Not all monsters live in the closet
It feels fitting to write this in January when we’re supposed to be hopeful and making promises to ourselves about the life we want while simultaneously feeling entirely miserable because there’s not enough sunlight, there are no fireworks lighting up the dark sky, and everybody is basically sneezing into each other’s mouths.
With January comes the pressure to be fitter, stronger, wealthier, healthier, and prettier – better in every way. The holidays are bombarded with images of overindulgence; happy families crowd around tables overflowing with a nirvana of culinary delights in heavily rotated adverts. Then at the strike of 12 ‘o clock on January 1st, we’re scolded for being fat, gluttonous, selfish slobs.
Then there’s the paradox of self-care and self-love and the pressure to become a fully realised human being, even though that takes a lot of work, work that can be strenuous because you have to put in the conscious effort to break vicious cycles and bad habits every day.
Which brings me to the subject of breaking the habit.
I have a demon living with me called Anxiety. I’m not sure yet if Anxiety is the henchman for the monster Depression or if it’s the other way round. Anxiety has stolen two years of my life by making me sure that I am doomed to die from a nasty disease.
You see, there’s regular anxiety and the demon, Anxiety: regular anxiety is a normal reaction to stressful situations like planning a wedding. It can be helpful in preparing for things like studying for a test you want to do well in, or running up the stairs after watching a horror movie so the ghost that comes out of the TV won’t catch you.
Then there’s the demon, Anxiety (first name Anxiety, last name Disorder) who wakes you up gasping and sweating from adrenaline as if you’ve turned in your bed to find a grizzly bear lying next to you. It’s like being Goldilocks except that instead of breaking and entering, a family of bears broke into your room while you were sleeping, and they hate porridge but looove human flesh.
It convinces you that every aspect of living is terrifying, from getting in the shower to going outside because your thoughts and reality are exactly the same things.
Anxiety thinks it’s funny for you to check areas of your body no less than 70 times a day regardless of whether you’re in the privacy of your own home, at work or out with unsuspecting friends.
It encourages your body to react to a perceived threat which only further cements what you already believe to be real.
At its worst, you get very tired, exhausted and wounded from the battle against your own mind and the horror of losing it to panic. An exhausted and terrified human being can make a decision that turns them into a statistic.
It’s not my intention to bum you out but to share with you some things about the demon, Anxiety and what it’s taught me as I walk the line between recovery and fear; something you might find helpful if you’re struggling with something similar or if this time of the year is a bit of a bummer for you.
- Take one day at a time. That doesn’t mean abandoning your goals but being present can be a preventive measure against looking back. Looking back often leads to punishing ourselves in the present for things we wish we did or didn’t do. Looking forward can make us frightened about things out of our control.
2. Don’t put yourself down for setbacks. This is tricky because set-backs feel like failure.
I still scare myself by doing things like checking my body in excruciating detail until I’m filled with enough terror to make me immobile. That’s when Depression– who’s been hiding in the shadows -unveils its ugly face to say “Ooh yeah, time to strike, SHOWTIME BABY!” I’m trying to learn that setbacks don’t determine my future.
3. Things do change. I’m writing this earnestly. Well, to be honest, I didn’t want to write this at all and have been avoiding doing so for a while, ha! It’s a very vulnerable position to put myself in, you know? I guess a part of me is scared that things will go back to being as bad as they were but that might be Anxiety being a jobs-worth scrub. Nevertheless, it’s important for anyone struggling to know that things do change.
Take it from someone who almost became a statistic because I was sure that things stay as bad, if not worse than they already are. They don’t. You learn how to live again and you deserve to know what that feels like.
This month and maybe for the rest of the year, let go of the pressure to consistently transform your life.
Seek peace in each day, accept there might be setbacks along the way, and believe that you can have the life you deserve. Be present. Be kind. We all have monsters, don’t let yours dictate your story.