I use to view dealing with my anxiety the same way I do with the concept of marriage: unnecessary.
I hoped it’d go away eventually. “Out of sight, out of mind” right? But the problem was in my mind, so it wasn’t going to solve itself, and only I could do something about it. I mean, if I don’t look after me, how will I take care of the 7 dogs that I want to have, right? (I’m really doing this for the dogs.)
When I joined C27, I was pressed over not knowing what I could bring to the table — see, this table had dishes like Netflix, B.I.G., Spotify, Urbanscapes, and all I had to offer was juice. Were the people here thirsty to begin with?
I’ve been dealing with my anxiety on my own for years, and I’ve made it a point to jot down triggers/patterns just so I can improve the way I treat it. I realised I felt it the most during my first few brainstorms.
My go-to thoughts were:
And in extreme situations, my anxiety attacks feel like:
The toughest one to deal with though, and what frustrates me the most about having anxiety is that everything can be going fine externally; I can have a great balance of work and personal time, healthy relationships, but I still have days where I wake up feeling unable to deal with this thing called Life.
It feels like there’s a deep void in my chest, and I can’t focus on anything. The best thing I can do though, is to sit still until the noise in my head becomes softer — which is sometimes the most difficult thing to do when you have responsibilities.
The “just tell yourself to be happy, and you’ll snap out of it!” practice does not work. It’s not even realistic because human beings aren’t programmed like that (and if anyone still believes in this, they are ignorant, please don’t listen to them). On a daily, I’m a “Problem? Fix it!” kind of girl, so it took me a whole lot to accept that it’s okay that I need to put in more time to be okay, and that I’m not weak because I feel this way.
It’s very easy to give into the idea of being ‘weak’ because I’m not in control of the situation. Worse still when I used to feel guilty about it, because “what do I have to feel anxious about, anyway? Things are going good for me!” But what happens on the outside, is not a measure for what’s felt internally.
Coming to terms that mental health issues have to be treated the same way I would any other health issue (the flu, a cough) made the recovery a little easier; accepting that it takes time to heal.
I’ve dealt with it by:
1. Sharing it from the get-go
During my interview at C27, I mentioned what I was going through, and I was exceptionally nervous to bring it up. I thought my bosses wouldn’t understand, or would think I wasn’t valuable enough to be part of the team because of it. And that’s the scariest reality, right? Knowing that by putting yourself in a vulnerable position, it could result in you being unemployed, and having your bank account reach the same number as the decent, available men you’ve met in the last year (read: 0). But I had to do it because I needed to take care of myself first — even if that meant struggling to make ends meet for a while — and I didn’t want the team to be unprepared if anything did happen.
2. I let them know when I need space
I am fortunate to work in a (mostly) progressive environment, and I know that’s not something everyone else is afforded. But if you can speak to someone in the company who can help, grab that opportunity the way you would a sale item from Zara. I’ve disclaimed my breaking points to my Creative Director and Project Managers just so they know how to plan my work and understand where I’m coming from when I say I need a break.
3. Finding a quiet corner
This bit is particularly important because I need alone time. A lot of it. I can’t avoid from being around people forever, but I can spend my lunch breaks on my own watching Stephen Colbert or Kendrick Lamar eating cereal (it’s therapeutic, I s2g), and not having to try too hard to make conversations with people feels like the perfect day.
4. Writing my feelings out
I carry my journal with me all day every day. And whenever the noise in my head becomes too loud, I find that writing my thoughts down helps me compartmentalise the issue better. Sometimes it could even just be writing “what the fuck” a dozen times. It’s not the most helpful material for self-reflection but it helps me feel better.
5. Having a friend to check-in with
When I need a sounding board to reassure me that I am/am not overanalysing a situation, I text my best friends. And I’m clear with what it is I’m looking for (if it’s advice, or just to rant) so they also know how to respond to me. It’s good to have clear communication with people you trust just so you’re able to support one another’s needs.
That’s about it, really. Relatively simple steps that have helped me function better in my workplace.
On that note though, I still believe it’s painfully unfair that we feel like we have to neglect our mental health because of our jobs sometimes, or because we’re ridiculed with doubt of people not understanding our situations. So, I hope in light of the ‘new Malaysia’, and more people being vocal about their mental health experiences here, that companies provide better care and resources for their employees. Remember, nobody chooses to be sad or feel isolated; if we want to build stronger teams, it’s not about hiring the best people, it’s providing them with the tools to do it themselves.
Disclaimer: The views expressed by the authors on this blog do not necessarily reflect the views of C27, our CEO, the management, the fish in our fish tank, and/or all the awesome people within the agency. The content and opinions shared are the personal views of the author so please don’t sue us.
…or the author.
Rathika Sheila is just peachy, and she doesn’t want a fiancé, she just wants to be Beyoncé.