Reflecting on anxiety for Mental Health Awareness Week, a McPin Young People’s Network member shares her experiences – and how she’s found ways to use them positively.
Let’s be honest…having mental health difficulties sucks. It can make every day feel like a chore – nothing is fun anymore, and it consumes your whole life and headspace.
It affects education, work, relationships, sleep, diet, appetite, self-esteem…it’s hard to think of an aspect of life it doesn’t affect.
Living under a big, grey cloud
For me, it felt like living under a big grey cloud, and my anxiety led me to believe the world was an awful, dangerous place and I was the worst person living in it.
BUT now I’m on the other side, I can see that having mental health difficulties wasn’t ALL bad. It felt it at the time but, cheesy as it sounds, it’s helped to shape me into the person I am today. A person who I’m actually pretty comfortable being, and wouldn’t want to change.
I’m a much stronger, more resilient person after learning to manage my anxiety.
Finding the positives
Reflecting on it, here are some positives that my anxiety and mental health struggles gave me:
- It helped me to build strength – I feel I’m a much stronger, more resilient person after learning to manage my anxiety.
- It helped to build resilience – resilience is one of those words that’s thrown around a lot, but it’s defined as the ability to mentally cope with or adapt to uncertainty, challenges, and adversity. When dealing with constant anxiety where every day is a mental challenge, and everything feels uncertain, after seeking support I could build resilience to try to develop tools to better cope mentally. Not just with the big things, but also the little things.
- It’s given me immense self-belief – and I feel I can handle anything life throws at me. I don’t sweat the small stuff anymore, because it feels so unimportant when I’ve been at rock bottom. I have the confidence to talk to new people and try new things that I never would’ve done living in my shell of depression.
- It’s helped me form strong friendships – I met some of my closest friends when going through mental health treatment, and my god, there is no bond quite like it! We’ve seen each other at our lowest points and that builds such immense understanding, compassion and empathy for each other. I know I can call them at any time of day or night with any problem, and I know I’ve got friends for life in them.
- It taught me to be non-judgemental – I like to think I was a wise, understanding teenager before I started struggling with my mental health (but sadly, my parents tell me otherwise). But through having mental health problems, I learnt to be more compassionate, more understanding, and see things from other people’s perspective.
- It gave me a desire to help – anytime a friend comes to me and says they are struggling, I just want to talk to them and help them. It gave me a desire to support and help and be there for people because I know how important that is. It’s made me more intuitive and observant – I can spot subtle changes in people’s behaviour, tone of voice or body language, because I know those could be signs that someone is struggling. Things feel easier to understand and make more sense when you’ve been through it yourself.
- I’m more grateful for things – ranging from the people in my life that supported me through my worst times, to the little self-soothers like a hot shower or warm tea, to nature and the sun or flowers. I’m also super grateful for the good times, such as time with friends or family, or bigger experiences like holidays, as I know how it feels to not be able to do them. It also means more when people are kind to me, as every little act of kindness can help to show that someone really cares, and that the world can be a kinder place than my own head tells me.
- In advocacy, we can use our experiences to help others – be it other people going through similar things, researchers who need help shaping their projects, health professionals to understand what it’s like from a young person’s perspective, or any of the other many ways speaking up can help. By speaking about it, I feel I can use my negative experiences to elicit positive change – and that is such a good feeling.
By speaking about it, I feel I can use my negative experiences to elicit positive change – and that is such a good feeling.
Things can get better
If you are currently struggling and can’t see anything good coming from your situation, just know that things CAN get better.
Anxiety can turn your life upside down and feel like you’re descending into darkness and chaos, but it won’t feel like that forever.
Hang in there – you might just find that you emerge a stronger, more resilient person.