Written by: H.K.
Trigger warning: Discusses eating habits and anxiety... read with caution if you are triggered by these things.
It all started 20 years ago. I was just a 6-year-old girl when I experienced the first symptoms of the darkness within me. Maybe it happened before, but I do not remember. When I started pre-school, it was a nightmare. Some would say that making friends or studying are the only problems that a child may face in school, but there is more, and believe me - it is a lot harder.
I had an eating problem. In fact, I got so excited at school, so I was not able to eat in front of other kids. I felt sick, and there were times I had to throw up.
Another big problem was the school trips. My parents sent me on those trips even though I was afraid of going because I always felt nauseated, especially in the morning. My real fear was “what if I vomit in front of other kids?” Other days I was fine. And, of course, I hated birthdays because when you are at a birthday party you are sort of supposed to eat at least the cake.
However, my family was not aware of my mental health. Back then, in my country, mental health awareness was very low. The doctors said that I just had a nervous stomach, and that was all. I never had real medical help.
My problems vanished when I was about 13-years-old, i.e. when I got my first period. I do not know if that had something to do with it. Maybe the hormones made a change. Suddenly, I felt much better and I never had a problem to go somewhere or eat in front of people. Those were the best years of my life. I was traveling, going on trips, hanging out with friends, going to birthday parties, and when I was a teenager, I used to go out a lot - I loved it.
Just like Cinderella’s magical dress disappeared, so did my freedom. A month before I turned 18, I fell in love with a boy. One night I was at his house. He offered me pancakes, and that was the first time I felt as if I am going to throw up. I hated that feeling. It was back. My darkness was back. I had no idea that my darkness had a name. Anyway, I did not pay much attention to it. But life happens.
As a teenager of 18, I wanted to look good and have a nice body. My mother said to me that I was getting very fat (I wasn’t, I was normal), but I believed that, so I started being very careful about what I eat. As time went by, I lost some weight, then some more weight… And, then, my parents were going through a very bad time, simultaneously I was having problems with my boyfriend. I was so much in love that it hurt. As I was losing weight, I was losing my self-esteem as well. I weighed only 47 kilograms (~103 pounds), and I am 165 cm (~5’5”) high. I looked like I was sick of some deadly disease.
People started talking about how I look in front of me and even behind my back, which made things worse. So, the real hell began when I was 18 because I did not feel sick only when going on public places, but even when thinking of going out. I was not able to even go to the market without feeling like my throat is closing and I am going to throw up or faint. My sleep schedule was a total disaster. I could not eat. I could not function. Often, I experienced sleep paralysis, and the first time, I thought it was some supernatural creature torturing me.
My nightmare continued during my days at college. It affected my class attendance, my grades, my failed exams. I was not able to study and to be honest, I did not have the wish. Nobody understood me. I felt like I was the only girl in the world dealing with such feelings. Thanks to the Internet, I learned that there are thousands of other people who deal with the same issues. I even found out that I am dealing with a mental condition called anxiety.
When my mother saw that I am not okay, she sent me to therapy. Sadly, I was able to go to therapy and talk with a psychologist only 5 times because it was too expensive and we could not afford it. Nonetheless, I learned a few things, one of which was to learn how to say no. My therapist taught me that it is very important to love myself, and if there is something that I do not want to do, I must learn how to say no. So, after 3 years of constant work on myself, I felt better. I gained weight, I started doing stuff I could not before.
How I Eased my Anxiety with the Help of a Therapist
I started my recovery by refusing to do things that made me feel uncomfortable. Of course, I was careful not to hurt people I care about because I believe that having anxiety is not an excuse to be a b*tch all the time. I was aware that not eating enough food was making all the symptoms worse. Also, I learned that magnesium is an important chemical element for the human brain, so I started taking supplements. I promised myself that I am going to eat food regularly (three main meals, and two or three snacks in-between). It was hard, especially in the morning. I woke up every day feeling nauseated. Interestingly, I found a way to feel better! Pumpkin seeds saved me! They are tasteless and they contain magnesium and proteins. So, in the mornings, I ate pumpkin seeds to fill my belly and stop the nausea, and after 30 minutes I was able to grab a bite. After a while, I started eating almonds or nuts, and it was even better. You need to know that food is VERY IMPORTANT! I had moments when I could not eat more than a small piece of bread or meat, but still, it was something. It took me time, but it was worth it. If you are dealing with the same problems, make sure to eat 5-6 meals per day and never ever go to bed on an empty stomach!
Besides the food, believe it or not, I used my subconscious mind. Have you heard about positive affirmations? Well, you think of a few phrases, and repeat them each night before bed, and whenever you feel the need to do it. For example, you can say to yourself “I am strong. I can do it. I am in control. I will succeed!” This method helped me achieve a lot. I started going to walks, markets, malls. It was hard, but I did not force myself. I began by going to a market just to buy the thing I need. Now, I love shopping. If you are dealing with this issue, I advise you to focus on the thing you are buying. Observe it, read it, feel it. Whenever you feel that annoying feeling, find something that will occupy your mind. It works.
Having a hobby is very important too. I focused on watching TV shows, movies, drawing, coloring, and reading. You know what people say, busy hands – happy mind. Whenever you feel like you are drowning, let it go. If you want to cry – cry. If you want to yell – grab a pillow and yell. Just do not give up. I know it feels bad, but trust me, you can do it!
Make sure to find a person who will be there to listen to you when you have to talk. But keep in mind that people who have never experienced anxiety have no idea how it feels and may find it difficult to understand. However, the real people in your life will find a place in their hearts to be there for you and support you through your way to success. Never expect people to heal you, YOU are the only person in the world who is able to help you. Remember that and accept it.
Today, 6 years after I learned that I need to take care of myself, I still struggle, but I can proudly say that I am much better than I was back then. Now, I only have anxiety symptoms when there are some big life changes or when I have to go to events that include a lot of people, like weddings, concerts, etc. The good thing is, I somehow manage to attend (most of the time).
My advice to all the people around the world dealing with anxiety is “Accept yourself the way you are. Learn how to say NO. Go to therapy. Give time to yourself. Never stop working on yourself. Learn how to love yourself. Remember: You are much stronger than you think! Never let the dark monster within you eat your soul.”