I remember sitting in the garden, head down, staring at my lap, stuck in my head, fighting my thoughts and feeling desperation taking over once again. I wrote the following words in my diary:
“I wonder, what wonder will one day help me stop wondering.”
Simple maybe, but it showed exactly how I felt. I was so incredibly absorbed by my own thoughts that I felt imprisoned in my own head. I’d spend days ruminating over the same worry and when I’d finally rationalized it all out and felt calm, the next thought would come up: “So, if you’re calm now, why can’t you be like this all the time?” And the pang of anxiety hit my stomach again.
Life was a constant battle. Every minute was about surviving, about staying out of the swirling river of anxious thoughts that would drag me down without any mercy. I’d aimlessly drift around in it, unable to stop the current. And the harder I swam against it, the stronger it got. I was completely lost, down and out and so done with myself and the whirlpool I was sucked into that I couldn’t possibly seem to find a way out of.
I always used to be so bubbly, so outgoing and so sociable. I wouldn’t be afraid of anything and just go and do stuff. I’d order food in foreign languages, I’d get on stage and not wonder for a minute what other people might think, I’d take the lead role in organising the holiday with my girlfriends and I’d talk to anyone without any problem at all. I had no troubles, no worries, no nothing.
But I had no idea that my desperate need for approval was actually running the show – until I couldn’t keep it up anymore and I crashed into a seven-year long anxiety disorder. I had been living pretty unconsciously, going from one high to the next and just going for it full out all the time. I’d fill my days up with activities, always wanting to be on top of my game and making sure I was the most fun, coolest and strongest person to hang out with.
When I started studying for my then dream job, teaching English, I was so determined to be special, to stand out and to be top of my class, that I did everything in my power to impress my classmates, my teachers and, of course, the guy I liked. I’d work so hard, because I really wanted to, but got so obsessed with it that I slowly started to lose ground, without realising it.
I remember one day sitting on the toilet and feeling as if I was standing on a mountain ridge. There was very little space left for me underneath my feet and I literally felt I was balancing on the edge. I couldn’t get out of the adrenaline-run roller-coaster I was in though. I had no idea how to and I didn’t even want to because that would mean having to slow down, not be top of my class anymore and not keep up the appearance of that strong, funny girl who always seemed to have her shit together.
The pressure I had put on myself was so high that now, looking back, I understand why I would get sudden attacks of nausea, why I sometimes felt out of touch with reality and I eventually couldn’t keep up with life anymore. When the doctor said I was suffering from mono (Pfeiffer’s disease) it all plummeted. I’d actually had been carrying that virus around with me for loads of years, but I’d never given it any heed; I had to perform.
My body came to a complete halt in the second year of college and it was right after I had gotten together with my boyfriend of that time. It was too much. I had really overdone it this time and I felt myself slipping away. I couldn’t give anymore. I couldn’t be perfect anymore, I couldn’t be on fire and outstanding anymore. My body said stop.
And that was the next best thing to a terrorist attack for me. It meant not being able to get my validation through other people’s approval anymore, it meant slowing down, admitting something was wrong with me. I still remember the shame I felt. I was abnormal. For as much as I’d wanted to be special, I’d never wanted to be abnormal. But now I was and I even had to take medication to function properly.
The clown of the town had turned into a vegetative worry wart that didn’t even dare go out and meet up with friends anymore. She’d feel too worthless, too fragile, too vulnerable to even venture out into the open. Because: “if you’re not strong, then you’re worth shit.” Or so she thought.
I did everything in my power to get out of this predicament. I wanted to escape from this prison as quickly as possible and go back to my known role of entertainer/leader/organiser/person to look up to, because only then I’d feel worthy and good enough to even deserve to be alive. I had to give in order to be allowed to receive and now I couldn’t give anymore, even though I wanted to so badly. This was my worst nightmare turning into reality because I realised I wasn’t able to save my own life anymore. I felt lost at sea without a life jacket. I was out of everything; out of energy, out of strength, out of life. And I didn’t recognise myself anymore.
I’d hide in my head, going over the same thoughts again and again, feeling like a bird with broken wings and no-one understood me. Not even my own parents, even though they tried so hard and meant so well. My mum would say: “Go out for a walk; that will do you good.” And the only thing I’d think was: “But that gives me more time and more triggers to think.” My dad would say: “Well, losing your appetite isn’t that bad. Look at it this way: you’ll be able to lose some weight.” He was trying to show me the positive side, but trust me, not being able to eat because your throat is clenched tight isn’t really all that great. It actually was pure hell.
I’d talk about my worries with my friends expecting understanding and sympathy, but they’d just tell me about their worries as if they were on some sort of auto-responder. Others would ask questions, but didn’t really get it either. My brother and sister tried to support me, but mainly felt sorry for me, standing by unable to really do anything. I was so lonely; I felt so wrong, so stupid for being stuck in these irrational thoughts that ruined my reality. My boyfriend had to put up with all of this and most of the worrying was about our relationship. Thinking back, he was so incredibly patient with me.
I went to see a psychologist and that was maybe the only time I really felt understood, listened to and not wrong for being so weak, so insecure, so anxious all the f*cking time. The talking helped, but it didn’t really get me out of it. I’d go back into my thinking as a way to escape from reality, to not face the truth, but to think about it instead – that felt safer. It was my way of trying to keep things under control.
It still happens sometimes now; my mind takes over and starts showing me all the bullshit proof it has gathered to make a case for my current worry. But I’ve learned how to not take it so seriously anymore. And that has been my saving grace. I’ve learned that trying to fight our anxiety is actually what is causing it to persist. I’ve learned that when we suffer like this, it’s because we are being our own worst enemy and that self-hatred is the root of all evil.
Had I known these valuable truths at that time, I would’ve been able to free myself from the relentless grip my worrying mind had on my life. I would’ve known how to detach myself from my thoughts and see them as mere stories made up by my astonishingly creative mind. I would’ve realised that my mind was just trying to protect me from harm and lovingly thank it for its efforts. Instead I would’ve just supported myself towards living in line with my own truth and my own values. There I would’ve found my shortcut to freedom; to life, to fulfilment and happiness.
But t I didn’t know and so it took a long and winding road to get to where I’m at now: a place so stable, so in line with whom I really am and so full of love for the life I have, that I am so thankful for not having given up. I was there sometimes, wondering if it wasn’t just better to end it so the struggle would end too. But I never did because I knew there was one thing that would get me out of that dark place. And I found it – and looking back it was there all along. It was me and me accepting myself and all that comes with the package, exactly the way it is.
I love myself unconditionally now and that gives me a solid ground that I wish I could’ve given myself over ten years ago. Instead, I now joyfully help my clients give it to themselves – and that is a true blessing.
I work with women on a mission who want more out of life then their current unfulfilling, boring and draining status quo, but feel stuck in self-doubt, anxiety and insecurity, which blocks them from making the necessary, yet scary changes. I help them see their own light, dare to fully let it shine and get in line with what they really want out of life. It takes courage, dedication and lots of self-love – and I absolutely rejoice in helping them make these qualities come out and play. They’re already there, they just need to get more space to breathe.
If you’re interested in how I can help you become self-confident, really happy with yourself and your life, then check out my programme Rock Your Own World. It literally has all the tools to help you become strong, self-reliant and free to live life the way you want it and finally stop caring about what others think about you. It all starts with deciding your happiness is worth it. It truly is. And let me tell you one more thing, your life actually depends on it.
Click here to finally stop worrying and start living fully. It is time. And remember, if I can do it, you can do it.
Love & courage,
Confidence Coach for Women on a Mission