Recently, someone commented on an old blog post of mine, and I took the opportunity to have a read back through my first posts. I find self-reflection so powerful and beneficial to me and it is something I try and practice frequently – in my line of work we have to reflect on our own ability quite often so I’ve got it down to a fine art now! Whilst I was re-reading my own words, it dawned on me the difference in myself over the last few years. Despite recognising my achievements over this time, I guess I’ve not really delved any deeper into what these differences have actually meant for me.
The comment mentioned how the attacks and even the thought of one happening can cause you to miss out on properly living due to the fear; this was something so prominent to me during those first years of Ben. I remember avoiding everything that caused even the slightest bit of anxiety and I actually thought this meant I was coping and managing. How wrong was I?
There is a difference between actively avoiding all situations in which anxiety might arise, and leaving a situation to quell the feelings. Like I said, I used to avoid avoid avoid. I’d never go for meals with people, or their families (I’d refuse to meet their families full stop!). I’d actually start avoiding eating much in general when the sick phobia became too much – it was my way of staying in control of the outcome. But realistically, who was really in control? After having learnt so much about myself, my triggers and the way anxiety actually works, I can now totally see that it was always, always Ben.
This is why my self-reflection is such a vital part of my management and coping strategy when it comes to Ben; it shows me how warped my mindset was back then, and still can be occasionally now. However, I definitely feel more in control now majority of the time, and I’ll always take that as a win. I have noticed patterns within my mental health and I can usually judge when I am in need of a reset or a break. Now, don’t get me wrong, just because I’m aware of this doesn’t always mean I practice what I preach – a big detriment to myself for sure, but I’m always working on it.
As always this post is a bit of a ramble, but my initial reason for wanting to write was because I want to remember the things I have been able to do over the last few months that Ben would never have allowed me the pleasure of years ago. I use this blog as a diary of my experience and I want to look back in a couple years, just as I did to my 2017 posts, and feel hopeful and determined. So, a reminder to future Sarah –
You were able to conquer meals with new people, without tablets! That was a huge win. Sometimes still gets tricky if my anxiety is high, but we’re getting there. Baby steps.
You got a higher role in a job you adore. You would never have gone for it had it not been for the support and encouragement of those around you, who maybe see something in me that I’m yet to recognise. Either way, its a new challenge and one that I am determined to be successful in – to prove to myself that I can.
You walked away from things that weren’t right for you. This was hard. And probably going to be a bit of an ongoing battle but everything is a learning opportunity, and I am ready to accept my lessons.
The small wins are what has made me a more settled, calmer person and although I am completely aware that there will be times where Ben resurfaces, I really do feel less frightened of that now. And that is something I’d have only dreamed for 6 years ago; things really do get better.