It’s been a while since I’ve last posted. There are a number of reasons I can point to (e.g. the fact that my midterm exams seem to go all the way up until finals week), but honestly, the main culprit is my lack of symptoms. Sure, I’ve had my share of anxieties and stresses over the past two months, but there haven’t been any tangible things to write about.
At first, it seemed to me that I had hit a roadblock of sorts; I’m out of symptoms to write about, so I guess the blog is over. But then, who would I be doing justice? Isn’t the whole point of this blog to explore the many ways that we can get over our anxiety?
I’m not saying that I’ve been “cured” or that I’m fully free of my anxiety and depression (don’t listen to people who tell you that), I’ve just learned how to cope better. I still get a bit overwhelmed in large public areas, I doubt I will ever feel totally calm while travelling, and I know I will not have my last panic attack anytime soon. But I do feel like I’m controlling my anxiety, rather than living a life where it controls me. My anxiety may influence the activities I choose to partake in, but it won’t dictate my life.
This whole journey for me really started two years ago when I had my first panic attack. I’ve written about my past experiences with mental health issues before on this blog, so I won’t go too far back. Today, I just wanted to give an overview of the progress I’ve made over the past year to perhaps give hope to those who aren’t quite there yet.
Just under a year ago, when I dropped out of my psychology degree because of the onset of panic attacks and depression, I was in a very unstable state. My emotions were all over the place, I was constantly in a state of terror, and I had very little control over myself in general. I couldn’t get on a bus to go back to school because of a particularly nasty panic attack. I moved back in my parents, and I am incredibly lucky for the support they’ve given me. I spent a few weeks in the house without ever setting foot outside because I was too scared of what might happen.
Eventually, I started going to group therapy sessions. I was terribly anxious whenever I had to walk to the clinic, but I knew that at least my peers would understand the feeling. I quickly learned that I wasn’t the only one suffering with crippling anxiety. In fact, I wasn’t even the worst off.
Slowly but surely, I started getting out of the house. I walked to the grocery store once in awhile, and while I could barely last ten minutes, it was a small step in the right direction. I went out for meals a couple times with my parents, careful to make sure I had a clear escape if needed, but I made it through.
Starting this blog was one of the main outlets I had at the time. Writing down my thoughts and feelings helped me to come to terms with the fact that my mental health isn’t always stellar. It brought up memories of my occasionally depressed, and often anxious, childhood and adolescence, and helped me let go of some resentment I felt (mostly towards myself). Seeing my experiences in writing was a way of validating them. I wasn’t just being selfish and indulgent, I really did (and still do) have a problem.
By the time I went back to my apartment in Montreal in early May, I was almost completely over the agoraphobia that I had fallen into. I still had a lot of growing to do over the summer, but it was much easier without the constant panic attacks I was having before. I slowly built back my work ethic. I had a couple part-time jobs that I found online so I could work from home, and they helped me regain my attention span that I seemed to have lost.
That’s one thing that doesn’t seemed to get talked about enough: chronic anxiety really does a number on your attention span. I hesitate to say that I suffer from ADHD symptoms, but I really did have a tough time re-adjusting to the life of a student (long hours studying). I had troubles managing my time when I first got back to school, but luckily I had the foresight to give myself a bit of a break and take a lighter course load.
Now, a full year later from when my panic attacks started to get the best of me, I can say that I feel like a new person. I’m not rid of my anxiety, I’m not rid of my mood swings, and I certainly haven’t mastered my attention span, but I feel much more self-aware. I’m aware of the troubles I have and I’m aware of what I need to work on.
My one wish this holiday season is that everyone out there is able to get a little bit more of a grasp on their mental health. Happy New Year to all.