Sunday, 13 April 2014

Praise your achievements

After a long stint of not very positive blogs (apart from the last entry) I suppose I must write what the title of the blogpage suggests, something POSITIVE!

As I have said in previous blogs I am an anxiety sufferer, probably for as long as I can remember.  I have cancelled appointments (one being an interview to become an air-stewardess) because the anxiety was too much to bear.  My recent achievement, visiting a prestigious commercial barrister chambers in Gray’s Inn, London, was probably my biggest challenge in terms of my anxiety.  Nerves were running so high my chest hurt from over-breathing and a racing heart and I felt physically sick.  I will admit, I contemplated on cancelling, but the information I obtained was well worth it!

Apart from the amazing experience, the invaluable information and contact that I received the day improved my mental health.  I have learnt over the years how harmless anxiety symptoms really are, but I could not deny how unbearably uncomfortable they were at the time.  Leaving chambers I learnt that a) I am still alive and healthy (most importantly) b) never let anxiety get in your way and c) the rewards are indeed fruitful.  I was very self-conscious of my social status, which was the likely cause of most of the anxiety, as a comprehensive school alumni and university drop out visiting a set full of private/public school and Oxbridge graduates!  But that was washed away when a wave of confidence came over me.  If I could do this then I could do absolutely, blooming ANYTHING!  I strutted through London like I was important (lol).

Whilst this is a massive achievement it is worth baring in mind the small achievements I have made.  At the time of this blog being posted I have been panic attack free for fourteen months, my paranoia and OCD traits has lessened dramatically and I can argue against my anxious mind more intellectually (‘no, that person is not laughing at me’ and ‘the outcome is very unlikely to be the worst case scenario’).  I even forget about the time I moved from the Kentish coast to London and planning on own wedding and often don’t view these as achievements, when they really are!  But are they really small achievements?

If a person with agoraphobia can step outside their home for the first time in ten years then that one, small step is certainly a massive achievement.  If somebody with social anxiety can visit friends in the pub with minimal anxiety and enjoy themselves then that is a massive achievement.  If somebody with major depression can get out of bed, wash and eat a small breakfast then that is also a massive achievement.  What we must remember is that our achievements should not be compared to other people’s, but compared to where we have come from and where we are now.  Anything that challenges the anxiety and depression and leaves a positive feeling afterwards (although this may not be quite the same after a negative experience, like visiting the hospital) is an achievement, and should be rewarded!

Sometimes relapses are more noticeable than achievements.  We all want to be free of anxiety and depression and set backs are frustrating (like experiencing a panic attack for the first time in months or lacking energy) but relapses are very common.  Instead of punishing ourselves with relapses we should use it as an opportunity to learn from previous mistakes (whether drinking that bottle of wine last night was a good idea or pushing oneself too far too soon), ride the relapse and get back to where we were before the relapse. 

So these are things worth remembering:
  • Praise every achievement, no matter how big or small they may seem
  • NEVER compare your achievements to others, in fact, don’t compare yourself to others at all
  • Relapses are common, never beat yourself up if you do relapse
  • Remember where you came from and where you are today!

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