My anxiety started at a very young age. Since I can remember, I’ve always struggled to assert myself in social situations. I used to think I was just shy.
When I grew up and entered my teenage years, I began to feel more shy but also anxious and insecure.
It wouldn’t take long to find out that there was a history of anxiety in my family that went back a few generations. Up until then, I didn’t even know there was a name for how I felt for most of my day.
My mother would explain to me that I was experiencing anxiety, the same one that would trouble her from time to time.
In a way I felt a sense of relief because not only had I shared how I felt with another person but also because how I was feeling was something that other people experienced on a heightened level too.
With this new discovery it wasn’t long until I was sat in the doctors office explaining how I had been feeling.
It wasn’t just a period of time I’d been feeling that way, I’d been feeling that way for most of my life.
Shy and introverted, fearful of putting myself forward.
I’d worry about all kinds of things and not just the usual things that most kids worry about.
I remember the doctor listening intently to me whilst he nodded his head and finally came out with;
“10 milograms of these a day should help.”
He had prescribed me anti-anxiety meds.
He then explained that if I felt no different within a few weeks I should go back and see him.
Even as a spotty seventeen-year-old, I remember thinking that it was all a little bit ‘too easy’.
Surely taking one pill a day wouldn’t help to actually fix me?
The Sertralin did in fact halt me from feeling constantly anxious but it also came with other effects.
I no longer felt anxious, but it also dulled all of my other emotions.
If this was not the answer, what was?
Would I have to live a life of constant anxiety?
Eventually I would come off the medication after two long years of forgetting to take it and then inevitably becoming agitated and feel worse.
I decided that day that I would make a change for myself.
I learnt something important – the medication had given me time to breathe but it was not the answer that I was looking for.
If I wanted to make real change myself, I would need to swim into the fear that I’d been avoiding my whole life.
I decided that I would start asserting myself no matter how painful it felt.
The kid that would never put his hand up in class started to answer questions, talk to people he didn’t know and say exactly how he felt.
And, something weird happened – the world didn’t crumble around me.
I was quite literally faking it until the self-belief felt real.
Sure, I probably made a fool of myself sometimes but from those experiences I became stronger and wiser.
Had my daily anxiety dissappered? No, but was losing its power.
Slowly but surely, and the more I flirted with the fear, I felt more comfortable. I no longer felt like I was the odd one out.
I realised that nobody was born with self-belief or confidence, it was muscle that they flexed over and over until they felt comfortable and it felt normal.
Like anything, it grows over time.
I realised that I was worth something and more importantly I learnt that I had a choice;
1. Take the safe route and cower in the shadows for the rest of my life
2. Assert myself and see what happens
Although you should always consult your doctor when coming off medications, I believe there must be a time when we reach this point where we realise we can rely on ourselves.
We can have aids that help us along the way but at the end of the day only we have the power from within to summon self-belief and courage.
I beleive it was always inside me, ready to be harnessed. It just took a while and that’s okay.
It is journey we must go on alone, learning as we go.
Courage and self-Belief can seem unobtainable but they are things that lie in all of us.
Under the cover of our fear they sit waiting to be used. There is potential to take control in all of us if we dare try and find it.
I certainly still get anxious sometimes but it is not constant and I can harness my inner courage to rise above obstacles that may seem difficult.
Remember to swim into what scares you from time to time because you might just surprise yourself.
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