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Thursday, 17 September 2020

How I cope with anxiety

In response to my previous post, some of you have asked me to share about my own experience in coping with anxiety. Like this,

and this.


And I thought that it was a great idea! Of course, I have to caveat that I am no therapist and whatever I'm going to say is entirely based on my own experience, which frankly really ain't that rosy. Nonetheless, I'm still alive and kickin' so, here goes.

1. Understand what makes you anxious and ask yourself if it is rational

As someone who thrives on the right brain, I am not exactly methodological in my thinking. Yes, we are known to be creative and intuitive but the downside is that we are largely driven by our feelings - and sometimes to our own detriment. As a right-brainer, I catch myself occasionally on a downward spiral of negative emotions, without actually knowing why I am experiencing them.

I read about Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) recently and found that their approach in dealing with anxiety and other mental health issues is very helpful. What is CBT? TL;DR, it is a type of therapy that helps you identify the unhealthy and inaccurate thought patterns that you may have, so that you can correct them and lead a happier life ☺

In the context of anxiety, the first step in CBT is to understand what is making you anxious. For me, after many, many years of dating, I finally figured that what makes me most anxious is when my partner is upset, as I automatically associate it with myself and my short-comings (very non-feminist of me, I know). When he has a bad day and is awfully quiet or accidentally lashes out at me, I wonder if I did something wrong. And then I spiral. When I make (in my opinion) a small mistake and he gets upset, I wonder 'what did I do so wrong' and make a mental note never to do it again. As a result, I end up walking on eggshells around the one I love and feel small all the time - which really isn't in my (confident and free-spirited) character. 

After understanding what makes you anxious, the next step is to ask yourself if it is rational. Instead of constantly second-guessing what my partner feels and why he feels that way, I learned to communicate. And I realised that sometimes, a simple 'are you okay?' does the trick. I find out that he's actually not upset with me and I'm then in a better position to offer a listening ear. On occasions when he is upset at me, I've learned to reflect on my mistake and assess whether the proportion of anxiety and guilt that I feel is rational and justified, rather than spiralling immediately. And I realised that most of the time it is not. He is also human and there may be other reasons for his insecurities or the way he reacts. It is not always completely my fault. After coming to that realisation, I'm also in a better place to apologise, make amends, and care for both him and myself.

Of course, this takes conscientious effort and I understand that sometimes, we're frankly too tired to give a damn. This is where point 2 comes into play.

2. Find your modes of escapism and make sure that they are accessible

Ever since I studied in the UK, travelling has been my utmost form of escapism (and I recognise that it is a very privileged thing). When the going gets tough, I think about my upcoming trip and it gets me through the days. COVID-19 has taken that away and I found myself a little more depressed than usual. How did I cope?

Along the coast of California, taken by Yours Truly

I found accessible substitutes that motivate me to get through a difficult day and give me some form of reprieve. Yesss, for me it was Gin and Tonic. I always looked forward to a nice glass of G&T after a long day of work. Of course, I recognised that alcohol has its detriments and that's why I've lately been substituting G&T with a refreshing cup of iced latte (with a pump of sugar syrup) from Huggs Coffee, which seems to have been brewed to perfection for my tastebuds. I hardly go a day without my iced latte (even on weekends) and most of the baristas remember my order now. 

It is the little things that keep you afloat sometimes.

3. Find space to express yourself

Writing (usually using allegory) is my way of connecting with the world, and letting other people know what I feel without actually saying it. 

In most human relationships. you don't always get to express yourself freely unless you bulldoze your way through your conversations. I realised that this can cause a lot of frustration over time and to keep ourselves sane, we need a platform to express how we truly feel. And those who care will make an effort to try and understand what you're trying to say through your unique platforms of self-expression.

Whether its through literature, fashion, art or music, I think self-expression is an important way to keep one's sanity in this pretty insane world. I write dark fiction not to propagate depressive thoughts but to release the pent up frustration that all humans will have at various points in their lives. And I always end up feeling better.

-

This year has been a really tough year for many people. But I'm grateful that amidst all the hardship, mental health is becoming a topic that is more commonly discussed. We are all human - from the President, to the Generals and the Average Joes like myself. We all have some form of anxiety that we will have to deal with at some point of our life and it's okay to do what it takes to make life a little more bearable. So, let's be kind to each other and slow to judgement, yeah?

Tuesday, 18 August 2020

her name is anxiety

Sitting for a Greek exam did not give her anxiety.
Giving an unrehearsed speech in front of a sea of people did not give her anxiety.
Receiving a call from her boss in the middle of the night did not give her anxiety.
Having less than a thousand dollars in her bank did not give her anxiety.
Seeing a kid almost get hit by a car did not give her anxiety.
Jumping off a cliff and plunging into the dark waters did not give her anxiety.

It was their cautious choice of words that gave her anxiety. It made her believe that she was a ticking bomb, about to explode and kill everyone at the sound of a trigger.

It was their looks of disapproval that gave her anxiety. It reminded her that no matter what she did, she was never going to be good enough.

It was their ‘I love you but…’s that gave her anxiety. It taught her that love wasn’t enough; that one day, perhaps love would run dry.

It was the prayers that they uttered under their breaths that gave her anxiety. It reminded her of what a devil’s child she was.

And then one day, she realised that the only way to purge the anxiety inside of her was to kill them all. And so she did.

her name is anxiety

But instead of peace, all she found was a different source of anxiety. One that stems from guilt, loneliness, and her own dark and mangled mind.

That was when she learned that to put an end to her anxiety, she should not have killed the ones who loved her. She should have killed herself instead.

Sunday, 26 July 2020

Pandemic fatigue


9.25p.m. Here I am, sitting at the edge of my bed, trying to squeeze out every last bit of creative content that I can. It has been more than a month since I wrote for leisure. I’ve been writing staff papers, one after another, being a good staff officer in my new posting.

As someone who thrives on memorable experiences, tranquil moments and breath-taking sceneries, the pandemic has taken a toll on my quality of life. I lack inspiration and drive to do anything other than work.

Travelling has always been an antidote for me, in this world that I never quite felt I belonged. (But then again, I don’t think anyone really does.) Each time I get overwhelmed by work or worn out from constantly trying to get my act together, I tell myself, ‘a little bit more’. A little bit more to my next getaway – to the sound of the majestic ocean, to sipping cocktail by the beach, and to taking a nice, long walk without a care in this world. To. Really. Unplug. No office calls, no alarms, no obligations.

It struck me today that half a year has gone by without me taking a pause – something that I, as an INFP, absolutely need to be in touch with myself. When Circuit Breaker started, I went into a month of isolation in camp and ever since then, I’ve been living my life as though I’m just waiting for the pandemic to be over and life to resume as per normal. And half a year has gone by, just like that.

And so, I realised that I cannot be waiting for the pandemic to be over before trying to find inspiration, be in touch with myself, and do all the mel things once again.

I don’t know when we will be out of the woods but in the meanwhile, I shall uncap my pen, brush the dust off my life journal and start documenting the highs and the lows, the everythings and nothings, once again.

Wednesday, 10 June 2020

My silver lining


Sometimes
I wish
the canvas of my life
isn’t filled with
paintings
of

a fish gasping for air at the surface of an obliterated aquarium.

an eroding riverbank, plastered with riprap to contain the floods of yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

stained mascara, scraps of a scrapbook, abandoned toys and a shovel.

and the story of my life
isn’t written with
anecdotes
of

a weak pulse that stays with me throughout every moment of the day, reminding me that there’s something that my heart still aches for.

a moment of gripping pain that engulfs me in that few minutes between my sobriety and drunkenness.

comedic tragedy, archived memories, the innocence of yesterday and a mental coffin.

-

But
if not for these,
I wouldn’t have known

that there’s a place in this world for the misfits and a broken soul.

that even the raging seas can be calmed by a gentle whisper in my ear.

that I can be loved for my delirium, my history, my darkness and my emptiness.

that every cloud has a silver lining, and
that you’re mine.

Wednesday, 27 May 2020

Midnight downpour


The relentless downpour makes me think that maybe God hates me.

I'm eccentric and you're an overzealous puppy.
Five years from now, will we be in hell?

They say passion's the key to success;
But not without discipline, and a stubborn determination.

Jupiter's calling and my heart is trembling.
The clock strikes twelve; earth to melody.

My reward and my punishment.
My joy and my trepidation.

We're one and the same, remedy and poison.
Or perhaps, a parallel universe, operating in tandem.

The sun will shine down on me tomorrow;
A child of God, I know no sorrow.

But in the meanwhile,
Will you hold me forever, in this never-ending downpour?
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