This post was contributed by Sean Clarke. See bio at bottom of page.
Hi there, my name’s Sean.
I consider myself ‘healed’ from my anxiety disorder. I’d like to let you in on how I overcame my way of thinking after feeling as if I was in distress for most of my life. First, I think it’s important to give you some background information about my disorder to give you an idea of what I’ve been through in my own mind, how I overcame it, and hopefully to help you in some way.
My anxiety started when I was young – super young. In fact, I can barely remember a time in my life when I didn’t struggle with fear in my day-to-day life. I’m what you call a “lifer”. My anxiety was not brought on by anything specific, but instead materialized as generalized anxiety throughout my life.
I do know however, that around the age of 6 or 7 was when I first started to feel worried a great deal of the time. As the years went on, I became more and more shy to the point where I didn’t want to go to school or play with friends on summer holidays.
I know that this wasn’t just typical shy behaviour because I also had the usual feelings of not fitting in, and I also just felt like I wasn’t like other children. Everyone else seemed so care free, joking around and laughing, but then there was me – holding back and over-thinking consequences.
To say that withdrawing into myself and over-thinking held me back would be an understatement, and it took me years of struggling and feeling like I didn’t fit in until I finally understood I had an anxiety disorder. I spent all of those years, feeling fear in almost every situation I was in like a niggle in the back of my mind.
Fast forward to my teenage years, and things took a turn for the worst.
The short version is – I thought I was going insane with the anxiety, paranoia, and the constant thoughts that seemed so out of control.
I thought as I grew up I’d get over this ever-present feeling. I thought it was because I was young, inexperienced at life, and maybe a little insecure.
I went straight onto medication. I’d be lying if I said that they did not work. They did work for a while, but the truth is – they numbed me. They took away every normal emotion I was capable of feeling.
While on the medication, I found it hard to enjoy myself even though I was not feeling as anxious any more. I found it hard to communicate with others, to laugh and just to be my normal creative self. Now of course everyone is different, but I decided that I didn’t want to be a slave to medication for the rest of my life. I also decided I didn’t want to be a slave to my mind. I had an intense feeling that I’d always have these thoughts and feelings forever. I wanted to find a way to feel ‘normal’ without relying on something that made me feel weird.
By this point I was 18, depressed, and confused about what my next move in life would be.
I thought to myself “How can I live the life I want? How can I push past this and deal with it instead of feeling like I have to fight it every single day?”
We all want a cure for our illnesses and that makes sense. We all want to run from our fear, destroy it, and avoid anxiety altogether. That’s what I wanted too.
I was still on medication, occasionally missing days which was of course my own fault. I suffered for those lapses. I would become agitated, grumpy and also angry. I felt like I’d let this beast in my head control everything. I was very down-trodden, upset, and confused.
I wanted change and I wanted it to be off my own back. I wanted to be in control of my own mind. I wanted to get back to that 5-year-old kid that loved, laughed and didn’t worry about tomorrow so much. I wanted to feel all the emotions that make us human beings because I felt as if I was missing out. At that time, I was in my teenage years and I was dammed if I as going to spend the rest of my life in that condition. I knew I didn’t have to put up with it.
I started reading, researching and, in my own way, trying to figure out why I had become that way. Why was I so worried all the time? Why did I feel sick with fear all day, every single day?
What I learnt was that there are many reasons like genetics, life experiences and substances that can lead to chronic anxiety.
My research also lead me to psychology and different ways to think and feel. I was taking in a great deal of new information. I couldn’t believe what I was reading and discovering about anxiety disorders. There were people – really smart people – who were teaching different ways of thinking, in order to help people just like me. People who had been suffering their whole lives were turning everything around by adopting these teachings.
I was skeptical about what I was learning at first, because I’d been so fearful for so long. “How could this help me? Surely I was too far gone..” I thought. However, I was willing to try anything by this point. I would have been in my early 20’s at that time, and I was slowly coming off the medication due to the side effects of numbness etc.
It was vital that I found a way to manage how I felt, and ultimately get over it.
I learnt about acceptance and commitment, which taught me that running away and hiding from our problems makes us worse and slows down our recovery.
I realized that I had been so scared of the fear itself, fighting it and hiding for most of my life. I woke up to the fact that this had never really helped me. It was like someone had opened my mind and pulled all my busy thoughts out of my head for a moment so I could think clearly.
I started to commit to the personal values that were important to me. I reconnected with my passions, defined my purpose and how I wanted to be in life. I came to accept that bad things happen, and it’s how we behave and react that can make or break us.
I faced my anxiety in every aspect of my daily life. I let it run through me and back out without attaching my fearful judgements to it. I stopped naming it and actively keeping it at the forefront of my mind.
This mindful way of living has been powerful. It has opened up doors in my head that had been locked by the anxiety. It gave me clarity. I learned that I was holding myself back. Thankfully I’m also quite a determined person, and that helps because I don’t stop until I achieve what I’m trying to do.
It also helped that I reached a critical mass of anxiety that nearly broke me. Without that, I wouldn’t have had the big push to do something about it. I helped me become very aware of how I was behaving for the first time in my life.
I changed and I still can barely believe it…..after all those years of feeling like I wasn’t good enough and like I would never fit into the world.
You can change too.
It all starts with saying “Enough is enough.”
There’s so much more to it than that, and that’s why I started ProjectEnergise.com.
It’s part of my purpose, and my way of guiding the suffering through their anxiety. It’s full of what’s helped me, the regular guy who’s felt fear his whole life until he started reaching out.
I hope this helped you in some way and I just want to say thank you to the awesome Anna Lisa Scott for having me here. I hope I have provided, and will continue to provide, the anxiety community with some value and ultimately, hope!
Here’s to your success
Author Bio: Sean Clarke is a father, artist and blogger, who is devoted to helping others overcome their anxiety and building healthier mental habits via his website ProjectEnergise.com