This may seem like a really out-of-place post compared to the rest of my mental health content. If you’ve read along with my University Series then you’ll know my mental health has brought a whole load of negativity into my life.
I still get frustrated with my brain sometimes and annoyed that it doesn’t work ‘properly’ in certain situations, but it’s not all negative. We all know there’s a huge amount of stigma surrounding mental health, and it’s already super hard to talk about but shrouding it all with even more negativity just makes it that much harder to share and seek help for.
I’ve read so many posts, and written a fair few myself, about how awful it all can be and I will definitely say that my anxiety has taken a lot of opportunities and positive feelings away from me. But it’s also provided me with some amazing opportunities I didn’t have before and people I wouldn’t have spoken to before so, although I’ll never be glad I have anxiety, I can say I’m grateful for some of the things it’s given me.
1. My anxiety taught me it’s okay to take the time to look after myself
I am a total self-confessed perfectionist and I always put too much pressure on myself to complete every single task without breaks, breathers or time to myself. Well, I was, before anxiety took over. My anxiety made it so hard to complete even the simplest task and made the thought of breaks all too appealing. It became too easy for me to give up, or never even start a task, for fear of failing. This allowed me time to do things I enjoy, like paint my nails, colour in, watch movies, and eventually helped me realise that I felt better after giving myself a break.
Before, I would honestly sit for 12 hours a day writing non-stop because I was too scared to fail, but now I understand that it’s so important to put myself first and take the time to give yourself a break. This was a huge factor in why I took a year out from uni, but even with work and any assignments I take on now, I make sure to pace myself and set manageable goals.
I do still get the anxious, ‘I’m not good enough’ feelings, but after a bubble bath, I can’t hear them as much. I’m so grateful for my anxiety because it showed me that I was pushing myself too much and taking on more than I could ever manage. This might have been a contributing factor in my anxiety, there are so many links between perfectionism and poor mental health, but I’m so thankful that it gave me these opportunities to put myself first. Since putting less pressure on myself and realising when it’s time to stop, my anxiety has decreased so much too.
So, thanks, anxiety, for giving me the tools to put myself first and minimise your effects at the same time.
2. My anxiety improved my empathy and understanding of others
As a psychology-lover and someone 3/4 of the way through their psychology degree, you’d think I’d have had a pretty good understanding of mental illnesses. I could easily list off the textbook symptoms of your illness and the side effects of your medication, but I was still clueless about what you were really going through. Admittedly, when I was a teen I threw around the ‘I’m so depressed’ and the ‘Omg why are you so bipolar’ with my friends, never understanding the impact behind those words.
That all changed when I was diagnosed with a mental illness of my own and realised the depth that it all goes. Even the best knowledge of the symptoms, side effects and treatments will never prepare you for the thoughts and feelings floating around your body every day and I’m grateful that my experience has allowed me to have a better understanding of others. You’ll never really understand what someone else is going through, even if you share the same symptoms, illnesses and treatments. Mental health is so unique to every single person, and although I’ll never fully understand why others feel a certain way or the extent they feel it, I can now understand how hard it can be to experience those feelings and chat with others about my own experiences.
Thank you, anxiety for allowing me to better understand the position that others are in so that I can be aware of those that may be struggling.
3. My anxiety helped cleanse my social circle
One of the things I’ve really struggled with was losing my friends because of my anxiety. This was partly due to feeling misunderstood and an outsider, but also due to the lack of support, I received once opening up. That in itself was really tough, I already felt lonely and stupid, but this doubled when I didn’t have anyone around me. If someone told me I’d look back on that and feel grateful, I would never have believed them but honestly, I am.
By losing those friends that weren’t a positive influence in my life, I made space for new friends and interactions that have boosted my confidence. I feel so much better now that I’m surrounded by people who are more supportive and understanding, and now I can’t remember the last time I felt lonely.
Thank you, anxiety for allowing me to cleanse the negativity from my life and make space for more positive people who I will always be grateful for.
4. My anxiety is the reason I started this blog
I started this blog to create the resource I wish I had when I was at my lowest point. In 2014, I needed to read/hear someone else’s experience of their mental health to know I wasn’t alone, but I had no idea where to look. If I’d never felt so anxious before I wouldn’t have had the idea to create this blog where I’ve been able to share all of my experiences whilst chatting with others about theirs. In the space of two months, I’ve spoken to so many people I never would’ve known before and even made the most amazing and wonderful friends.
I am so excited for the rest of this journey so, thank you, anxiety for giving me the inspiration to jump on this crazy ride!
I really hope you enjoyed this post reflecting on the more positive aspects of mental health. Sometimes it can be really hard to see the positives if any, that come from a negative situation but it can really help to take that step back. This post made me feel so much better about my own mental health and how far I’ve come and I’d love to hear your own experiences!
Are you grateful for anything your illness/mental health has given? What/why? Let me know in the comments or on social media!