After all the positive comments I received on my “30 good things about bipolar” post, I’ve decided to do another – this time to break the stigma surrounding anxiety.
Living with anxiety can be one of the hardest things, it is constant and feels like it never goes away – but I want to believe there are good things to come from it.
I believe it is important to reflect upon things – it might not be what’s happening, but how we handle it which makes the difference. Living with anxiety can feel like a life sentence, like a heavy brick of your worries sat on your chest, but it has shaped me into the person I am today – I can choose to see that in a good or a bad way.
Today, I am here to remind you of a few powerful, yet easily forgotten, ‘side effects’ of having anxiety.
1. My anxiety makes me punctual. I always, always arrive at places early – especially if it’s somewhere I have never been before. It’s sort of turned into a compulsion, but there are worse habits to have than arriving somewhere on time.
2. My anxiety makes me empathetic. I believe that I can pick up on and recognise people’s emotions better because of it. I’m extremely sensitive to their emotions too – I can almost feel them with them.
3. My anxiety makes me more understanding of the issues that others face. Pain is a part of life and it helps you to grow – but it definitely helps to have someone to share it with.
4. My anxiety provides me with a warning sign – bringing awareness to my current situation. It directs my attention to where it is needed. It shows me where my priorities are. It shows me what I care about. Having anxiety (in the long term) can save you stress, heartache and money. Worrying can (occasionally) help you avoid problems further down the line.
5. My anxiety has given me lived experience – far more valuable than anything I ever learned at university. It isn’t always a bad thing – it’s what makes life interesting.
6. My anxiety makes me appreciate when I’ve been productive or when something goes well – it feels pretty damn good to feel like you’ve accomplished something you were worried about. I’m pleasantly surprised when things are easier than I anticipated.
7. My anxiety teaches me how to appreciate good moments when they’re here. Trying to be happy for now is one of the hardest but most valuable lessons I am currently going through. I need to lose the idea that things could have ever been any different.
8. My anxiety has made me less judgemental. I like to think I am less likely to judge other people on their thoughts, decisions and experiences after having my own. I am very rarely shocked by anything these days.
9. My anxiety makes me want to help others. I like to think I have a wonderful opportunity to help others just by telling my story. Stories are so powerful, and all seven billion of us have one. Some of the hardest and most heartbreaking stories come from the most loving and well-rounded people I have ever met. I remember being desperate to hear anyone else’s stories about mental illness, hoping to find something relatable. If I can even impact on one other person to make their story easier, it will all be worth it.
10. My anxiety has strengthened my important relationships. Relationships are tough. A relationship with me can be really tough. But that’s how I know Brad loves me because he never makes me feel like I am being too much. From the very beginning, he’s been amazing, more than I could ever ask for. He took it all in his stride, never using it against me, and just wanted to learn how to make me feel like me again.
11. My anxiety gives me perspective on emotions. At the beginning when I was first diagnosed, I couldn’t tell you the difference between any emotion really. They all just clumped together. Now I’m learning to know what they mean, to be able to describe them, to feel them. I’m teaching myself about how to regulate them, let them come and let them go. If only 11-year-old me could see me now.
12. My anxiety can give me courage. When talking about risk-taking, it often means it’s a bad thing. Sometimes, it’s just what you need to get out of your comfort zone. I feel like I’ve grown a lot through experience – more often than not things will turn out okay.
13. My anxiety has taught me to put my feelings (even irrational ones) into words. It has led me to start this mental health awareness blog. It gives me great joy to put feelings into words to share and exchange them with you, giving each other advice.
14. My anxiety makes me intelligent. I can research well, I can critically think, I can analyse a manner of situations, it helps me have a stronger memory. My university work has benefitted a lot from my ability to think at a deeper level.
15. My anxiety makes me different from a lot of people. I think differently. I act differently. I see things differently. I have to check on myself more. I have to take medication. I don’t drink alcohol. I’m trying to turn this into a good thing, but it is one of my biggest insecurities.
16. My anxiety also makes me the same as a lot of people. Friends. Strangers. Celebrities. Relatives. There’s a whole group of people who are just like me, going about their lives, and we don’t even know each other. It’s a weird way to feel connected to others – just knowing that someone else gets it.
17. My anxiety has shown me who my true friends are. I am thankful for those who stand by me through my irrational thoughts – not everyone understands them and can handle them. I know now I am only in the company of those who want to be here and will support me, especially when my brain fights me. It’s important for my friends to know that it’s not a choice, it’s my disorder.
18. My anxiety has made me resilient. In the midst of feeling anxious, it can be easy to look around and want to give up. To see everyone else doing fine, doing better than you. But they’re not. I like to think I’ve been thrown these obstacles to prove that I am determined. I didn’t come this far, to only come this far.
19. My anxiety makes me want to raise awareness about mental health and illness. My anxiety touches pretty much every ounce of my life – that’s why I believe it is so so important to talk about it and support each other – as well as ourselves. It’s time to break the stigma, I will talk loud and proud until every misconception of mental illness disappears.
20. My anxiety makes me more relatable to others – especially those going through difficult times. I don’t pretend to be something I’m not. I don’t try to hide when I’m not okay. I don’t try to pretend I’m doing better than I am. I’m just me.
21. My anxiety gives me strength. I fight against it. I get through it. I challenge myself. I try again. It’s something that comes from me, not other people. I often look to others to validate my progress, but the truth is they can’t. It has to come from me.
22. My anxiety is rooted in my need to protect myself. It has made me question whether I want to be alive, and I’ve said yes. For a while I didn’t want to be here, there may be times in the future when I question it again, but I know deep down that I do.
23. My anxiety makes me a more sensitive, loving and accepting person. Going through real stuff just opens your eyes, there’s really no other way to describe it.
24. My anxiety motivates me to do things – the fear of negative consequences can sometimes be a positive driving force. It also helps me to prepare for situations, to cover all bases and consider the worst-case scenarios.
25. My anxiety makes be a better friend. As I’ve mentioned before I have lost a lot of friends over the course of the years who couldn’t keep up with my mental illnesses. But I have learned a lot about how to be a friend whilst I was alone. I know what I would like in a friend, and I try to offer that emotional support to others.
26. My anxiety means that I can make careful considerations of the possibility of multiple outcomes. I don’t think there’s a situation in life I haven’t already accounted for in my head. Whilst most people don’t worry too much about the timing of things, I’ve already come up with a Plan A, B, C and D.
27. My anxiety has taught me the importance of having a routine. It sounds simple yet so effective. I would not be as organised as I am without my anxiety.
28. My anxiety has taught me to focus on what I can control and not what I can’t. It has taught me to forgive myself for my past. You can’t change situations you don’t take responsibility for.
29. My anxiety has made me develop a new way of looking at the world. It has opened my eyes and causes me to see things in ways I have never seen them before. It changes the way you judge certain people, the way you spend your time, the way you talk to the people around you. It can be scary, but it forces you to understand things you never would have otherwise.
30. My anxiety shows me what I’m grateful for. If I was never diagnosed with anxiety, or in fact, if I never had it, my life would be very different from how it is now. I believe therefore it’s helped me to gain a lot of the things which I now value in my life.
I am not trying to dampen the true nature of how difficult it can be to live with anxiety but provide a reflection on the positives you can take away from it. You may not be able to change the situation, but you can change your attitude towards it.