By Alex Flinders
I have been with my partner for almost four years, and throughout that time, she has suffered from anxiety and depression. Being with her made me realise that these ailments are not something that you can simply cure, rather they last for years, decades, or perhaps the rest of your life. This information was helpful, yet upsetting, when I started suffering from anxiety earlier this year. Whilst I had experienced being anxious in the past with the lead up to exams, this feeling I had now was a completely different feeling.
My anxiety often involves fixating on a bad mistake that I have made in the past, and sometimes latching onto it for hours, or even days. I kept on repeating the same sentences of reassurance on a loop in my head, sentences which sometimes help but often get lost in the anxiety. Once I come to terms with a particular mistake that I am anxious about, my brain just thinks “well what about that other thing” and the cycle continues.
Since my anxiety came to fruition, there are a few things that I’ve learnt about how to keep your head above water which hopefully can help you too:
One thing that often helps me, especially when I start feeling anxious when I’m busy, or with other people, is to say to myself in my head “why don’t you try not to worry about this until tomorrow”. My brain feels like it has a duty to address my anxious thoughts, however trying to push my investigation of these thoughts to another time can be really helpful. I can still live in the moment, yet I don’t feel like I am neglecting the anxious thoughts altogether. Whilst the endgame would be to not feel as if I have to indulge my anxious thoughts altogether, this feels like a good compromise when I have something more pressing going on at the time.
Another thing that I’ve found that helps me, which many people with anxiety may tell you, is to keep busy. Be it schoolwork or a job, focusing your mental energy onto a different task can be effective at defueling the anxious thoughts. Using your mental energy on something more creative can also help. One thing that helped me during lockdown was writing songs and poems. Even if these do end up being focused around your mental problem, then you can feel like at least one good thing has come from it.
Framing my anxiety in the perspective of the life that I have lived thus far, and the life that I intend to live until I die helps me deal with my anxiety and keep it in perspective. When I picture myself on my deathbed, I imagine that by then, none of the anxious thoughts will matter, and I’ll wish that I’d not wasted so much time indulging my anxious thoughts. Realising that one day none of it will matter might seem morbid, but when you consider yourself in the grand scheme of the universe, the reasons that you feel anxious, in my case the mistakes that I have made, feel really insignificant.
Whilst I do wish that I’d never developed a mental health challenge, there are a few silver linings...
Firstly, I can empathise more with my partner if she is struggling with her mental health. I used to not know how anxiety and other mental issues worked, and this frustrated me when I was trying to make her feel better if she would be going through a particularly rough patch. Now that I know first-hand how she is feeling, I can navigate the situation better. Secondly, it has helped me really appreciate the days when the anxious thoughts are less persistent or severe. As with many illnesses, I have both good days, and bad days, and it would be impossible to relish in a good day without dragging yourself through a bad day. The thought that a good day is going to come again at some point is another thing that helps me.
You can read more of our articles on anxiety here.