It's easy, when suffering anxiety, to get so wrapped up in everything this awful illness is taking away from us. 4 years ago (almost to the day), after my initial diagnosis, I felt it was a slow decline into what I'd consider a pit of darkness. My friends, work life and social life were all thrown into turmoil. At that point, which I'm sure many fellow sufferers can definitely relate to, it feels like nothing will ever be the same again.
However, 4 years on, and I'm finally able to look at anxiety with a different perspective, and now I can look at what anxiety has actually given me - hear me out - I'll break it down.
It's true, I lost a lot of friends over 4 years due to not wanting to go anywhere, but the friends I do have are the ones that made extra effort to still see me. What did this mean? As I got better, I was able to start doing more and this meant the friends that wanted me in their life were there ready and waiting. The ones I lost weren't really friends at all - I look back and can't believe how long I put up with negativity and selfishness.
It brought mine back together and made me realise just how important they are. My mum and girlfriend saved my life between them. I don't use that term loosely, they saved my life. Without their support, love and understanding at my absolute darkest time I would not be sat here today.
This was tricky. It didn't affect my work so much as it affected my ability to progress. This bothered me as I've always been career driven and had built myself up to a position of success to then see people around me overtaking me because I just wasn't comfortable pushing myself. What this now means is I pushed myself in a direction I wanted to go in and as a result, I was recently promoted and have pushed myself in situations I never thought I could.
It's true, anxiety stripped me of all freedom (I couldn't even go to Morrisons without freaking out in the fruit and veg aisle) but now, as I continue to develop myself and push myself forward, I've never treasured my freedom so much. I now go away for the weekend and appreciate everything so much, the experience, the hotel, the new places and faces. I can't express just how much I am so grateful for every tiny day out - even if it's just to the shop for a pint of milk.
I've changed so much as a person. Before my anxiety journey, I was very ignorant towards mental illness (quite ashamedly so) amongst many other things, but anxiety makes you think very differently. As someone judged for having anxiety, who am I to judge anyone? Anxiety has made me more empathetic towards people generally, and much more open minded to all kinds of situations that people find themselves in.
It's so easy to focus on the negatives because anxiety is stripping us of the things we love, but if you can, stop, sit back and actually realise the things you can actually take away from anxiety. With the correct focus anxiety can make us more positive, appreciative, open minded, and surround us with people that actually matter.
After all, if were stuck with this awful illness, we may as well milk it for all it's worth.
After so much talk about what anxiety can take from you, it's so refreshing to hear about the flip side of that coin. Given this perspective, can you identify what your own battles with mental illness has given you? Let us know in the comments below.