and lots of other emotions) is the way we interpret our thoughts. It is not always the case that the thoughts themselves are upsetting, because often you can brush them off and just think “oh that was odd” and then it’ll just float away.

With anxiety it gets a lot harder to brush them off. They sort of get stuck in your brain, or in my case, my anxious side clings onto them with a tight grip say “NOOOOO DO NOT STOP THINKING ABOUT THIS IT IS IMPERATIVE THAT YOU DOOOOOO” and then it makes me upset. This reinforces the thought, the thought (or similar ones) can get more frequent because my anxious knows its how to trigger anxiety. Does that make sense? It can feel like I am forcing myself to have anxious thoughts in order to check in with myself about how they make me feel.

For me, this is a very hard issue. I had a panic attack today because I couldn’t let one of the random thoughts go, i was giving it more meaning than it needed. Once I’d calmed down, I could take a step back and see how I could rationalise the worry.

We have thousands of thoughts in a day. “I need more toothpaste” “I hope my parcel arrives on time” “Why isn’t that man wearing a coat?” “What am I going to do about dinner?” “Last night was so boring” – you get the picture. But sometimes we have random thoughts that might seem a little unusual or out of the blue. First of all, label it to make it less scary. Its just a thought, they come and go throughout day. Then remind yourself that its just a thought. Thoughts are random and weird! How many times have you thought about something weird? I bet loads of times.

Thoughts don’t really mean anything, we give them meaning. We can choose to give them the meaning they should have. So with a thought that worries me I can go “Okay that was a thought that might worry me. But its just a thought and it will pass. I don’t have to chase after it or get caught up – I can just try my best to let it pass”.

I hope this will help because I am very aware its something that is currently causing me anxiety. I have had lots of causes of anxiety, and this is the hardest one to rationalise. Because its your mind, and your mind is a worried one, then it’s difficult to break the pattern of worrying about the thought.

The blue sky of a calm mind always exists, we just have to allow the storm clouds to pass in their own time.

Chapter Eighteen

I think anxiety, and most other mental health problems, can be quite a lonely place. I often feel very different to my friends, which makes me sad, because I worry that I am not enjoying my life as much as them and I get frustrated I can’t do the same things as them.

We need to have more spaces where people can speak about mental health problems without judgement or stigma. Then I think we would all feel a little less alone. I’d love to attend some sort of support group, where we could laugh about our mental health issues and be open and honest with other people who understand.

We are all different to one another, mental health problem or not! And that’s okay. It’s not my fault I can’t do the same things as others, it’s just something I have to accept. But also I can do most things others can, I do enjoy life and have similar experiences.

I hope any one else out there with anxiety knows that they aren’t alone, I am here and I have anxiety. I struggle but ultimately I cope with my anxiety, and that doesn’t make me any lesser than someone else.

Chapter Seventeen

I like keeping busy. I enjoy having things to focus on and to feel part of the bigger world. I try to go to every lecture, go to work in the library instead of home and make sure I keep my room tidy – just little things that help keep my mind focused.

I have a tendency to try distract myself from anxiety, instead of allowing it to come and go. With this in mind, i also try to make sure I’m not forcing myself to be busy for the wrong reason. If I know I need a break, but want to carry on doing things so as not to be alone with my thoughts, I try to let myself have a break.

I find it difficult to be alone with my thoughts. My worried self finds it easy to take control when I am just in my room, not doing much or just eating dinner alone. I am slowly learning to be okay with my thoughts and just to be on my own. I know that I don’t need to constantly be doing something to distract myself, that its okay to just be silent and settled.

It’s one of my challenges to learn to be okay with just letting things be as they are, and its part of my wider search to learn to be more mindful. I have made some good progress but I know I have to try practice as much as I can.

 

 

Chapter Sixteen

Dating with anxiety is hard.

I know dating is hard anyway, but the added stress and worry that comes with anxiety disorders make it a whole other deal! I don’t suffer with social anxiety so its not the meeting of people – I actually quite enjoy first dates!

But its when it gets past the first date that I start to have problems. Liking someone is very scary. I feel so much pressure to not annoy them or bother them too much that I overthink every message I send them, even if its just a silly one. And I constantly think the worst, if they have seen my message and don’t reply I immediately think OH GOD THEY HATE ME. And its made worse by being very self critical, thinking that I’m not good enough or that I shouldn’t date because it causes too much stress.

I am very new to dating and that’s another reason its so hard, I have nothing to compare it to! I also don’t know how much to tell them, I do always say I have anxiety but should I tell them that it causes me to constantly doubt their feelings towards them?

But I’m trying my best not to freak out and just stop everything in its tracks because it causes me anxiety. Because it also makes me feel happy and I enjoy dating, I like their company and I like finding a new friend.

I know that I can’t read someones mind, I know that its best just to be honest and that it’s okay to not be able to totally control a situation. Doubting myself is not going to help it, and I trust that I have enough people skills to not be really annoying! I think its just about accepting that this will be an emotional experience, but that isn’t a bad thing.

I need to try to be more supportive of myself, and ensure that I am putting myself first. I will try to just let things go and hope that the other person would be honest to me about their feelings.

Chapter Fifteen

Anxiety levels are up at the moment but I find I am responding in a better way. I’m definitely making a conscious effort to reassure myself and reminding myself to be mindful about these thoughts.

I know what triggered this episode which is good as I know where it’s coming from and that it’s not just random.

One symptom I get with my anxiety is troubled sleep, which means I’m tired and it really gets me down sometimes. My new method for dealing with anxiety is to engage more with the world rather than try to disengage. So I’m trying to be out and about and socialising, but its hard when you are so tired!

I also get like weird dreams and sometimes I get like weird images flash up when I close my eyes. This is something that very much troubles me, so much that I don’t like writing about it. But I am writing about it, so that I can put it down somewhere. My main anxiety is worsening mental health – which means these kinds of symptoms are particularly difficult to manage. But I try to remember that it only happens when I experience serious anxiety, so it is just a symptom of my anxiety and it does pass. I’m going to talk about it with my therapist so that I don’t have to feel like it’s all boxed up inside.

I am going to be gentle with myself today and reassure myself that it will pass and I can cope with it. I know that this is just anxiety, and I can make peace with it. Its slow progress and sometimes I take a step back, but I am in a very different position than I was last year. I know I am getting better at challenging anxious thoughts and bringing in my supportive side to try be rational about it.

Chapter Fourteen

Being single on Valentines can be really hard for some people. Our society always forces the idea that being in a relationship is something we should all be aiming to get, that our lives must revolve around finding some to share our lives with.

I feel this pressure a lot sometimes, as a perpetually single person it really starts to irritate me. It’s a really harmful pressure to put on people. It makes us feel bad about ourselves, questioning why we’re single and often coming to the conclusion that it’s because we aren’t good enough.

If you are single it is not because you are not good enough. Everyone has amazing skills or talents or quirks that makes them entirely lovable and worthy. You are enough on your own! Loving yourself is a great skill to develop and just doing little things to make yourself feel good is a start.

Having a relationship is nice. You get the benefit of having a good friend, someone who cares about you and someone who you can hug! It’s okay to miss this because you are single and to want these things back in your life. But try not to beat yourself up because of it. It’s more important to be your own best friend, to care about yourself and give yourself a hug (or maybe just a nice bath)!

I’m not going to say “its okay you’ll find someone soon” because that might not happen and it doesn’t really help the issue. I will tell you that you are a fantastic, brilliant and lovely human. You do not need another person to make you whole.

Chapter Thirteen

One of things I struggle with, is a strong desire to keep anxiety going. I will feel anxiety, it will pass and then the worried part of my brain will try to keep the feeling going.

Trying to stop this cycle is really hard. What I find helpful is to remind myself that this is what is happening. I try to not stoke the fire of anxiety by letting the thoughts pass, acknowledging them but not getting caught up again. I remind myself that my worried side thrives on anxiety, but its my rational and supportive sides job to say that anxiety is allowed to be felt but it mustn’t be forced.

Its a difficult balance to make. To feel anxiety and accept it, but not forcing it to happen. It’s something which I know will take time and patience. I try to recognise when I’m forcing anxious thoughts or trying to connect with the feeling again, and remind myself that I dont need to reach out for anxiety all the time. For me anxiety is a familiar feeling and its almost a comfortable place. I’m trying to teach myself that I don’t need to reach out for anxiety and can just settle in what is.

I have permission to just be and to let go of anxiety without having to constantly relive it.

Chapter Twelve

Emotions are funny things. They are just random chemicals in our brain that make us feel happy or sad or anxious or excited. Being a human means having to deal with emotions pretty much all the time – life would be a lot easier if our brains weren’t so complex!

I sometimes struggle with emotions. I either try really hard to resist them, to spare myself the feeling or I try really hard to feel them, almost as if I want to check if its there. Both these aren’t very productive.

So I’m trying to just be with emotion. I cried like 15 minutes ago, not for any particular reason, just because I’m a bit tired and feel like I needed to. My brain was automatically like “What’s wrong How can I stop this Why is this happening” and then tries to analyse every single possibility. But actually its okay to just have a cry and just be with it. It’s okay to cry sometimes! I don’t have to work it out, I can just allow myself space to feel it and then let it pass.

I struggle with emotions but I think we all do to some extent. Some emotions are crappy and it’d be better if they didn’t exist. But they do, and that is okay, we all have the capacity to cope with them.

I’ll probably cry again today, its just one of those days! (I think it might be the result of taking the pill – which is a whole other chapter about the complexities of female birth control)

Chapter Eleven

When I feel like I’m being judged or shamed for my choices or my body or my opinions I usually turn to the feminist movement to make me feel empowered and confident. When I feel like my body is too large I can look at Instagram’s of fat models who love who they are and preach acceptance.

But when I am feeling judge or shamed for the fact I have never had sex, I feel like there is a serious discrepancy in the feminist movement. The feminist movements biggest accomplishment in the realm of the treatment of female sexuality is making it more acceptable for women to be sexually empowered. And it does this by most women being open about their sexual experiences and not being ashamed to be a “slut”.  And that’s awesome! It’s fabulous to see us moving towards the stopping of shaming women for loving sex.

However, I’ve found the lack of support for women who are not having sex, it certainly exists, but it feels like it’s less visible and less talked about. It made worse by the fact that I am a student at university, where not having sex is something I am shamed for. It effects both men and women, with “virgin” being a classic form of insult. I want to find places I can turn to when I feel like this, I want a feminist movement where I feel like I can openly talk about how I don’t want to have casual sex and how I want to wait. I don’t feel like this decision makes me less of a feminist, but I feel like an outsider in some feminist communities because of it.

I can imagine some are sitting there going “Why isn’t she having sex? She’s a young twenty something at university, that’s the prime time of your life for sex!” There are a lot of reasons why women choose not to have sex. Maybe they don’t feel sexual attraction. Maybe they are waiting for marriage. Maybe they are choosing to abstain for a while. All these reasons are valid and should be spoken about openly, so that we all know it’s okay. I assume you want to know my reason. I feel sexual attraction all the time but I just choose not to act upon it, because I don’t want to have sex with a random guy I met in a shitty nightclub.  I’d rather wait for someone I actually feel like I know, who actually knows me as more than just a physical body.

I start to question myself when I see articles about how your 20s or your university days are the best days to gain sexual experience. Or when I see the massive support for women who are having sex with lots of partners and feminist declarations that women are empowered by sexual experience. Why aren’t I having sex? Is it because I’m ugly?? Is it because I am a repressed woman??? And I start to feel like I am missing out. that these are the prime years for sexual encounters and I am sat not having sex. That I will get to 40 and regret my choice. That I am a bad feminist for not allowing myself to hook up with random men. This is the point where I’d like to find a strong and vivid vein of the feminist community which reassures me that not having sex isn’t abnormal or something I need to change.

I support women’s agency to do as they wish with their bodies. But I strongly support women who are not having sex. I support you, more than I support women having lots of sex. Because I know how it feels to feel like less of a woman, less of a student because you have never had sex. I want to tell you that you ae valid, you are valid feminist, a valid human and so is your sexuality. Congratulations on doing what you want to do. Now let’s meet up, eat biscuits and support one another’s choices.