I have always believed myself to be a pretty laid back person. I am not one to worry too much and get stressed over anything, even when it’s something most of us would naturally keep worrying about. I’m usually not someone who can remain low/sad/depressed for a long time. I’m an artist who makes art for pleasure and for a living however I never have any deadlines to meet or customer briefs to adhere to so for me, work has never been a factor that ‘should’ cause any kind of stress. However last year, I realized while working, I started building up this stress just owing to the fact that I would feel like I am not doing all that I had planned in my head for the day/week. I would feel like there was so much for me to accomplish in life and not enough time to do it all. As I kept ignoring the signs, this started to get slowly worse.
Soon I had unknowingly accepted having this anxiety build up while I would work straight for 4 hours every morning. By lunch, I would have this pain in my head, neck, shoulders and my eyes as well as my mind would have trouble focusing on anything going on around me. However, in the beginning it would eventually go away; which made me ignore the signs even longer.
Then one evening, just as I was about to go to the court for my daily badminton routine, I felt it for the first time; although at the time I had no ides what I was having was a panic attack. There had been some sudden changes in my life as well which I think acted as a tipping point.
I felt a throbbing, terrifying pain in my head. My neck & shoulders felt like I was carrying the weight of the whole world on them; my racing heartbeats were alarmingly fast and soon I felt like I could not breathe and was going to pass out or worse, die. Soon I began to feel detached from everyone and everything in my life. My self-esteem and confidence completely nose-dived as a result. It was a vicious cycle because I felt incapable of being alone and said yes to everything but when I would be around people, I would feel detached again. There were days when even getting out of bed felt scary and stressful. Absolutely nothing inspired or excited me about the present or the future.
I was desperate to see my doctor and find out how to get better, secretly hoping he would give me a miracle drug that’ll fix me immediately. The doctor, who had been treating me for my migraines (which in my case are caused due to anxiety) for the past year, prescribed a medicine that he advised me to take for a month. This medicine would help me reduce the anxiety. I started with it and it helped to an extent but the anxiety as well as the panic attacks would still happen. Soon came the worst such attack of my life. I think that was one of the worst days of my life but I survived, so now I take strength from that.
When I went back to my doctor then, he gave me an additional SOS medicine which I was supposed to take only at the time of the attacks however, he did warn me that it could become a habit. This scared me. The thought of being dependent on this pill forever to calm myself down felt unacceptable to me.
It was soon after that when I realized the only thing that was really going to help me was changing the way I was letting my mind think. I would let it remain stuck on something for hours, over-analyzing and over-thinking things that I could not control and served no purpose. Instead, my mind had to be engaged in something else, something that would excite me. Making art.
For as long as I can remember, art has always rescued me. Setbacks, breakups, disappointments, my guiding light through all difficult situations has always been my passion to create. As I started to plan and create one artwork everyday, it has become one of the most motivational aspects of my daily activities as it brings me both – focus & peace. That along with spending time with family, reaching out to friends, taking care of myself, working out really got me out of the rut I was in.
I returned to feeling happier and looking forward to doing the smallest things that I would have planned for the day. The whole experience honestly changed my life, my whole outlook on life. I learnt things about myself I didn’t realize before and more importantly, I learnt to love myself as I am.
Now, things are good. Not perfect! But may never happen and I can accept and be okay with that. What’s important is accepting that and believing that any day it happens again, I have the means to overcome it eventually. It’s not a one-shot cure. It’s an ongoing process. Here’s what helps me:
✓ Meditate first thing in the morning. Even if it is for just 5 minutes
✓ Take pleasure in all the little things e.g. a daily morning tea/coffee routine
✓ Spend time with family
✓ Put your mind to work on whatever it is that excites you, like a hobby.
✓ Remember to live in the moment
✓ If you’re having a bad day, keep reminding yourself that ‘This too shall pass.” If you feel dull, tell yourself that it’s okay to sometimes. Also try to have a little ritual that helps you snap out of it. I usually snap my fingers or close my eyes for a few seconds.
✓ Travel more often
It’s been a tough year but I can honestly say that I’m a happy person and I have no shame in saying that I am a happy person who sometimes suffers or has suffered with anxiety. It’s not me all the time and it does not define me.
Take care of yourself and be patient, kind and non-judgemental to others. I hope reading about my experience helps someone out there feel better. It’s the sole purpose of me writing this post. Do share your own experiences in comments below.
A small portion of our profits is donated to the Anxiety & Depression Association of America to support the cause and help others that are going through a similar experience, deal better and come out stronger.