health

"After years of resenting my anxiety, I realised it has changed my life for the better."

I, like so many other women in Australia, suffer from anxiety.

Some days it doesn’t affect my life at all while on others it keeps me holed up at home, continuously worried if people actually like me, constantly replaying and analysing conversations in my head or just simply fearing the worst.

But rather than allowing it to hinder my life, I sought help from someone in my twenties and it’s changed my perspective on anxiety completely, allowing me to now use it as a tool to make myself a better, stronger person.

From the first day of primary school to my very last I was relentlessly bullied.

Why? Because my family wasn’t the typical one (of the time). My father left when I was born and as my mum was too young to raise me, my Nan and Pa did (alongside their own 12 children).

While it was something I was particularly proud of, believing my grandparents to be awesome, it made me a target for playground torment. From general teasing to verbal abuse, my family’s differences were used against me by other children, escalating to acts of regular physical violence. That’s where my (undiagnosed) anxiety journey began.

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My first real memory of experiencing anxiety was at a primary school assembly in prep. I would have been around six years old. I recall the surging panic running through my mind, accelerated heart rate and the uncontrollable urge to run away as fast as my legs would carry. I wanted to sink into a hole where nobody could see me and cry, all at once.

I then remember projectile vomiting in front of the entire school. Needless to say it’s a moment in life that I’ll never forget and one that certainly didn’t help my insecure situation.

At the time my Nan put it down to my nerves and “imagination” and after a lengthy one-sided conversation of telling me so, I dismissed how I was feeling.

However scenarios like this continued through primary school and what I thought were just nerves didn’t ease up. Whenever I brought it up I was told to ‘stop worrying’ or ‘you’re stressing too much’, again making me feel as if my thoughts and emotions were not real or important enough to understand. I honestly thought I was going crazy.

During high school my anxiety truly manifested itself and began ruling my life and decisions. My grandfather passed away and my world turned upside down. I found it hard to trust people and believed those who did befriend me had hidden agendas.

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Because of this I would change myself in order to be liked. I decided it was easier to be a version of myself that people responded to because that meant not getting hurt. However being this person only left me feeling depressed, isolated, lonely and (you guessed it) anxious.

It was a debilitating panic attack in my early twenties that made me realise I had to seek professional assistance from someone and I’m forever thankful I did. After many sessions and open conversations I realised I was an individual who experienced many different types of anxiety disorders. Not just because of those things I’d experienced in primary school but moments relating even further back to early childhood.

For the first time in my life I actually began to breathe a little easier and felt a little lighter. After all, I was in my early twenties and had spent the majority of my life feeling as if what was happening in my head and body was only me ‘stressing’ or simply ‘worrying’ too much. It felt fantastic knowing that I wasn’t losing my mind and that there were things I could do to manage the anxiety moving forward.

From then on I decided to make changes in my life and still now (in my thirties) they serve me well, they are:

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I made anxiety my teacher

Instead of being ashamed or embarrassed of what I was feeling I took the moments as lessons. I decided to dig deeper into what was triggering the emotion to see if I could understand the root of the issue. I learned that when I delved into the anxiety that there were reasons for it and once I knew those reasons I was able to address and calm the anxiety. I took all of these moments and allowed them to teach me something valuable and whilst there are some moments that took a little longer to learn than others, they have always been learned eventually.

Scroll through to see more real life and positive posts from Megan Luscombe. Images via Instagram. (Post continues after gallery.)

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I own my anxiety

I have anxiety, so what? I’ve decided not to be embarrassed or ashamed of it anymore. I openly talk about it to anyone and everyone now because it is a massive part of my life and who I was, am and becoming. Anxiety is not a dirty word and having it doesn’t make me less of a person.

I accept my anxiety

I spent so long trying to fight it or numb it away (medication, alcohol etc) and it got me nowhere. Instead I now accept it as part of who I am and let it move me forward. I embrace how it has helped me grow and know that without it I wouldn’t be who I am today. This has taken me a long time to realise but through a lot of self work, I have finally accepted my anxiety.

I challenge my anxiety

Just because I have moments of anxiety or panic doesn’t mean it gets to dictate how I’m going to go about my day or live my life, ever! I challenge that anxious voice in my head with words now and call it out when it’s talking shit. Sometimes I’ll acknowledge the anxiety by saying ‘I hear you, but you’re wrong’, or even ‘you’re feeling this because you’re scared and that’s okay’. Whatever it is, I say these things to myself with kindness and appreciation. The last thing I need is to be hard on myself when I’m in the midst of an anxiety or panic attack!

Anxiety is experienced differently by everyone and whilst this is how I use it to make me better, it might not be suited for everyone. What I do know is this, those with anxiety needn’t be embarrassed or ashamed for how they feel. There is help out there and there are people who will support you. Be brave in your emotions and know that together we are stronger.

Megan Luscombe is a Certified Life Coach, leading relationship specialist, writer and speaker, and the creator of the Sex Love Wine Podcast. You can follow her on Facebook, Instagram, and see more on her website.

If you think you may be experiencing anxiety or another mental health problem, please contact your general practitioner or in Australia, contact Lifeline 13 11 14 for support or beyondblue 1300 22 4636.

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