Tremaine Raisa, a personal empowerment coach and author, shares her wonderfully inspiring story of the desperation and the success she has felt and become, despite living with anxiety.
I don’t know when I first realized I had an anxiety problem. Looking back, there were all sorts of signs; the choking sort of panic that gripped me when adults spoke to me, the time I froze in an exam during third grade with heart skittering in my chest before I burst into tears an hour later. Then there was my early inability to make decisions because ‘What if that doesn’t work? What if I don’t like it?’
I didn’t know it was anxiety. I thought I was crazy. No one else seemed to have the same struggle I did. As a child, people would ask me “What’s wrong with you?” and “Why can’t you speak?”; I’d be punished for ‘ignoring’ adults who spoke to me. I wasn’t able to articulate that I couldn’t speak because my head would suddenly go blank then fill up with too much – too much thought; too many questions, too much doubt and confusion and too much of not enough air, not enough air, ‘not enough air’.
I spent my teen years in a constant state of tension and worry. Finals were marked with panic attacks and blackouts that resulted in misplaced tools and failing grades. After I graduated and started working in my father’s print shop, I spent most mornings anxious to the point of nausea, curled up on the floor unable to do anything, drowning under the crushing weight of ‘What if?’
I was nineteen before I found out about anxiety as a disorder. That was the same year I learned to say ‘Shhh’. I was never diagnosed, since I couldn’t get anyone to believe that I had an actual problem and the country where I’m from isn’t yet much a part of the conversation on mental health.
One night after a gruelling day of mess-ups, I stood shaking in front of the shop’s industrial guillotine with tears running down my face, preparing to put my head beneath the blade. The incessant questions in my head had risen to a mind-numbing crescendo with my supervisor’s admonishments playing over and over in my head and I remember just wishing it would stop, so I could find the tools to adjust the blade, just chanting ‘shhh, shhh’ for hours. Until it worked.
I left shortly after that and started working as a cashier at a local supermarket. It terrified me, but I kept telling my brain to ‘shhh’, stubbornly blocking out the white noise.
I taught myself to breathe in the face of each new customer, just accepting the rush of thoughts and worries and questions as they flooded in; accepting them, and separating myself from them, helped me to manage the transition from ‘terrified to talk to anyone’ to ‘smiling at each customer and striking up conversations on the fly’. It was amazing.
As soon as I started to see responses, positive responses from total strangers, that engaging in conversations wasn’t the death-defying stunt I thought it was, that I wasn’t stupid or dumb or had something wrong with me, my confidence skyrocketed.
For the first time, I had quiet in my head.
That’s not to say I’m cured. To this day I still get anxious about speaking to strangers, particularly through video. Give me a song and put me in front of a camera and I’ll sing it no problem, but to speak? I’m working on it! I generally get anxious over trying new things, but I work through them by remembering the following things:
- People generally do not wish ill on others they don’t know, so no one is secretly wishing I fail.
- I’ve accomplished so much despite feeling anxious.
- Trying this (whatever it is) doesn’t mean I’m stuck with it. I can always change my mind.
- I have something to offer. There are lovely people out there that can benefit from what I know and have experienced.
- Trying new things is a part of change, and change is a constant of life. Ergo, I’m doing something pretty normal.
Reminding myself of what I have already done, or overcome, goes a long way in keeping the flood of mind-noise and choking on nothing but air feeling at bay. Two things, though, have kept me sane when even my personal accomplishments could not:
The Serenity Prayer
Lord grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change
The courage to change the things I can
And the wisdom to know the difference
Que sera, sera
Whatever will be, will be…
I began to spend a lot of time online, connecting with others with similar stories. To know that I am not alone in this struggle has been the most liberating experience so far. As nerve-wracking as it may be, if you’re struggling with anxiety in any shape or form, you may find it beneficial to reach out to others.
Take control of your thoughts and use the noise to fuel your progress.
I Won’t Lie
I could tell you it’ll be easy, but I’d be lying. There will be days when you doubt with your whole being that you can do it, but stick to it. I can guarantee that the benefits and healing you gain, far outweigh the struggle; at the end of the day you will see yourself as fuller, brighter… more brighter and vibrant than you ever thought possible.
Bob Brotchie is a counsellor, mindset consultant and creator of "Conscious Living by Design"™. He writes for Anglia Counselling, is featured on various other websites and introduces us to many guest writers all covering topics related to mental health and wellbeing.
Bob provides bespoke counselling services to individuals and couples in the privacy and comfort of a truly welcoming environment at his Anglia Counselling company office, located near Newmarket in Suffolk, England. Bob also provides professional online counselling, for local, national, and international clients. The therapeutic models offered are bespoke to the client’s needs, especially those in receipt of 'childhood emotional neglect' (CEN), whilst integrating a mindful approach to psychotherapy and cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) principles. For clients experiencing trauma and/or phobia, Bob offers EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing).