I suppose I had not talked about anxiety much on this blog. In fact, I do not quite know what I talk about anymore here, other than my occasional rants and vents.
A few months ago, someone wrote me out of the blue. Usually I do not accept guest posts on this website, because it is too much to manage for me, and it is also not the intention of this website. However, this one caught my eye because the way he wrote his email to me felt genuine and sincere, unlike the copy and paste templates people use to query for a guest post. So I decided to be less stingy and entertain the conversation, which was quite fun.
So we found a way, because I still do not accept guest posts here, but who’s to say we cannot have a dialogue? And, I think this is of benefit for those who experience anxiety. So thank you to Sean Clark for sharing his thoughts below.
N: Noch Noch
N: In your personal experience, how is the anxiety manifested in daily life?
S: Hi Noch and thanks for having me here! I hope I can connect with some of your lovely readers. I suffered with generalised anxiety disorder which is basically a general feeling of constant worry that effects day to day situations.
My anxiety used to (and still tries to) manifest itself throughout my day. Instead of appearing as panic attacks at certain intervals, my anxiety has always been on standby, ready to pounce when I gave it the chance. It is like a little niggling in the back of my head. As a child I was confused why I always felt on edge whilst I looked around at the other kids who seemed care free.
It has always had a life of it’s own and held a huge bearing over me, and, it can appear at all times. For example, if I think I’ve said something wrong to someone, I’ll go back and forth in my mind over it, worrying constantly and never putting it to bed. People who experience ‘normal’ levels of anxiety would stop worrying about it after a few hours or at most, a day.
I can be sitting in my lounge, watching TV but never really be present in that moment. My mind is preoccupied with things that I think I’ve done wrong or I’m worried about. It can be a truly exhausting experience!
Another thing that used to really get me down was concentration. When I was in the deep end of my disorder, I found it hard to talk to people without forgetting what they said. I used to put it down to having a short term memory. The truth is, I used to struggle to take in information because my brain would be occupied at the time with thoughts that it thought were more important to worry about.
N: How would you describe the link between anxiety and burnout?
S: My anxiety has burnt me out more times than I care to think about! As I said above, it’s always been there under the surface ready to connect itself with any situation that could be seen as a problem. Because I gave so much weight to everyday ‘problems’, I felt burnt out on a daily basis. I was so frustrated every day because I just wanted my mind to let me have some rest from the worry.
The fact that I found it hard to process new information on top of my worries meant I always felt like I wasn’t able to move forward In school, college and at work. This got me down so bad that I started to feel a sense of hopelessness.
I think sometimes people who don’t understand constant anxiety don’t realise how it can make someone go into themselves and seem shut off from the world. I used to find myself going very quiet, especially in social events because I was consumed by my own thoughts and couldn’t enjoy the present moment.
N: How common is anxiety amongst friends and colleagues around you? What keeps them from admitting it? Do you think they even know they have anxiety disorders?
S: I’ve come to realise that a lot of the people around me are suffering silently. I was blind to it as a child, mainly because I couldn’t see the signs in others and just thought I was the only one who thought the way I did.
I think it’s so common, and because I’ve been through it, I can now see when people are feeling on edge better than they can themselves a lot of the time.
Some people are afraid to admit they’ve developed an anxiety problem because of the stigma attached to it. However, I believe some just don’t know what’s happening to them. Like me, I just thought that I was a bit depressed and didn’t want to think that I might have a disorder. A lot of it comes down to educating people.
It’s a scary thing to admit to yourself, it can be even scarier admitting it to loved ones or doctors. I know this from first hand experience.
One thing that I find a real shame is people not facing their anxiety. I want people to feel like they can say, ‘Hey, I’m going through this but I want some help.’ People can be afraid of being looked down on or even feel like people will say they are just being pathetic.
N: How do you cope with your anxiety? You mentioned creative ways, can you give some examples?
S: In terms of maintaining my anxiety in creative ways, I started re-connecting with what I actually wanted. Not in a material sense, but what made my heart happy. I realised the importance of giving my mind what it craved. That was creating and being playful. I know you (Noch) talk about playfulness a lot and I want to let your readers know too that re-connecting with your playful side can have a huge impact on your life.
I used to love art at school. I grew up, thought it had no value in my life anymore and carried on with ‘real life’ things. The thing was, I still had an itch inside me. A feeling of not doing enough of what I wanted. I was stunting my passion. I learned that eventually by doing this, your can really damage your mind. Everyone loves doing certain things and you just have to do them.
Feed your mind the creative or playful things it wants because us humans need that fulfilment. We are not designed to sit in a cubicle all day. I get that we have to work, but, we also have to give our minds what they want at some point. So I’d say;
Love playing football? Do it
Love drawing? Do it
Love dancing? Do it
I’m a firm believer in having something for yourself that you enjoy. Something that really makes you feel like you are alive and kicking some butt.
That’s how my YouTube channel started. I didn’t know what I was doing at the time but I understand now that I just had to do it. Now, I’ve inspired millions of people across the world to pick up a pencil and draw. That’s an awesome feeling and it gives me fulfilment.
It’s also how starting a blog came about. I wanted to write and talk to the world. I couldn’t help it, I just had to do it. Building things gives me a sense of joy that I can’t describe. I just had to try and help people who were where I was for so many years.
There’s plenty more to it than that but these were the core things that lead to my recovery from my disorder.
N: How does coping with your anxiety build resilience?
S: My techniques for coping with my anxiety have given me a huge amount of resilience. BBeing able to see my negative thoughts for what they are has given me back the power in a sense. I think I’ve built up a resilience to my anxiety disorder by saying ‘hey, I know you, I know that you’re trying to do, but it ain’t happening’. This allows me to disarm it and reduce it’s effects.
I keep going back to being educated. When anxiety strikes, a lot of us don’t understand it and it causes us a lot of distress. Being able to notice it for what it I, I think, is powerful.
I always like to think of reducing your anxiety like losing weight. When you want to lose a few pounds (and maintain the weight loss) you have to change your whole lifestyle. You have to learn about weight loss and how it works. You also have to live day to day being mindful of what you eat. You simply can’t go on a two week fad diet and be skinny for the rest of your life. It just don’t work like that.
It’s the same for you mental health. You have to see the bigger picture. You have to treat your mind like anything else. We always take our minds for granted and think ‘ah, it does what it does.’
Thank you to Sean for taking the time to have this email conversation with him. On his website are some books and information on coping with anxiety if anyone is interested. I do not get any commissions for this 🙂
At the end, it’s about having a conversation with ourselves!