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I wrote this book back in 2016, but I am republishing it now in 2018 under a new title, and with new chapters. The circumstances of my life have since changed, in some ways, which may or may not be mentioned – depending on the need for it in the context of the book.
About My Suffering
If you’re reading this book, it probably means that you’re feeling down, lost or scared. But don’t worry, you’re not alone. Feeling down doesn’t make you weak. I need you to realise that, first of all. But who am I to tell you anything?
Well, I will start off by saying that I have no medical degree. I am not a doctor, or a psychologist, or the like. In no way am I qualified to give you therapy or a cure for your problems. This is not a book to be used instead of clinical help, if the case may be. I simply speak to you today, in order to help you where possible. I speak as a fellow sufferer and a friend.
In 2011, I suffered with depression for the first time – well, the first time that I was aware I was depressed. I was young, afraid and lost. Sadly, I have a sleeping problem, meaning I am unable to get that little piece of freedom from the world that sleeping brings. And so, naturally, I fell into a darkness. I attended counselling and was given Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). Again, in 2013, I started to become depressed. I had found myself in a completely different situation to what I had intended, and it threw my life out of whack. I felt discombobulated, angry and as though I was a failure. In parts of 2014 and 2015, I suffered with a lot of anxiety and bouts of depressive states as well, but I finally want to get a hold of it now – thus, this book.
Great, so what about anxiety? Well, I’m very experienced in that, too! My weakest anxiety point is around socialising. Before being invited out for a meal, I used to get so sick. I wouldn’t be able to think about anything else. It was horrible. And it still is, sometimes. Depending on the people or the place, I still get scared. I worry about what will be on the menu. Whether I’ll be able to eat all of my food. Whether I’ll order something as cool and as interesting as my friends or family.
The same goes for parties or going to nightclubs. I get terrified. Scared that I won’t look good when I go out. Scared that I won’t be good company. That I won’t be able to eat before going, and therefore I’ll get sick from drinking on an empty stomach – which was often the case. It was madness.
Before going to the hairdressers, I have to psych myself up to go, repeating what I’m going to say in my head. I analyse how a door opens before getting to it, in case I look silly by opening it the wrong way. I take deep breaths before going to work. When speaking to people, I feel awkward. I’m thinking about how I’m standing; how they’re looking at me; if I’m saying something funny or smart or interesting enough; whether I’m speaking the right way to suit my audience; and I’m constantly trying to read people’s minds.
Yes, all of this still happens at times. That’s why this book is different to those you’ve read. I am speaking as a sufferer. Someone suffering now, but getting better along with you by using the soon to be listed methods.
But I bottled all this up for so long, because it seems too weird to think and feel this way. I’m right, aren’t I? You’re either reading this and thinking that you do the same, or you’re thinking that I’m insane. Either way, I’ve come to not care. If we keep all our emotions inside, then we’ll break. End of story. And I have broken too many of times because of it, but I don’t want to keep breaking. I’ve come to accept it as a part of me.
I’ve accepted that as a person who puts so much into everything, I will fall short. And fall hard. It’s unfair that in our world we’re deemed the “weird ones” or the “weak ones” just because we care more and think more. But that is how our world works – for now. So, we must accept it.
In my life, I feel like there is a huge lack of respect shown towards me. Being the people that we are, we generally don’t get the respect that we deserve, do we? But their perception of us isn’t accurate. Let me paint you a picture to prove it. I dropped out of university, and I work a rubbish job now. People would look at me as though I’m stupid, or a loser, or a deadbeat. But this isn’t the case. I chose to do all of these things. I dropped out of university, but I passed my first year. I didn’t fail, and I did get accepted. I work in retail, but I was given the opportunity to work a full time writing job which was entry level – a job of which I was given without a degree, working with three other people doing the exact same job whilst having degrees.
So, from the outside looking in, I’ve not got much going for me. But in reality, I made these choices because of a bigger plan. It was scary to do it, and I still get anxious about it, but we must follow our gut. And you see, what people think of us doesn’t really matter. Their perception is not our reality. The world’s judgement isn’t a fact. Some look at my dropping out of university as brave; others look at it as cowardice. These are perspectives. Beliefs. Not truth. There are many crisscrossing perspectives in this world, not a single reality.
But it’s hard for us. Those of us who see these other perspectives, get messed up by them because we don’t know what’s real. Was I strong enough to make a change, or was I too scared to persevere? Was I doing what was right at the time no matter the consequences, and therefore I’m brave? Or was I running away? No one can tell me the answer for sure, only I can; but even I don’t know yet. Our anxiety confuses us. It gives us alternate realities that can all be true at once. And that’s why it feels so awful when we’re feeling anxious. It’s several ideas and realities fighting against one another.
Am I beginning to sound like someone who understands you, and therefore someone who can help you yet? No?
Well, when I first started my retail job back in 2013, I had panic attacks before every shift. Every. Single. Shift. For months and months, I suffered, feeling so scared before going, crying to my mom and not being able to eat. I’d then go to work and paint a smile on my face as if I hadn’t just broken down before getting there. And no one knew, because once I was there I was fine. I just did my job. I was even called “Smiler” by customers, or told that I’m “always happy!” How wrong they were!
But they’re not wrong; not really. Beneath it all, I’m a bubbly, silly, fun person, but the anxiety puts a cap on that. I try to be myself but I literally can’t be because of the mental blocks. However, my bubbly personality comes out more and more now. Slowly are the effects of these mental blocks weakening – which will happen for you, too.
It’s truly awful to question yourself so often, isn’t it? To be constantly battling yourself. To always find something wrong in every goddamn thing. But then when other people don’t understand, it feels even worse. It’s isolating. I just hate hearing, “It’ll be fine”, “Stop worrying”, “Stop it!” If we could, we would, right? If it were that easy, there’d be no problem! And when they treat us as less-than, or half a person, that really upsets me. Just because we’re quiet, or shy, or scared, or down, they feel that gives them reason to belittle us. No! But trust me, it’s OK. They might not understand us and that’s fine, because there are plenty out there who do understand.
The sad thing is, anxiety and depression sufferers are likely to always be prone to it. Don’t take that as a reason to give up, because it’s not. I’ve written this book to prove to you that just because we have these hindrances, doesn’t mean we can’t live amazing lives. We can persevere. And you know what? It makes us ten times stronger than anybody else when we do persevere. It doesn’t make you brave to never get scared. The brave are those who are scared and feel weak, but keep on going regardless.
For three years, I studied psychology. This was at college level, on the International Baccalaureate Diploma, and for a year at degree level at university. However, I did not complete my degree, and therefore I am not a professional, as mentioned before. Nevertheless, I do consider myself to be a person who has a sound grasp on psychology, human behaviour, mental illness and methods of thinking. Plus, as a sufferer and someone who has been given help by Western and Asian (I’ll explain later) medicine, I think I can at least pass my experiences, knowledge and advice on to you, in the hope that something will be of use to you. I wish that I’d had someone to tell me these things, especially when I was younger.
There is going to be a lot of information given to you, and to be honest, this book is written in a sort of stream of consciousness. This means that I’m sitting here writing this as if I’m speaking to a friend. Just speaking. Giving advice from one person to another; from someone who’s been there and is doing it. But in reality, isn’t that the best kind of advice? I don’t know about you, but big words from a psychologist who’s never felt the way that we do, just feels empty. It’s confusing. But hopefully, I won’t confuse you. Instead, at least one thing in this book should help you, if you give it a chance.
First of all, you should know that there is no 100% cure for anxiety disorders. As in, there is no one pill that you can take that will make you better forever. It doesn’t work that way. I’m sorry to tell you that in your fragile state, but in order to start feeling better, you need to know and accept this first off.
However, there are many practices that you can take on that will relieve or push back the anxiety. Again, this isn’t a one time thing, though. It’s like eating healthily and suddenly feeling great, you wouldn’t then stop the healthy eating and suddenly be surprised when you put on weight and feel bad again. Just like your physical health, your mental health needs routine work done throughout your life to help you feel healthy and happy.
This book isn’t only for those who have an anxiety disorder or who have suffered with mild depression, though. Anyone who is stuck in life, or worries often, or is simply going through the blues can take something from this book. By no means is this book going to tell you some grand ideas that you will have never heard of before. Instead, I’m telling you what I’ve tried and have found can help you to feel happier, to feel stronger, and to deal with the rubbish that life can throw our way.
So, let’s begin.
P.S. When reading, I suggest that you take notes if you’re serious about helping yourself. Plus, don’t try to do too much too fast, otherwise you’ll fall short. Instead, take it a step at a time, and see what each section means to you and your life. Remember, starting is the hardest part. It only gets easier after that.
P.P.S. As aforementioned, I wrote this book in 2016 when I was 20 years old and suffering from depression. Reading it back, I can feel my 20-year-old selves’ pain. However, it will please you to know that I am no longer depressed. I am no longer working in retail. And I’m a lot less lost. So, speaking from a future perspective, two years later, I guess I was definitely right about these techniques after all…
“Beautiful things have been broken before…”
You may have a form of anxiety if:
- You often get a pounding heart
- You get sweaty in certain situations
- You overthink a lot
- You can’t control your worrying
- You fixate on things too much
- You avoid things that worry you
- You have nervous habits like biting your nails, playing with your fingers, scratching, fiddling, or moving about too much
- Your mind is never settled
- You constantly think things that aren’t true/you have a tainted perspective of reality
- You let people take advantage of you
- You avoid social situations
- You have strong, overpowering phobias
- You feel nauseous in certain situations
- You have headaches often
- Your breathing can get short
- You are prone to panic attacks
- You can easily get diarrhoea
- You are prone to fainting
You may have depression if:
- You sleep too much
- You sleep too little
- You over-eat
- You under-eat
- You have feelings of hopelessness and helplessness, like you will always feel low
- You don’t take care of yourself
- You have little interest in doing things
- You dislike or hate yourself/you criticise yourself too much
- Your relationships are strained
- You have constant negative thoughts
- You have low self-esteem
- You are fatigued and have low energy
- You don’t do the things you used to enjoy
- You often get angry too easily
- You can be reckless
- You find it difficult to concentrate
- Your sexual drive has decreased
- You have suicidal thoughts (in which case, you need to contact a doctor immediately)
You are going through damaging hardships and too much stress if:
- You have low energy
- You get an upset stomach, including diarrhoea, constipation and nausea
- You get aches, pains, and tense muscles
- You have insomnia
- You have a loss of sexual desire and/or ability
- You get headaches
- You’re too forgetful
- You do nothing, or want to do nothing, too often
- You’re limited by your thoughts
- You can have chest pains and a rapid heartbeat
- You get frequent colds and infections
- Your social life is poor
I am in no way a medical professional. This is not a diagnosis, and the book itself is in no way a treatment for your issues. If you’re worried about any of the above, then please contact your doctor.
Our first method for coping with things like anxiety, mild depression, sadness, loss, fear and change, is acceptance. I put this first because I’ve found this to be the hardest, but most effective way of coping. How can we possibly aim to feel better about ourselves and our lives if we can’t even accept it? If we constantly fight against ourselves, saying “I’m not depressed”, “I don’t have anxiety”, “I’m fine.”
You’re not fine. You’re not. And that’s OK. The first thing I want you to do is to finally tell yourself that it’s OK not to be OK. To accept that you’re feeling badly and that something isn’t right. Too many of us are in denial because we think that to admit there’s something wrong means we’re weak or broken or odd. I don’t know if it’s society, or just who we associate with, but we need to change our way of thinking.
We are not weak. We are not broken. We are not odd.
There is a lot of people who suffer with the same thoughts and behaviours that we do, they just don’t want to label it as anxiety or depression because of the stigmas attached to them.
Depression is a horrid ghoul that shackles us to our bed, stalks us, and poisons everything that it touches. It is a big, scary word, and no one wants to carry it – of course we don’t. But if it’s with us, we’ve got to find the strength to accept it. Only then will the weight be easier to carry. Only then will its effects slowly seep away.
We don’t need to let these labels affect us, and you know how we do that? By using them ourselves. By accepting what the labels mean and not being afraid to wear them proudly. It took me a while, but I can now say that I have anxiety without feeling ashamed. I can now share my experiences with depression without whispering in case I’m judged. Own it. That’s how we take the labels’ power away; that’s how they no longer hurt us. You have anxiety and you have depression, but you are NOT the illnesses.
Accepting our labels or personalities is easier to do when we meet others who feel the same way. When you feel alone, it’s sometimes harder to convince yourself of something; but when there’s others who can prove it to us, it becomes a lot easier. So, unify. Attend group sessions or classes relevant to anxiety, depression or stress. Join legitimate chatrooms to speak about your shared problems, too. I know you’re afraid to speak about your innermost difficulties, but I promise you that speaking about them with fellow sufferers will lead you to enlightenment and acceptance – two crucial ways for coping better.
Of course, I don’t expect you to read this brief explanation and start to automatically think you’re great and accept who you are. Instead, just like everything else, it will take practice. You need to repeat it over and over until you can’t help but remember it. You need to meditate the idea. I want us to sit and think about who we are; to tell ourselves that we are such-and-such and that it is OK. That we were made this way, and will have an amazing life with our all that we are once we stop fighting against it.
When accepting ourselves, we also have to learn to accept others for who they are, and the world for how it is. This, I admit, is a lot harder. We want people to see things how we see them. We want people to do as we do. And, of course, we often fight against the world because it just feels awful at times. But we need to accept it. Accept that some people aren’t going to be the way that we want them to be. Accept that there are millions of crisscrossing personality types out there, and they’re not all going to be like us. And they don’t need to be. We don’t want them to be. Otherwise the world would be boring, right? It’s the natural way of things.
So, if you can’t stand someone, detach yourself from them. Ignore them. Don’t harm yourself by trying to change or fight them. And the same goes for the world. Don’t hurt yourself when fighting it. By all means, try to shape it; that’s really admirable, but not at the loss of yourself.
Lastly, I think it’s important for you to really realise where you are in life. What’s your job? What education do you have? Who are your friends? Do you have a partner? Do you want one? What are your achievements to date? Once you’ve answered these questions, you need to accept the answers. They might not be answers that you’re happy with, but nevertheless you need to accept them.
Accept that you’re single and have been for a while. Accept that you’re not at the place in your career that you thought you would be right now. Once you’ve truly accepted it, the weight will be lifted. Then, when the weight feels lifted, it’s easier to fix it. You’ll finally see what it is you need to do to get to the next step. Trust me. Time heals all. Accept that time passes, whether we want it to or not. Accept that it can give and take, and that’s just how life goes.
- Take a minute to ask yourself what’s going on. What’s wrong? What’s caused it? Is it me? Am I really OK? Then once you start being honest and realise that you’re in fact not OK, we can begin to feel better.
- Each day we will tell ourselves that it’s normal to feel this way and go through what we’re going through. Accept where you are in your life, and that you won’t always be there. Your life is yours, so don’t fight it.
- Try to connect with more people like you. If you surround yourself with only contrasting personality types, it’ll be harder to be OK with who you are.
- Ask yourself why you “can’t” accept yourself. Then, ask yourself what you’d say to a friend who feels the same way. I bet you wouldn’t be as hard on your friend as you are on yourself.
- Accept the world for what it is. It’s nasty at times, but there are good times, I promise. Meditation is a good way to spiritually connect with the world and your thoughts on a deeper level when everything just feels too overwhelming.
“The more you know who you are, and what you want, the less you let things upset you.”
– Stephanie Perkins
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