Much of my childhood was spent hiding behind my mum hugging her legs while she spoke to other adults because I was too anxious to speak.
Since losing my mum I’ve come to realise that anxiety is something I really have to manage. It’s funny because something that occupies so much of my mind is completely invisible to some of my closest friends. Outwardly I appear very confident but inwardly my mind works at 100mph thinking of all the things that could go wrong (much like the spongebob gif below).
I went on a placement back in the winter, and I spent many of weeks leading up to it feeling sick with worry. I think much of the anxiety comes from the disbelief that I have made it this far. Sometimes I worry that people will work out that I shouldn’t be here, and they’ll send me away. Much of the anxiety comes from how fast life moves – I was 23 when my mum passed away, how am I already nearly 27!? And much of the anxiety comes from the longing to just be a little girl again who could hide behind my mum when I got scared.
Much of my anxiety manifests itself as health anxiety. My life is really good right now but my mind always trips up on the fact that something could go wrong with my health. I joke to my friends that I am in a different age bracket now. I have to tick the 25 – 30 box now rather than the 18 – 25 one.
Recently I became an ambassador for an organization that supports young carers. Part of my role is to host live chats online with carers to touch base. This week, the topic of anxiety came up, which by now I consider myself well versed in. But I learnt something that I never knew before, and I can’t not tell you about it too!
Apparently, the brain processes excitement and anxiety in the same way. They are both emotions that trigger aroused states in us, quickening our breathing and heart rate. The biggest difference between anxiety and excitement is that one triggers thoughts of “what if something terrible happens?”, “what if I fail?” and the other is only focused on all the things that could go extremely well.
So really, it’s about perspective. It’s a narrative that can be rewritten before the event has even taken place. So rather than thinking “What if people work out that I shouldn’t be here?” about my placement, the narrative can be completely changed to “What if I find out that this is exactly where I am supposed to be?” – which funnily enough was what happened on my last placement.
“What if they don’t like me?” – “What if we become the greatest friends?”
“What if I make a mistake” – “What if I learn some really valuable lessons?”
“What if we argue?” – “What if we laugh and have a great time?”
“What if I am unwell and don’t know it?” – “What if I am fit and healthy?”
“What if I fail?” – “What if I pass with flying colours?”
I have another placement coming up in a couple of months’ time and right on cue feelings of anxiety were beginning to creep in this week. I am so thankful to have been told about this method to put it into practice now.
The biggest growth comes from being outside of your comfort zone. It’s really scary to put yourself out there, but think of all the things that could go right. If anxiety gives us the power to convince ourselves that something bad might happen, why not use it to our strength and convince ourselves there’s something to be excited about?
Mum used to say that it’s better to fail while trying rather than failing to try at all – I think thats really important advice. I hope you know how proud I am of you for always putting yourself out there and trying, despite how anxious or afraid you might be.