When I first studied anxiety over a decade ago, I refused to believe that it described me.
The edginess, heart palpitations, frequent thirst, and of course, the constant worry, didn’t mean that I had a mental health condition.
I was in a deep, deep denial.
Ten years on there’s no denying that I have anxiety.
Anxiety has stopped me from doing everything from meeting new people, to sharing my writing with people, to even leaving the house. It’s ruined holidays abroad and threatened my relationship.
There was a time when my anxiety was so bad that my doctor put me on medication to manage it. While the medication took the edge off, my doctor was a firm believer in behavioural therapy. He wanted me to face my fears to get over them.
At first, I was reluctant. Why would I run towards what scared me?
But over the last few years I’ve come to find that he was right.
Facing your fears is the best way to get over them.
I’ve always been a writer. My writing is the one thing that’s been with me my whole life.
But there was a time when I was terrified to write. I loved it, but what if it wasn’t good enough? What if nobody loved my characters as much as I do? What if nobody liked the writing advice I shared with them?
I was so controlled by these thoughts that I wrote very little, and only shared my writing with close friends.
Then my maternal grandmother had a stroke.
This was the woman who’d raised me. The woman I’d once thought of as invincible.
But she wasn’t. And neither was I.
I didn’t want to get to her age having never published a book.
I didn’t want to die having never published a book.
I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it.
And I did.
In the space of a year I wrote and edited a novel. I also did all the marketing and graphic design to go along with it, and organised and hosted a launch event.
Sharing What Happens in New York with the world was an incredible feeling.
But I wasn’t proud of myself.
I was too anxious.
Anxious about being judged, anxious about what to do next, anxious about things I still don’t even know.
But the journey to publishing What Happens in New York taught me a lot. One of those things is to keep going no matter what.
In the past, I’d always ran away from my writing when feeling down or anxious. This time, I channeled my nervous energy into writing. I wrote first drafts of the sequel, my recently released nonfiction book, and a spin-off from my current series in just two months.
Channeling nervous energy into something productive is a proven way to deal with anxiety. It’s not easy when you first start out, but when you get into the habit of doing it, living with anxiety becomes a whole lot more bearable.
There are still days when I feel anxious—the nervousness is always at the back of my mind—but I’ve learned to control it.
Writing is what I live for. It’s what makes me happy. Hearing people’s comments about how my writing has helped them, too, helps to keep me going on days when I feel uninspired.
Finding our purpose in life is one of the best ways to deal with conditions such as anxiety and depression. My purpose is what helped me come out of my darkest times stronger, more determined, and more ambitious than ever.
The question is, what’s your purpose?
Looking for more inspiration? Check out the Productivity for Writers Facebook group!