Editor’s Note: For Mental Health Month 2019 our theme is “It Gets Better.” As part of our campaign, we are interviewing Libero alumni and asking them to reflect on the past and share words of encouragement to those who can relate to their stories. CLICK HERE to learn more about our Mental Health Month campaign!
What was your life like before you took steps towards mental health?
If you’ve read my previous “It Gets Better” interview, you will have read about my eating disorder recovery journey. While recovering from the eating disorder, I started to realize that I had a problem with anxiety. As I was letting go of those eating disorder habits that I used as a coping mechanism, my anxiety was getting progressively worse.
At my absolute worst, I really struggled to leave the house even to go to work. I felt constant panic all the time and I had no idea why I was feeling so anxious. I felt like I was constantly on the verge of vomiting (which I also have a phobia of), my heart was constant racing, and functioning normally was difficult.
It was like I was feeling more and more anxious about feeling anxious. It was horrible.
What was the turning point that led you down the path of change?
Once my anxiety got to the point where it was affecting my day-to-day life, I knew I couldn’t keep carrying on that way. I honestly thought recovering from an eating disorder was the hardest thing I would ever have to do. However, I can confidently say that recovering from anxiety, especially when you don’t know what is causing it, is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.
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When did you first reach out for support?
I first reached out for support in 2011, a year after I started getting help for my eating disorder.
What gave you the courage to ask for help?
What gave me the courage to ask for help was the desperation to stop feeling the way I was feeling.
Anxiety feels awful. I went from feeling nothing with my eating disorder behaviours to feeling overwhelmed and terrified. I knew it wasn’t normal, and after discussing with close friends and family, they encouraged me to ask for help. My mum has always struggled with anxiety and she was a great push for me.
What types of support did you pursue and which were most helpful for you?
My first step was going to see my GP. I remember talking with my mum on the phone about seeing my doctor and asking her if it would be beneficial for me to consider medication. I always had it in my head that going on medication for mental health issues would turn you into a shell of yourself and completely numb you. I even had the idea in my head that it was the “easy way out”. This is completely wrong, of course.
Going on medication for my anxiety was the best thing I could have done.
It enabled me to feel like myself again and be in the right head space to start discussing my anxiety with a counsellor. Counselling is an absolute must when it comes to anxiety recovery.
Counselling enabled me to find coping mechanisms that worked for me and delve deep into the issues that led to my anxiety in the first place.
I also discovered meditation videos on YouTube, which used to help me fall asleep at night. I would practice deep breathing and use mantras to get me through the day. I found meditation extremely helpful, and there are a plethora of meditation videos online to choose from.
How did Libero help you along the way?
Libero helped me by enabling me to make videos on my struggle with anxiety and what I was doing to help it. I found making videos helped me reinforce what I already knew. Also, getting to know other people who were in the same position was amazing.
I found a great community within Libero and I would recommend anyone who is struggling with any type of mental health issue to use Libero Magazine’s amazing resources and reach out.
How does your life today compare to your life before beginning the journey towards mental wellness?
I truly believe part of the reason I developed an eating disorder initially was to cover up my anxiety by using ED behaviours. So by getting help for my anxiety, I no longer feel any urges to relapse (I consider myself fully recovered from an eating disorder).
I no longer am fearful of things that will cause me anxiety as I now have many tools to help me when I feel as though I’m struggling.
I will still feel anxiety, but I do not let it take over, nor do I let it affect my day-to-day life.
Do you still have “bad days”? If so, how do you respond to them?
I absolutely still have bad days. Even today as I’m writing this, I’m feeling a little bit of anxiety.
I respond to these “bad days” by taking a deep breath and think about what could be causing my anxiety. If I can’t think of anything, I keep myself busy. I’ll go for a walk, if I’m anxious at work I will bury my head in my work, I will talk to someone about it. Sometimes I’ll put on a meditation video and sit and listen to it and that often helps me calm down.
I am by no means completely free of anxiety. In fact, I think I will have it for the rest of my life, but I know how to manage it now because I reached out for help.
What is something about your life today that you never would have thought possible before?
What I never would have thought possible before was travelling to Europe and Australia on my own for 3 months back in 2013. I had absolutely no fear while I travelled and it completely changed my life. It was amazing.
Another thing I never thought possible is that now I am working my dream job as a meteorologist. When I was at my worst, I didn’t believe I would ever be able to achieve this. I was terrified of the thought of being interviewed and I constantly didn’t believe I was good enough to work for the organization I work for now.
What do you wish you’d known when you were first reaching out for support?
I wish I had known it is possible to feel normal again.
I wish I’d known that going on medication was in no way “an easy way out.” I also wish I’d known that anxiety is, unfortunately, extremely common and there is so much help for it.
You’re not alone and there are so many options to get help.
If you could go back in time, what would you tell your former self?
I would tell my former self that life will be normal again and I will be happy. I would tell myself not to let anxiety define or get in the way of living my life.
It’s so easy to let anxiety take over your mind and body, but there is help out there; you just need to ask for it.
What would you like to share with those who can relate to your story and may feel that things won’t get better?
Life will get better, but you have to work for it.
If you’re seeing a doctor and/or counsellor, you’re on the right track. Staying positive is imperative for anxiety recovery. Things will change. Start by setting yourself small challenges (or get someone else to do it), and work your way up from there.
Every step counts; believe in yourself.
Is there a specific quote or song that helped get you through difficult times?
“Be scared and do it anyway.”
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Something I learnt that really helped me and still does is to think of your anxious thoughts as words going across your mind like cars.
Say you’re sitting on the side of the road watching cars go by. As a car comes towards you, you notice it and then watch it head away from you. Think of your anxious thoughts in the same way. Acknowledge your thoughts, say thank you, and let them pass by without dwelling on them.
This perspective helps me not dwell on certain thoughts. It takes a lot of practice but when you can consider that your thoughts are not facts, it’s very liberating.
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