One of the main things anxiety took from me was my ability to join in, to be a part of life and to belong.
I used to watch others and notice how happy they looked, when I was out I would marvel at how easily everyone else seemed to mingle and socialise, whilst suffering in silent inner torment. I found small talk difficult and awkward, even catching up with my closest friends put me on edge.
Eventually I withdrew from the world and drank alone at home to numb the pain and escape the loneliness.
Relationships came and went, each one ending for similar reasons – my insecurity, jealousy, lack of self-esteem. I turned to self-employment because I couldn’t be around other people and couldn’t cope with the stress of being employed and working to deadlines or under pressure.
My world became smaller, my mood got worse and the stress continued to bubble away under the surface.
After my breakdown I remember watching people walking past the house, wondering what their lives were like, if they were happy, if they had a job, a relationship, kids.
The list of things I could no longer do grew longer, and my comfort zone shrunk almost to non-existence.
So how did I change this? Slowly at first, but then it gained momentum…
I made a list of the things I felt I couldn’t do, numbered them in order of importance and also in order of difficulty. Then I decided to pick one and tackle it.
I chose going to the gym, the first time I went late when it wasn’t busy and I was unlikely to see anyone I knew. After doing that a few times, then changed to a time when I would see someone and that helped. It all went from there.
All you need is to take the first step, choose something that you find a little challenging and tackle it head on. Sure you might feel anxious, but it can’t hurt you.
You’ve almost certainly already experienced the worst anxiety can throw at you so once you accept the worst case scenario things don’t seem so impossible.
Small steps, one thing at a time, and before you know it your “no-go” list will be getting shorter and your comfort zone expanding.