Talking To Someone Seemed Too Simple, But It Ended Up Being The First Step To Healing My Anxiety

I was always shy as a child, avoiding conversation and always feeling a little worried. I put these feelings down to my age, and thought that once I’d grown up a bit, the awkward feelings would be a thing of the past. As I transitioned from primary school and into secondary school, the feelings seemed to follow me.

I was thirteen around this time, and knowing that I’d be in a new school with new people made me feel a heightened sense of worry I’d never experienced before. I felt the same worry I felt when my mum dropped me off in the playground for the first day of primary school. It was that same stomach churning worry that I knew all too well.

Even though I continued to feel this worry, I remember still thinking that I’d eventually grow out of it. The problem was, it was only getting worse. Whilst my new friends seemed like they didn’t have a care in the world, there I was, trying to fit in, but still feeling as if something was not right. At this time I didn’t even know that anxiety was a word! And I certainly wouldn’t of been able to tell you what it meant. So I carried on through my school years, forcing a smile onto my face, and saying yes to things when really deep down I wanted to say no and go and lock myself in my bedroom.

The years flew by as they do, and eleven years had passed since I took my first step into primary school. Even after all that time, I still felt the same intense levels of anxiety as I was approaching college. For what ever reason, my anxiety seemed to peak around this time, and I had my first panic attack. It was as if all those years had built up to a critical mass that simply tipped me over the edge.

I’d packed my bag and made my way out of the house as I normally did, walking down the main road towards the train station. I hadn’t made it very before before it started. Every passing car made me feel more paranoid, the sun was bright and caused me to feel blinded. Like many days, I had struggled with whether I was actually going to go in that day. I wondered if I’d be in trouble for last week when I’d stayed at home for three days. I was going back and forth in my mind wondering what they’d say to me. It was at that point I considered quitting and just going back to the comfort of my bedroom.

Although very anxious, I was also always determined, and so I knew that I had to at least see the year out, and so I carried on in the warm heat. However for a reason that I still can’t explain, my mind started to race, as if there were two voices telling my conflicting things. I started to feel frantic, as if everything was crashing down around me. The brain fog that I had become accustomed to sank over my eyes, and that was all I needed. I stopped, turned, and scurried back towards home. There was no way I could walk into a class with everyone looking at me. Surely they would know I was some kind of imposter that never truly belonged there in the first place. It just all got too much. Some people say that your life flashes before your eyes before you die, however in that moment, every anxious situation in my life seemed to play in fast forward in my mind.

Amongst the panic, I remember thinking to myself that this was just who I was, and likely who I’d always be. After all, I couldn’t remember a time that I hadn’t felt this way. I’d never be confident, outgoing, and I’d never understand why I felt so confused. I opened and closed the door behind me, and in doing so felt a huge weight drop. Amongst the quiet of the hallway, I heard my mum call out to see if I’d forgotten something.

This would be the first time that I’d ever broken down in the blink of an eye. She rushed over to me and asked what was wrong. I didn’t know how to explain what was going on, however I was completely convinced I was losing my mind. Of course I knew what anxiety was by this age, but I never knew it could make you feel like you were going mad. So that’s exactly what I told her. Blubbering, I told her I thought I was going crazy. It felt like the last eleven years were like a balloon that had slowly been filling with air, but the pressure had now caused it to pop.

My experience with anxiety had always made me feel lonely, as if I was the only person in the world who was experiencing it. Looking back I think I felt that way because no-one was talking about it. No-one was talking about mental health, not even within families. It just never seemed to come up. So whilst my mum tried to calm me down, I finally managed to get out how I had been feeling, not just for the last few weeks, but for most of my life, and even then I didn’t expect her to understand.  Like any good parent she comforted me, but more importantly, she revealed something to me.

She told me that she had experienced something similar. She explained to me that she had been on a mild medication for her anxiety for years. Rubbing my red eyes, I felt a sense of shock. My own mum struggled with anxiety? This was huge, because it showed me that I was not so different, and not the only person to of gone through it. Just being able to talk openly about it gave me a sense of peace, as if I had made this confusing part of myself a little less of a deal. I felt a tiny bit more normal. I’d never of guessed that she had any problems with anxiety, and so it made me wonder how many other people might not of opened up about it too.

The next few years were filled with doctor visits, medication, and ongoing soul searching. By no means did this completely fix how I felt, but it was a major turning point for me. From then on I found it much easier to talk about how I felt, because I then knew how powerful talking could be. Suddenly this ‘thing’ that lived inside of me was out in the open.

Now I’m into my twenties, I still experience stomach churning anxiety from time to time, but I’m a lot better at managing it. The fact is, I got to seventeen before I put how I felt into words to someone. Often times, it can be difficult to know how to tackle how you feel, especially if you are shy and an introvert like I was. However, my own experience taught me that simply talking to someone you care about is often the first step. For me, finally externalising my emotions opened the doorway to recovery. So if you’ve been suffering in silence for a while now, dare to reach out to someone. It doesn’t have to be a family member as there are plenty of online support groups these days.

Don’t be embarrassed, you are human, as is the rest of the world, and you never know, you might set off a chain reaction where others make the big move and open up too. We can all put anxiety into the spotlight and help those young children who feel lonely and embarrassed to understand that it’s okay, and there is support if they want it.


About the Author: Sean Clarke

Sean Clarke is a father and writer who has experienced anxiety and depression since a very young age. He now offers down to earth advice for those who feel lonely in their own struggles – just like he did for many years of his life. You can find him over at http://projectenergise.com/blog. His ever growing anxiety coping skills list for those that want to know what has helped him can be found at http://projectenergise.com/anxiety-coping-skills-list/.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Follow Hey Sigmund on Instagram

Big feelings, and the big behaviour that comes from big feelings, are a sign of a distressed nervous system. Think of this like a burning building. The behaviour is the smoke. The fire is a distressed nervous system. It’s so tempting to respond directly to the behaviour (the smoke), but by doing this, we ignore the fire. Their behaviour and feelings in that moment are a call for support - for us to help that distressed brain and body find the way home. 

The most powerful language for any nervous system is another nervous system. They will catch our distress (as we will catch theirs) but they will also catch our calm. It can be tempting to move them to independence on this too quickly, but it just doesn’t work this way. Children can only learn to self-regulate with lots (and lots and lots) of experience co-regulating. 

This isn’t something that can be taught. It’s something that has to be experienced over and over. It’s like so many things - driving a car, playing the piano - we can talk all we want about ‘how’ but it’s not until we ‘do’ over and over that we get better at it. 

Self-regulation works the same way. It’s not until children have repeated experiences with an adult bringing them back to calm, that they develop the neural pathways to come back to calm on their own. 

An important part of this is making sure we are guiding that nervous system with tender, gentle hands and a steady heart. This is where our own self-regulation becomes important. Our nervous systems speak to each other every moment of every day. When our children or teens are distressed, we will start to feel that distress. It becomes a loop. We feel what they feel, they feel what we feel. Our own capacity to self-regulate is the circuit breaker. 

This can be so tough, but it can happen in microbreaks. A few strong steady breaths can calm our own nervous system, which we can then use to calm theirs. Breathe, and be with. It’s that simple, but so tough to do some days. When they come back to calm, then have those transformational chats - What happened? What can make it easier next time?

Who you are in the moment will always be more important than what you do.
How we are with them, when they are their everyday selves and when they aren’t so adorable, will build their view of three things: the world, its people, and themselves. This will then inform how they respond to the world and how they build their very important space in it. 

Will it be a loving, warm, open-hearted space with lots of doors for them to throw open to the people and experiences that are right for them? Or will it be a space with solid, too high walls that close out too many of the people and experiences that would nourish them.

They will learn from what we do with them and to them, for better or worse. We don’t teach them that the world is safe for them to reach into - we show them. We don’t teach them to be kind, respectful, and compassionate. We show them. We don’t teach them that they matter, and that other people matter, and that their voices and their opinions matter. We show them. We don’t teach them that they are little joy mongers who light up the world. We show them. 

But we have to be radically kind with ourselves too. None of this is about perfection. Parenting is hard, and days will be hard, and on too many of those days we’ll be hard too. That’s okay. We’ll say things we shouldn’t say and do things we shouldn’t do. We’re human too. Let’s not put pressure on our kiddos to be perfect by pretending that we are. As long as we repair the ruptures as soon as we can, and bathe them in love and the warmth of us as much as we can, they will be okay.

This also isn’t about not having boundaries. We need to be the guardians of their world and show them where the edges are. But in the guarding of those boundaries we can be strong and loving, strong and gentle. We can love them, and redirect their behaviour.

It’s when we own our stuff(ups) and when we let them see us fall and rise with strength, integrity, and compassion, and when we hold them gently through the mess of it all, that they learn about humility, and vulnerability, and the importance of holding bruised hearts with tender hands. It’s not about perfection, it’s about consistency, and honesty, and the way we respond to them the most.♥️

#parenting #mindfulparenting
Anxiety and courage always exist together. It can be no other way. Anxiety is a call to courage. It means you're about to do something brave, so when there is one the other will be there too. Their courage might feel so small and be whisper quiet, but it will always be there and always ready to show up when they need it to.
⁣
But courage doesn’t always feel like courage, and it won't always show itself as a readiness. Instead, it might show as a rising - from fear, from uncertainty, from anger. None of these mean an absence of courage. They are the making of space, and the opportunity for courage to rise.
⁣
When the noise from anxiety is loud and obtuse, we’ll have to gently add our voices to usher their courage into the light. We can do this speaking of it and to it, and by shifting the focus from their anxiety to their brave. The one we focus on is ultimately what will become powerful. It will be the one we energise. Anxiety will already have their focus, so we’ll need to make sure their courage has ours.
⁣
But we have to speak to their fear as well, in a way that makes space for it to be held and soothed, with strength. Their fear has an important job to do - to recruit the support of someone who can help them feel safe. Only when their fear has been heard will it rest and make way for their brave.
⁣
What does this look like? Tell them their stories of brave, but acknowledge the fear that made it tough. Stories help them process their emotional experiences in a safe way. It brings word to the feelings and helps those big feelings make sense and find containment. ‘You were really worried about that exam weren’t you. You couldn’t get to sleep the night before. It was tough going to school but you got up, you got dressed, you ... and you did it. Then you ...’
⁣
In the moment, speak to their brave by first acknowledging their need to flee (or fight), then tell them what you know to be true - ‘This feels scary for you doesn’t it. I know you want to run. It makes so much sense that you would want to do that. I also know you can do hard things. My darling, I know it with everything in me.’
⁣
#positiveparenting #parenting #childanxiety #anxietyinchildren #mindfulpare
Separation anxiety has an important job to do - it’s designed to keep children safe by driving them to stay close to their important adults. Gosh it can feel brutal sometimes though.

Whenever there is separation from an attachment person there will be anxiety unless there are two things: attachment with another trusted, loving adult; and a felt sense of you holding on, even when you aren't beside them. Putting these in place will help soften anxiety.

As long as children are are in the loving care of a trusted adult, there's no need to avoid separation. We'll need to remind ourselves of this so we can hold on to ourselves when our own anxiety is rising in response to theirs. 

If separation is the problem, connection has to be the solution. The connection can be with any loving adult, but it's more than an adult being present. It needs an adult who, through their strong, warm, loving presence, shows the child their abundant intention to care for that child, and their joy in doing so. This can be helped along by showing that you trust the adult to love that child big in our absence. 'I know [important adult] loves you and is going to take such good care of you.'

To help your young one feel held on to by you, even in absence, let them know you'll be thinking of them and can't wait to see them. Bolster this by giving them something of yours to hold while you're gone - a scarf, a note - anything that will be felt as 'you'.

They know you are the one who makes sure their world is safe, so they’ll be looking to you for signs of safety: 'Do you think we'll be okay if we aren't together?' First, validate: 'You really want to stay with me, don't you. I wish I could stay with you too! It's hard being away from your special people isn't it.' Then, be their brave. Let it be big enough to wrap around them so they can rest in the safety and strength of it: 'I know you can do this, love. We can do hard things can't we.'

Part of growing up brave is learning that the presence of anxiety doesn't always mean something is wrong. Sometimes it means they are on the edge of brave - and being away from you for a while counts as brave.
Even the most loving, emotionally available adult might feel frustration, anger, helplessness or distress in response to a child’s big feelings. This is how it’s meant to work. 

Their distress (fight/flight) will raise distress in us. The purpose is to move us to protect or support or them, but of course it doesn’t always work this way. When their big feelings recruit ours it can drive us more to fight (anger, blame), or to flee (avoid, ignore, separate them from us) which can steal our capacity to support them. It will happen to all of us from time to time. 

Kids and teens can’t learn to manage big feelings on their own until they’ve done it plenty of times with a calm, loving adult. This is where co-regulation comes in. It helps build the vital neural pathways between big feelings and calm. They can’t build those pathways on their own. 

It’s like driving a car. We can tell them how to drive as much as we like, but ‘talking about’ won’t mean they’re ready to hit the road by themselves. Instead we sit with them in the front seat for hours, driving ‘with’ until they can do it on their own. Feelings are the same. We feel ‘with’, over and over, until they can do it on their own. 

What can help is pausing for a moment to see the behaviour for what it is - a call for support. It’s NOT bad behaviour or bad parenting. It’s not that.

Our own feelings can give us a clue to what our children are feeling. It’s a normal, healthy, adaptive way for them to share an emotional load they weren’t meant to carry on their own. Self-regulation makes space for us to hold those feelings with them until those big feelings ease. 

Self-regulation can happen in micro moments. First, see the feelings or behaviour for what it is - a call for support. Then breathe. This will calm your nervous system, so you can calm theirs. In the same way we will catch their distress, they will also catch ours - but they can also catch our calm. Breathe, validate, and be ‘with’. And you don’t need to do more than that.

Pin It on Pinterest