I love the word ‘perspective’. Over the past year, I’ve found myself using it more and more. It’s become one of my most treasured coping strategies. The power of the mind is immense, and I now use my perspective to draw out the positives of a situation, rather than to focus on the negatives. My perspective is like the bungee cord that pulls me back up when my thoughts cause me to stumble.

When I was 11, I was diagnosed with generalised anxiety disorder. I’d always felt like something wasn’t quite right. It was in the way I constantly questioned myself, the way I’d work myself up to the point of being sick with worry over the smallest things. I felt crushed by the weight of being an overachiever and, as I still do today, I just wanted so badly to be liked by my peers. I was too young to comprehend how negative thinking leads to more negative thinking and, by the time I hit my teens, I was falling without a safety net.

The thing about the brain is that it’s constantly learning. I didn’t just wake up one morning thinking positively. It’s been a process that has spanned 11 years and has consisted of a lot of trial and error. I’ve had to train my mind not to dwell on the maybes and what ifs, as I’m naturally predisposed, and instead to live in the moment and not let my anxiety about the future hold me back.

I’ve changed my perspective on my anxiety and, instead of letting it chip away at me, I welcome it as motivation. If something is going to take so much energy out of me, why not turn it around and use it for something good? One of the biggest things I struggle with is the physical symptoms of anxiety. For some reason, anxiety and excitement go hand-in-hand for me, and I often feel myself feeling shaky and ill if I get overexcited. This used to cause me great distress, but as a matter of perspective, I can now usually persuade myself that my anxiety is actually excitement. Rather than letting myself become overwhelmed with worry, I channel it into excitement for the future.

I returned to university this year, and have found myself with a more positive approach to life than I have had in years. Studying writing has provided me with a creative outlet, something which has been integral to my mental and emotional wellbeing. At the beginning of my first semester, I decided that I would take pride in my work without letting my inner perfectionist take control. I’m learning to manage my anxiety through living with a ‘you don’t know if you don’t try’ attitude, and by either forcing my anxiety to take the backbench or to motivate me to succeed, I’m seeing greater improvement in both my creative work and personal life than I would have thought possible.

Changing my perspective on life truly has transformed the way I live. I still have anxiety, but rather than letting it dictate everything I do, I now live with it. I don’t allow it to drain me anymore. My mental health and I now have a symbiotic relationship. I do my best to treat myself with kindness, dignity, and care, and in return I am motivated to take chances and seize opportunities I never would have thought myself brave enough to.

Emily Fahey