Today I realised something. Something exciting. Something encouraging. Something that has been a something for quite a while without attracting my notice. That something is progress.
Yesterday I travelled a twenty minute train journey. To most people that means nothing. Even to me, it felt like nothing at the time. Except it was something, something very important. I was on a train at 5pm – rush hour in one of the busiest cities in England – squashed in a carriage with barely an inch of breathing space between me and the other people pressed up uncomfortably close together. There was a bag wedged in my leg; an arm half-resting on my shoulders; a hand gripping the pole close to my ear, catching at my hair. Darkness had fallen outside, so there was no distraction from the multitude of people crammed around me. My eyes darted around the apartment looking for an escape, an exit. None, of course. I breathed. Told myself I was fine. I was fine. I was fine. I could do this. And suddenly it was true. I was fine. I could do this. I was doing it right this second.
No nausea, no increased pulse, no tight chest, no shallow breaths, no aching fingers, no subconscious picking of hands or aimless screen flicking on my phone. I was fine, really fine. I couldn’t believe it, couldn’t believe myself. Three years ago, the idea of commuting by train brought on waves of terror and anxiety. Four years ago, I managed to buy a train ticket and reached the platform, before turning on my heel and walking straight back out to return home, to safety. Flashback to eight years ago, and the idea of leaving the house left me shaky, nauseous, aching, and breathless. For no rational reason whatsoever, I just couldn’t do it. Yet here I am now, a commuter of trains, buses, and planes. I always said I would defeat anxiety with will power, my own power and strength. I didn’t want medication to numb the senses or be the only way I could function properly. I wanted to be independent, my own master. Mind over matter. Yet when the time came, I didn’t even recognise my progress. Does this happen to everyone? Do we go through life not realising how much we have achieved? Do we have to be told by others when we have accomplished something?
I still have far to go. My anxiety has not disappeared. I still get tingly, achy fingers, which I massage furiously to make the feeling pass. My stomach still somersaults every time I step foot inside a train station. Passers by never notice the girl who stands with hands deep in pockets, invisible fingers frantically ripping up a hidden receipt in efforts to release the anxiety. Perhaps it never will go completely, but now I finally see how far I have come. Better still, I know I can improve and take further control of myself.
As someone who wishes and dreams of travel, this obstacle was one of the biggest to overcome. The next will be driving, and after that… who knows. There will always be something, but the thing is, I know I can succeed. I’m on another train right now editing this piece, and i’m fine. It’s a two hour journey, and later I will take the same train home. But you know, i’m not worried because I know deep down that I can do this.
I am calm. I am confident. I can do this.
These are the words I say to calm myself. Now, after months of them feeling meaningless and stupid, they are finally acting as a booster. They help me do instead of dwell. They help me to be the sociable person I really am. They help me destroy my anxiety, and they are helping me win back my life.
I think we need to realise our accomplishments more, however large or small. So if you are reading this, then I wish you congratulations on your past, present, and future endeavours. You are far more powerful and positive than you know. Keep going. Stay strong. Keep happy. You may be your own worst enemy, but you also have the power to be your own greatest ally.
Have a wonderful day!