Like a burden you can’t take away,
It is with you every second of the day,
No matter how much you try to convince yourself that you are okay,
You can’t help but think about it anyway,
But you have to fight the pain,
To see the better side of the rain
At one point in my treatment, I felt that the mental burden of my anxiety was worse than the treatment. This was a defining moment for me because it made me realise how bad my mental health had gotten, and that I needed to seek help and advice urgently. Therefore, I passionately talk about anxiety because I do not want teenagers, like me, to go through this mental health battle alone. In this blogpost, I am going to talk a bit about anxiety (for those who are not sure what it is) and I will be giving you some tips and advice for how to cope with anxiety. I hope that this helps you.
Anxiety makes you feel TRAPPED and there is no simple way to get out. It felt overwhelming because I constantly had this tormenting voice in my head telling me that I was not going to be okay. Soon enough, the anxiety consumes your mind and makes even the simplest tasks more difficult - as if it is slowing draining your mentality. Let me tell you a bit about my experience with anxiety:
A few months after I was diagnosed, I began to suffer with anxiety, but it was nothing significant at first: just myself getting fearful when my routine changed. Another couple of months went by and I noticed my mental health deteriorating rapidly – especially when I began receiving radiotherapy. My anxiety centred around my feeding tube: I convinced myself that it would get into my lung, filling my lung with fluid, and then I would suffocate from dry drowning – ILLOGICAL, right? But that is what I believed, and no one could reassure me differently, even my doctors. It got to the point in which I would scrutinise my breathing - to make sure that I was breathing correctly - but of course I would convince myself that I wasn’t, and this cycle usually resulted in a panic attack. Eventually, the anxiety got so bad that I refused to drink because I had convinced myself that the liquid would somehow enter my lung, making me dry drown. All of this was so extreme and illogical, but my mind made it all possible because the impossible had happened – cancer!
Thankfully, I can now confidently say that I am mental health free! But, it wasn’t easy, it took a lot of determination and hard work. I want to share with you my top pieces of advice for how to deal with anxiety:
Tip 1 – Counselling
A lot of teenagers are averse to counselling - I sure was. But, please keep an open-mind to it because it can really help. When my anxiety reached its worst, I started seeing a counsellor, the general idea being that I could talk to her about my anxieties and work through with her some coping mechanisms. My counsellor helped me dramatically, because I could release all of the negative thoughts and fears that enslaved my mind – it felt like a weight had been lifted off of my shoulders. Additionally, my counsellor worked through my fears with me and gave me coping mechanisms for dealing with anxiety. Ultimately, I attribute my speedy recovery from anxiety to my counsellor, so it is worth considering for yourself.
Tip 2 – Good support network
Anxiety is a very isolating place, so a good support network is essential, because they will give you the support and unconditional love that you need to deal with anxiety. When I had panic attacks or down-days from the anxiety, my family and friends would rally round to make sure that I was okay. In fact, my mum was the main person who helped me deal with my anxiety, because she was always there to reassure me that I was going to be okay and she calmed me down when I had panic attacks.
Tip 3 – Do things that you enjoy
Anxiety manifests itself and cascades into something bigger when you are bored. Laid in your bed all day, ill and bored, is the perfect opportunity for anxiety to strike. So, it is important-when you feel well enough-to always take the opportunity to do things that you enjoy. For instance, you could go out shopping, have your friends over, go out to a restaurant – anything to keep the anxiety off of your mind! For me, I had my friends over most Fridays and it allowed me a few hours to escape from the anxiety, which really helped me to feel better.
Tip 4 – Face the fear
For most of us, your anxiety stems from a fear, such as relapse, blood tests or having scans (scanxiety). So, the best thing that you can do is face the fear. Of course, this is not possible or good advice with some fears, such as relapse. But, for me, I was able to overcome my fear of the feeding tube by resiliently having my feeding tube procedure. This may sound weird but keep on reading. There was this one time when I had two panic attacks whilst the nurses desperately tried to shove the feeding tube down my throat, so it looked unlikely that I could get it down. But, I took a minute to think, and I realised that I was giving the voice in my head power – I was determined to go against it. So, that’s what I did, and the feeding tube was fitted perfectly; from that moment onwards, I could sleep again, and my anxiety got better. Therefore, facing your fear gives your control and power over the anxiety. So, when you go to get your blood test done, or go to get a scan, tell yourself that “I can do this!”, and refuse to let the anxiety consume you.
Tip 5 – Don’t bottle things up
Negative thoughts are the fuel that allows anxiety to keep raging in your mind, so it is important that you release these thoughts. Personally, I had thoughts about my funeral, which I didn’t want to voice to my parents, in case they got upset. So, I released my thoughts to a counsellor, and this helped me dramatically. Therefore, it is important that you voice your thoughts to your friends, family or a therapist, because it can help you to deal with the negative thoughts in your mind.