Last year I started to speak openly about my struggles with anxiety, and that simple act of sharing my words to instagram gave me three beautiful things;
I released the shame. I had carried my anxiety & depression like a dirty secret weighing down on my shoulders. I told myself for years that I was a burden, that it made me unloveable, that everyone would leave me because my depression and sometimes erratic behaviour was 'too much' for anyone to handle, and I was therefore not enough, not worthy of a loving relationship, I was too scared that I would fuck up and hurt someone I cared about. This was the narrative I told myself for so long that I truly believed every word.
I realised I was not alone. For so long I'd lived in my head, desperately questioning "Why do I feel like this? Do I feel too deeply? What is wrong with me?" But as soon as I began sharing my story and the thoughts I have, the things I feel, and the situations I have found myself in, the messages came flooding in like sweet little lifeboats in a dark stormy sea, all carrying the same message, "I'm out here too, I just didn't know you were struggling until I heard your call."
I found my power. My words were helping people. Not only did I feel stronger knowing that so many of you relate to me when I speak out about my experience with anxiety & depression, I felt determined to make this subject something we can all speak about freely, without any shame, without worrying about who is judging us or calling us weak, and perhaps most important of all, without judging ourselves. Simply accepting that anxiety & depression are very real, very common, and very relatable.
So this is me reminding you that you are completely normal, loveable, and worthy. That Mental Health can be something that feels so far out of your control, but I want to shout loudly for all to hear that there are things out there to make you feel at peace again, and for me that first step was acceptance: Accepting that I have Anxiety, I have Depression, and that's okay.
We all grew up listening to fairytales where the goodies were the light and baddies were the dark, so it's not surprising that we all strive to be this perfect version of Prince Charming, or think we will be saved by a White Knight. What's a lot more interesting to me is what resides in the darkness that makes you think you are bad?
Try this for me..
- close your eyes and ask yourself "Am I a goodie or a baddie"
- what comes up. what evidence does your mind give you.
Digging deeper into our internal psyche will tell us a lot about the narrative we believe to be true. It's the story we tell ourselves when we get into trouble, perhaps when we have struggles in a relationship, or are finding our jobs hard, when we are having arguments with friends or trouble with a family member. We often jump straight into this dark sticky pot of goo, trapped between what's actually happening now in the present moment, and how things like it have made us feel in the past. We tie together old stories and create our idea of the ending before we've allowed the actual ending to play out. It's a defence mechanism, but more often than not it's self sabotage. It's pressing play on an old tape that clipped together all your past fears, and is now projecting that idea of the worst case scenario onto what is happening right now. It's how we try to protect ourselves, we're all familiar with the term 'putting your guard up' well what if that coat of armour you are so keen to throw on at the first sign of danger, is actually the very thing standing in the way of where you want to get to. Because as much as it works as a resistance shield, it also blocks any of the light from getting in. You repel the fear, but in equal amounts you deflect any love trying to find you too. Your armour doubles up as a mask, you hide behind it for safety but when you mask your feelings like that no-one can see the person standing inside that shell. You jump straight into fight mode, and at some point that's going to feel exhausting for you.
So what happens next? You've built up a guard thats kept you safe for years, but now you feel unloved, misunderstood, and really fucking tired. I'd say you've made it to a resting point. You've made it to a safe place where actually it's time to look back on how far you've come and spend some time doing a little bit of quiet reflection. Acceptance isn't about looking backwards and regretting any of your choices, it's about meeting every single one with dignity and respect as a way of getting you to where you are today. It's about thanking yourself for surviving through every challenge life has thrown at you so far, and trusting in yourself to continue to do the best you can in every situation you find yourself in. It's about discovering what you need to be happy again and not putting the pressure on yourself to create that future overnight. It's about sitting with the devil on your shoulder and listening to the voice that keeps you small, what is he or she saying, do you really believe this story or is it time to write a new one?
When you start to accept your feelings, rather than hide them or fight them, you give yourself the power to change them. When you acknowledge your shadow side, the parts of you that you feel ashamed of, or the parts of you that you tell yourself you are wrong to feel, you will experience a weight lifting and a peace return. Because life isn't like a fairytale where we are either pure good or pure evil, we are all an intricate concoction of darkness and light, swirled together into human form, one great big mass of fear and love combined. This is the blueprint of your soul, the gift you were created as. Nothing you feel is a mistake, you are exactly as you were meant to be, so lean into every dark corner and embrace the lessons that are trying so desperately to be heard there. Trying to shut off any part of your being is just going to leave you feeling disconnected and ungrounded. Anxiety and depression is often caused when we feel imbalance within ourselves, so to feel at peace you must first accept every single part of you. Give it your love rather than your hate. Only then will you be in a position to work through the parts of your story you are ready to release, the parts that no longer serve you. This must be done with grace, with forgiveness, and with gratitude.
So now any time anxiety comes knocking try this;
- shift your awareness to your self-narrative
- are you speaking to yourself from a place of love or hate?
- if hate, listen to what comes up, is that the story you choose to believe?
- slow down. try to connect to both the light & the dark
- release any pressure to feel a certain way, simply accept whatever feelings arise and give them full permission to be there
- are there any lessons you can learn from here?
- breathe into your body love, lightness, remind yourself that no matter where you are at emotionally, mentally, spiritually right now, it is all okay, it is all enough
- where can you forgive yourself, where can you be more patient and understanding
- where is there shame? Hate? Discontent? Can you release some of this? Remember you are worthy and deserving of feeling peace, love & joy. Please tell yourself this until you believe it.
- don't punish yourself for feeling into your shadow, embrace it and nurture yourself here instead
- often this anxious or depressed state carries the stories our inner child needed to survive. What can you tell that part of you to remind yourself you are safe? What part of your story can you let go of now?
- Depressed = deep rest. Be gentle on yourself. You are on a beautiful journey and this is just one day.