To be honest, I’ve always tried to be an open book about what I feel and experience inside and out. I’ve always known that I’m better off sharing the burden of tough times as opposed to internalising my struggles and eventually letting them boil over. I’ve always known who is there for me, you know who you are, there’s a number of you…and I often wonder if I’ll ever get the chance to help you, as you have helped me.
I am very aware that my scuffles with mental illness are a small blip on the radar compared to most. I am also very aware that I am lucky in the sense that my harder days are now few and often far between. I feel guilty that in my times of struggle I still see hope, for I know that for many that hope is long lost to the darkness of their thoughts. I now understand that feelings of despair cannot be compared or judged or dismissed, for in the moment, for whatever the reason, they can be entirely devastating and leave you completely broken.
Throughout my life, since the age of around 18, if my memory serves me correctly, I have been disposed to anxious and depressive tendencies. I am hesitant to self-diagnose myself as having an anxiety disorder or depression, but I definitely suffer the symptoms. On average I will experience a handful of serious episodes a year and more often than not deal with them by utilising tools I have been taught by my amazing Cognitive Behaviour Therapist. There are definitely years that stick out as being among the worst but these days I try to focus on the present rather than what is behind me. Truth be told, I could write endlessly about what I deal with on a mostly day-to-day basis. My coping mechanisms are just a part of life now, a normality that I give little thought to. In creating this blog (the reason I will get to in a minute) I have become astonishingly self-aware of habits and actions that my friends and even people closer likely aren’t aware of. So to open….here are some fun facts about me that I generally keep hidden and in most cases the remedies I have developed to keep them at bay:
I worry, a lot! I don’t enjoy it, in fact, I hate it. I sometimes worry even when there’s nothing to worry about. I concern myself with everyone’s happiness, often forgetting my own and have an ingrained compulsion to control situations, thinking it will alleviate the progressive analysing.
When I say I’m feeling anxious it’s not all in my mind. In fact, the most horrible symptoms of anxiety for me are sometimes physical. The sudden rush of adrenalin will produce dizziness, nausea, and panic. Thankfully I’ve become reasonably good at quashing anxious thoughts as they appear by practicing mindfulness and breathing techniques.
I think I’m a mind reader. When you tell me something I may suspect you mean or want something different. When you compliment me I think you’re lying and when you tell me something good is happening I start planning how to handle it ending. This for me has been the biggest hindrance on my happiness. With a lot of work, I now rarely take notice of these faulty thoughts. I instead challenge them, accept they are there and move on without empowering them.
I am a perfectionist. In everything I do I look for perfection. It makes me great at my job as a designer but somewhat flawed as a human being. It took me a long time to learn that no one, no relationship and no situation will ever be perfect.
I can be anti-social. I generally avoid any situation that has ever caused me internal pain or panic. This for me includes crowds, boats, excessive partying (although I often find myself the starter for a big night out), certain people from my past, dating, public speaking, attending large events, attending any event without a good plan…. the list goes on. Since starting my business and pushing myself to face my fears I can now quite confidently do anything I set my mind to… of course there are still days I play the role of a hermit and forego any possible stress.
I thrive on reassurance and need people to like me. Personally and professionally, hearing I’m doing a good job means the world to me. I want to know people like me. It silences the self-doubt and diminishes the worry that I’m doing or have done something wrong. This was a factor in past relationships where I assume I came across as somewhat insecure. In reality, I just wanted to know that all the effort I was putting in was appreciated. Time on my own over the years, working on myself and my goals while developing a set of values has given me the confidence to really not care what other people think of me, I now try to remember it’s really none of my business. The things and people that are meant to be in my life, and yours, will be attracted to you and stay regardless of what you do and say.
I am snappy at times. Unfortunately, it’s often directed towards those closest to me. On the outside, I may seem short-tempered and quick-lipped but on the inside, I’m anxious and struggling. I know how I’m acting, I don’t like it either.
The points above may seem insignificant, but along with some others, they have for a long time formed the foundations by which I live. My friends and family will notice a lot of these rituals and habits. They will see me pace around before we have to be somewhere, they will wonder who I’m waiting for a reply from as I constantly stare at my phone, time and time again they will watch me over-invest myself in relationships and overcompensate for most things in life. The words ‘what if’ are a broken record playing, now distantly, in my head and my need to control every situation is always present.
For those of you wondering where all this has come from I can now offer you an explanation, a brief reasoning for my sudden interest in the written word. You may not know that I’ve spent much of my life living within the confines of my own mind. A more often than not, negative and worrisome place. I’ve wasted over a decade holding onto things that, in the end, held little meaning and added nothing to who I am today. Thankfully, in recent years, I have found much happiness in life. I have met some amazing people, some have actually come to mean the world to me. I have conquered many of my self-defeating beliefs and overcome a mountainous volume of negative behaviours, habits and debilitating thought patterns, yet there is still one unhealthy artefact I cling to for survival and protection… and that is not really letting anyone truly know who I am, how I feel and how life looks through my eyes. This is something I must change in order to be genuinely happy and allow genuine people to know me.
In the past months, I have suffered an almost complete relapse of the worst points in my life. I have re-visited the depths of panic, anxiety, and sadness that I thought I had left far behind. There was no real trigger, instead, a series of events coincided to cause what I can only assume was some sort of emotional breakdown. For a few years I have been taking a strong anti-anxiety medication to stem the force of overwhelmingly intrusive and unwanted thoughts (I feel this topic important enough to write a separate article about), one month or so ago, the supply of this drug to NZ was suddenly cut short, and hence took away my ability to wean myself off them properly. The resulting withdrawal both mentally and physically was something I wasn’t prepared for. The first week was uncomfortable and the following two were soul destroyingly painful. I’m unsure still how much of it was the medication wearing off and how much of it was my fragile mind aggressively replaying every situation that had ever hurt me. Perhaps it was a combination of the both, an outcome of a personality that had been long suppressed by a chemical band-aid. I’ll never know and thankfully now the sharp fog is dissipating. I was given another drug to remedy the side effects of the first one and after suddenly realising my dependence on the new ones, I tossed them and unexpectedly found something better.
In the midst of some of the worst (perceived) days of my life, upon the recommendation of my doctor, I discovered an unlikely tool to create some peace within my mind. The shaking stopped and I felt calm again. I wish I’d uncovered this healthy obsession in my late teens. It has been through writing that I have coped. It has been through reading my own words that I now see how far I have come. It is through sharing my stories that I hope to influence even one other suffering soul. As I write this I feel an unequivocal and complete passion for doing so. The fear of being judged or mocked is overshadowed by the opportunity to help others, this is why I started To Whom It May Concern. It has given birth to a feeling of wholeness, worthiness, and fulfillment, unlike anything I’ve ever known, more so than any pill could do. These stories are about me, who I am, what I have experienced and most importantly what life has taught me. It is yet another creative outlet that allows me to scratch and an ever-present itch to express myself.
I know there will be times I again find myself in the shadows but I now feel I am ready to shine my own light, without medication and without slipping back into old habits. Most importantly I am now reminded that when everything appears to be falling apart, it may just be falling into place.
So I guess that’s where we start, for those of you who didn’t know… this is me.
Tim is the Founder and Creative Director at Fuel Media Limited, and the passionate lifestyle writer here at To Whom It May Concern. He resides on the beautiful North Shore in Auckland, New Zealand.