Saturday, 14 July 2018

Learning To Live

This is a strange post isn't it? I know that breathing is a reflex my body keeps on top of fine, but if you've been following me for any length of time, you'll know it's everything between that reflex starting and that reflex inevitably ending that I've struggled with. Generalised Anxiety Disorder made, and continues to make me, a lot of things; it makes me panicky, it made me lonely, it made my brain a dumping ground of a thousand and one excuses why I can't make that party tonight. Most of all though? It made me scared. Spiders? I pick them up and set them free. Clowns? My favourite creepy pasta characters of all time. Heights? Get me a parachute and I'd do a skydive right now. General life though? That big, black abyss has been terrifying to me for so long. I don't know how people get through, and have always gotten through, every single day of their lives without a constant commentary of 'this can't be all there is', of 'you're not living up to your potential', of 'look at how much better everybody else out there is doing compared to you'.

At it's worst, GAD made me so scared of the world outside of my own head, about the inability to control it and the knowledge that I will never be able to truly tell what another person is thinking, that I avoided it all. I never got dressed, I walked to the worst corner shop in the world once a night to get a mixed slush that I never finished but beyond that? I stayed hidden under covers, letting the phone ring out, I left the post unopened, the bins piled up for weeks, the floor around my duvet was a graveyard of dishes, forks and spoons (usually because when I'd run out of forks I never wanted to wash them) that would get collected and washed once a month to start the whole cycle again. Generalised Anxiety Disorder for me has never been that cute Hollywood trait - it's constantly been a battle between wanting to do more, wanting to be better and being scared of doing anything beyond exactly what I knew; it's always been this stupid idea that if I don't try things, I'll never fail, combined with the idea that because of that I might never do anything good with my life. My head has been in a constant sense of checkmate for so long, it's been hard to know which side is winning on any given day.

So a few weeks ago, I went out on a limb. I went to a pub quiz I was comfortable with people I trusted. Then a few more pub quizzes. Then adventures to weird towns I've never been to before. Then came meeting people's friends I'd never met before; challenging every single barrier that I've ever had. Even when anxiety has me pinned up against a wall, I've battled myself out - I've not turned down plans just because it's safer to watch Nailed It in bed, I've not avoided new people in case they didn't like me (though I'm sure some of them really don't), I've not quietened down my voice out of instinct for fear of saying something stupid. Every single moment of it has felt impossible; my mouth forgets how to form conversation more than I'd like, I spend at least half of my time in public wondering if I'm 'drinking wrong' (if you've never had anxiety, this is probably a foreign concept to you. If you have, you likely know exactly what I mean), I still assume that every single person that I meet probably thinks I'm a bumbling idiot - but I still go out and do it anyway. It's not that I like the feeling, but more that I can't let my anxiety ruin my life by turning it into an existence; I deserve to take up space, use my voice. I deserve to actually live.

I could battle sharks, take Mulan's place to defeat the Huns and pull the sword out of the stone before Arthur got his hands on it and I have no doubt that this is still the battle I would come out of bruised, battered and having fought the hardest. Fighting your own head for the right to do more than exist every single day is exhausting; but getting through it is rewarding; and when I see myself laugh on videos, when I see the photos I take of my friends in their happiest moments, when I walk into a bar on my own and don't immediately have to fight the urge to leave? I feel like the ceasefire makes every single moment up to then worth it. I am lucky enough to have friends that help me push through, who constantly reassure me of their love for me, who never force me into situations that I completely shut down in - I am lucky to have a support system who help me every single day, because without them, the life I have created for myself in the last five months would have been completely impossible. I wish the Sam crying in bed at the idea of putting shoes on and seeing people she might know on a five minute walk could see me now - could see that the illness never gets better, but she'll have things in place to make it less bleak and all-consuming.

Learning to live properly has been the hardest thing I've ever done - and I'll truly never take it for granted. Every time I get in from a night out, exhausted and overwhelmed, I still have to remind myself how lucky I am to have gotten myself to this position. Maybe it won't always be like this - but for now? Here's me celebrating the fight, here's me celebrating finally getting here, here's me reminding myself of that time we managed to do in so I can look back in a few years time when I might need to remind myself that we did it once and we can again.

Sammy xo.


  1. This gave me so much hope it's unreal. I'm so proud of you Sam. Really, I am. From when we first used to speak to two years later, reading this is incredibly relatable but has given me something to look forward to, thank you. <3

  2. It's great watching you doing this Sam. Keep at it-you should be proud of yourself!