Answering reader questions on anxiety

A good friend asked me some questions about anxiety a few months ago. Whilst I may have alluded to the answers in various posts, I recently realised that I haven’t answered them directly, hence that’s what this post will address. If anyone wants to ask me anything related to anxiety, low self-esteem, or a lack of confidence, please do. I try to be open and honest here and will gladly try to answer any questions you have.

1. When did you realise that these feelings were anxiety? Was it a bit later in life? Did you feel relief when you knew those feelings had a name as then you could work on coping strategies?

I’m not really sure! I know it started in adult life and it was quite early on as I can equate it to how I felt within certain jobs, and it’s certainly been a factor to deal with during pretty much every role I’ve held. Therefore, I’d say around my early twenties. I guess I knew then that it was anxiety though I either didn’t want to admit it to myself or tried quashing it in the hope that it would go away. It’s only relatively recently (certainly the past 4-5 years) that I’ve realised that it will always be a factor in my life, to varying degrees, and that I’ll need to try something different to deal with it. I remain certain that a fundamental cause of the anxiety is being really uncomfortable in my own skin and frequently wondering how people will be viewing me and judging me. That is the most difficult thing of all to address, primarily as I don’t know how to other than losing weight and (hopefully) becoming happier with how I look, hence why I’ve attempted to find other coping strategies, this blog being the main one. It has certainly proved cathartic and has helped me for a number of reasons. Firstly, publishing that first blog post earlier this year felt like a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders. It certainly wasn’t easy but it was finally out there for all to see and that actually felt good. The subsequent discussions that I’ve had as a result of starting this blog have also been really beneficial. It really is good to talk and it has been truly astonishing to understand just how many people these issues affect, albeit to varying degrees and in various ways. Helping others to address their own issues is something I’m really pleased to have been able to do and hearing the coping strategies others use has been really useful for me. So yes, there was a sense of relief when I developed a different mindset relating to this and tried doing something different to deal with it.

2. How do you let go of the ‘time wasted’ before you knew it was anxiety (if that makes sense)?

Fundamentally, I try not to have regrets in life, as I believe they’re counterproductive. I try to look forward rather than backward as often as possible. Having said that, there are times when I consider what might have been had I not experienced these issues. Interestingly, I regret the lack of self-confidence and low self-esteem much more than anxiety here. The anxiety issues come and go. I may go days, weeks, even months without having any problems (quite often months, actually). Then, when it does strike, it tends to be in short, sharp bursts in certain situations (as I’ve detailed in previous blogs). The lack of confidence and the low self-esteem, however, are pretty much constants in my life. They’re nearly always on my mind, always have been, and, I think, always will be. When I do consider time or opportunities wasted, it’s always in relation to these issues. I do wonder what might be different now if I’d had the confidence to put myself out there more in my earlier adult years. What if I’d had the confidence in my own musicality to join a band much earlier than I did for the first time (i.e. in my teens or early-20s rather than my early-30s)? What if I’d had the confidence to write songs at an early age and go out and perform them, rather than worrying about what people think? What if I’d had the confidence to write stories and find an appropriate forum to publish them instead of, once again, worrying about what people might think? What if I was one of those people who are completely at ease with selling themselves in the workplace and are adept at blowing their own trumpet in job interviews, rather than being a shambolic, mumbling mess in such situations? What could I have achieved in my career if that were the case? These are the things I tend to think about when I do find myself looking back at what might have been.

Despite all this, my current frame of mind means I don’t harbour huge regrets about any of the above. I still have plenty of time (hopefully!) to devote to working on my goals and hopefully fulfil my potential (as most of us do). Perhaps it’s a by-product of aging but these days I have much more of a ‘sod it – I’m going to try to live life on my terms’ attitude than I ever have done. Starting this blog may have really lit the fire in my belly and I feel like I’m on a roll now, being genuinely very excited about what the future holds. I have so many things I’d like to do that prioritising them is proving difficult (though fine-tuning the 2020 plan will be a job for the Christmas break!). So, to answer the initial question, that’s certainly helping me deal with letting go of the wasted time and the missed opportunities. It may sound trite but the past is past and can’t be changed. I’m very much looking to the future but, more importantly, trying to love each and every day in turn. I haven’t felt as enthused in a long, long time (perhaps never…) and that’s a good feeling, if for nothing else in that it is helping me deal with the issues mentioned above. Regular readers will know I’m a sucker for a motivational image or two. The two below very much sum up my current thinking.

I hope this has been of some use. To reiterate my initial point, please do get in touch if there’s anything you’d like me to write about here. There isn’t much I’d consider to be off-limits (unless it’s insanely personal detail!) and I’m happy to offer my thoughts on just about any topic relating to the core subject matter of this blog.

Thanks for reading and take care.

Mick

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