Living With Anxiety

I’ve been blogging now for ten weeks! How crazy is that! Scarier still is that is nearly 20% of the way through my year of blogging.

I drafted this blog post in my head while trying not to piss my pants during a Mag3 scan to confirm the function of my right kidney. A Mag3 scan requires the patient (me) to drink a litre of water beforehand. Then you're injected with a diuretic and then told to lie still and not move for half an hour. 

For someone who has anxiety, being told to lie still and not move for half an hour after being given a diuretic is the worst thing you can be told. I spent the next 30 minutes trying to ignore my subconscious screaming at me that I need to pee. Instead, I started thinking about anxiety and how it has affected my life over the last few years. It has been the indirect cause of the end of more than one relationship. It has cost me jobs. It has fundamentally changed who I am as a person, as well as my outlook on life. Maybe forever. It has affected my confidence and taken away my independence. 

But it has also lead me on a new path. Not one I would have chosen for myself, but a path of unique rewards.

I learned to ride a motorcycle because of my anxiety. I avoid commuting, especially trains and the underground because I feel trapped and that can lead to a panic attack. Same goes for long car journeys. Riding a motorcycle negates all those feelings. I don’t get caught in traffic, and it is the quickest way to get around town. I love riding a motorcycle. It was something I wanted to do since I was about 14 years old but probably never would have done it. That is until I had a job that unexpectedly required me to commute by train, back and forth across the country, four to five days per week. I disliked that role so much I ended up quitting a week before Christmas without another position to go into. I spent the following couple of months unemployed, evaluating my future. The only thing I knew was I didn’t want to have to rely on public transport anymore, and I didn’t want to drive a car in London. So I learned to ride.

Without my anxiety, I wouldn’t have got back into running. Ok, that may not strictly be true, but I probably wouldn’t find running as important. As I’ve mentioned before, I used to have anxiety dreams where I couldn’t walk, or it felt like my legs didn’t move properly – like I was wading through treacle. Dreams so vivid I had to remind myself they weren’t real. Running is the perfect cure for those thoughts. There’s no better way to remind myself that, not only I can walk but to go out to the park and run.

Without my anxiety, I wouldn’t have Calm & Ready. I had wanted to print t-shirts for years but didn’t know where to start. It all began to come together during a session with a therapist (discussing my anxiety) who convinced me that I should pursue my dreams instead of worrying about why it wouldn’t work. At the end of our first session, she asked me for my email address, which at the time was “calmandready@…”. She liked the irony that someone with anxiety had that email address, and suggested that I make it into a mantra. I took it a step further and started to make it into my personal brand. The thing I identify with most after my own name.

On a side note, I have several friends who have told me that when they’ve had stressful moments in life or questioned their own resolve. They’ve put on their Calm & Ready t-shirt and got through it. Hearing that helps make it worthwhile.

Without my anxiety, I wouldn’t have had the career opportunities I have had. While it has also cost me plenty – primarily my freelance career which required more and more travel – it has also lead me to new opportunities. I’ve had the great opportunity to work on some amazing projects, projects I may never have had the chance to work on. Sure, I’ve doubtless missed out on some too, but It’s always better to dwell on the positives.

I also wouldn’t have improved my diet as much as I have. Admittedly I still eat the occasional pizza, and if there are skittles nearby, I'll inhale them like a vacuum. But I’m also eating more greens, drinking more water and less soda, and less sugar in general. I batch-prepare healthy meals at the beginning of most weeks to ensure I eat as well as possible with as little effort. In light of my kidney problems I’ve all but completely quit drinking alcohol, and with the alcohol I’ve also entirely quit smoking. I’m running more regularly and sleeping more consistently. It’s amazing what the feeling of falling apart can do to make you keep yourself together.

My anxiety has all made me more determined. It could be quite easy to give up. To resign myself to the fact that I couldn’t have a “normal” life (I hate that term – everyone has problems, what is “normal”?) and to wallow in self-pity. But instead, it has made me extra motivated to succeed, despite my anxiety. I have no desire to be defined, or more importantly, to define myself by my mental health.

That all said, the anxiety has been getting slowly worse. It tends to come and go and recently it’s been coming. And so, for the month of May, I’m going to delve back into my meditation practice. Using the Headspace App, for 20 minutes every day, I’m going to meditate and keep a record of my progress, then post updates here to share my progress. Primarily to keep myself on top of my practice, if nothing else. 

Tom Sherman1 Comment