Cloudy Days, Dark Nights & Discovering Emotional First Aid

Why I’ve Been MIA

Content-wise, An Domhan I Mo Cheann hasn’t been overly interesting over the last number of weeks, so to my readers, I apologise for that. If you follow me on Snapchat, you may have seen me mention briefly that I was taking a bit of time out from social media due to anxiety and feeling low in general. In the past, I’ve made no secret of my struggles with depression, anxiety and panic attacks, so I felt as my loyal followers, you deserved a reason as to why I was posting less frequently, and when I was active, why my posts weren’t really ‘me’.

For around 2 months now, I’ve been feeling like, what I can only describe as a ‘shell’ of myself. My desire for things I once adored has depleted greatly, I feel no enthusiasm to challenge myself in ways I previously did. Getting up in the morning is a struggle, I guess with no lectures or labs to attend over the summer, I feel I have nothing to get up for. Obviously that isn’t a good frame of mind to be in, but that’s how I feel so I won’t sugar-coat it. The drive I had to succeed and grow, just a short few months ago, has vanished and I’m completely at odds as to where I should go from here.

When Your Anxiety Gets Anxious

Anxiety is a very broad disorder which comes in many different forms, effecting a lot of different people at various stages in their lives. Personally, a number of different forms of anxiety effect me, some easier to manage than others. ‘General anxiety‘ is what is referred to when speaking about the day to day situations that cause me to feel anxious and fearful. ‘Simple’ things for most people, like giving a Subway order or shopping in Penneys sometimes give me a tight knot of anxiety in my stomach, brought on by large crowds, disorganisation and decision making. That sort of anxiety is what I find easiest to manage. Although it still makes me feel unsettled and uncomfortable, if I take a few moments to breathe deeply and calm myself down, convincing my mind that my body is in no danger, I generally overcome the situation successfully.

The second form of anxiety that effects me is social anxiety. Over the last few weeks, quite a few opportunities have arose, where in order to attend events, a lot of traveling, planning and socialising, with certain aspects of uncertainty has been involved. Such situations fill me with utter fear and dread. Overcome with feelings of panic and fear of the unknown, I reluctantly had to put off or decline more invites than I was able to accept. This particular form of anxiety is probably the one I find hardest to deal with. There’s nothing I hate more than that feeling of ‘what if?’ that always comes hand in hand with the sign of false relief when you don’t have to step outside your comfort zone. It’s a quality of mine I’m really not proud of and am desperate to change.

Up until recently, general and social anxiety have been the two main forms I’ve had to deal with and as difficult as it may be at times, I was starting to get a relatively good handle on it. However, in recent weeks, I’ve noticed a fear I haven’t felt for many years creeping back into my daily thoughts. As a child, right up until my early teens, thanatophobia, otherwise known as ‘death anxiety’, had a firm presence in my life. Basically as an already paranoid person by nature, I had an abnormal fear of my loved ones dying or being involved in some form of trauma. I can recall times where I’d become frantic and distressed if my mam was more than 10 minutes late coming home from work, irrationally mapping out the worst case scenario in my head, when in fact, she was just stuck behind a tractor or had stopped at the shop on the way.

As I got older, this anxiety gradually faded away, but all of a sudden, it’s beginning to make a re-occurrence and I can tell you, there’s nothing more frightening than that realisation. Not only is that fear for my loved ones creeping back in, but now I’m also becoming abnormally fearful for myself, something that was never present previously. Every time I feel ill I automatically assume I’m becoming serious unwell, my mind exaggerating my body’s symptoms dramatically. Then that stress, that my body is putting itself though for no real reason, is having a negative impact on my physical health. It’s a vicious cycle that is so hard to overcome and even harder to explain to those around me wanting to help. ‘Death anxiety’ as it’s known, usually accompanies more common forms of anxiety and makes itself known in times of uncertainty and upheaval in one’s life, which would make sense in this scenario. I haven’t felt ‘whole’ for a very long time and one of my worst habits, bottling up my feelings, certainly doesn’t do me any favours.

 Emotional First Aid

Whenever I’ve spoken about mental health issues previously, I’ve always highlighted how important it is not to just dust the problems under the carpet and focus on your ‘happily ever after’. It’s like breaking your leg and skipping straight to the part where you’re playing football again, it unfortunately just doesn’t happen that way. Just like in a physical illness, recuperation and healing are crucial in order to regain your full strength again, and rushing your recovery time will never do you any favours. It’s really no different when it comes to your mental health. Although you may be eager to regain your former spirit and zest for life, you have to take the time to address your issues, understand the reasoning behind them and be patient with yourself as you work through them.

At the moment, I’m reading a book called Emotional First Aid – Healing, Rejection, Guilt, Failure & Other Everyday Hurts. It’s basically a self-help guide to dealing with the mental injuries our minds sustain throughout life, explaining the reasons behind our responses to such traumas and how we can treat them, just like we’d treat a physical ailment. So far, the book is giving me a deeper insight into the reasoning behind my constant self-doubt and feelings of worthlessness. I think the concept behind the book is invaluable, standing up against the stigma that surrounds mental illness by proving it requires treatment and care just as much as physical illness does. In the words of Bill Clinton “mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of, but stigma and bias shame us all”.

One thought on “Cloudy Days, Dark Nights & Discovering Emotional First Aid

  1. What a great post, I can really relate to most of what you wrote! The book sounds interesting, it reminds me of a TED talk I watched on the subject, check it out when you get

    ‘Guy Winch: Why we all need to practice emotional first aid’


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