Guts over fear

Hi, if you’re reading this, chances are high you either know me because of Yellowcard or football. That doesn’t really matter though. What matters is, I would like for you to read this – especially if we’ve already met or plan on meeting in the future. There’s one thing you should know about me, and I have kept it silent for quite some time. I have an issue and it doesn’t come lightly. I’ve been dealing with it for over a decade and it has a huge impact on my life. It’s called anxiety.

mentalhealth

Photography: Ryan McGuire / Gratisography.

In July of 2016 I first decided to open up about it and post a German blog article. Since then I have gotten massive support from all sides and I could not be happier about it. Speaking up about my mental health has improved my life by miles, as I no longer have to hide my fears and can tell people when I’m uncomfortable with a situation. Therefore I want to write an English version in order to help more people understand what I’m dealing with. One of the main reasons I am writing this is, that in December I will be staying in Cologne for a night with a friend. That could easily trigger panic attacks, but maybe not if mental health can be an open discussion without prejudice. So this is my story:

When I was about 12 years old I went on vacation with my then best friend and her mother. The whole thing didn’t really go down as planned and it doesn’t come as a surprise that we didn’t stay friends much longer after that. One time during lunch I was really hungry and the food was delicious, so I ate a lot and filled my plate with more – more than I could actually eat apparently. So I wanted to stop eating because I was so full and already started feeling sick because of how much I had eaten. Yet the mother wanted to force me to finish what was on my plate. I literally could not do it, I felt so awful. And that feeling stuck with me until today. I do not wish that upon my worst enemies.

The consquence is that I cannot eat in some situations: mainly outside of home. But technically it’s not about where I eat, but who is there with me. Because in the end it’s some sort of a social phobia, I guess. The mother of my then friend was the reason behind the pressure that made me feel sick as she wanted to pressure me into finishing my plate. So she triggered it, not being outside of home. My anxiety is the worst when it comes to eating at restaurants or other people’s places for example. Because then I feel the pressure to eat, because the situation demands that from me. Because you go to restaurants to eat, not to just sit there and talk. Or friends invite you over for dinner and it would be quite rude to decline their food. That’s when the pressure is building up and my anxiety hits hard. It’s not only about feeling like throwing up, but als like a rope tightening around your neck so you feel like you can’t swallow anything. I mostly eat at home or when I’m by myself outside of home. It always depends on the situation. And it’s not about how much I like or trust the person I’m with. I would feel like a complete loser either way if I could not manage to eat like a normal person in a normal situation.

You see, it’s rather complicated and a completely irrational fear. But when are fears ever rational? I know that my friends or family would never intentionally pressure me into anything, so I guess in the end I put the pressure on myself triggered by things I have experienced in the past. How comfortable I feel about eating depends on how much „freedom“ I have. By freedom I mean whether I can decide to finish my food later or don’t have to eat anything at all. That freedom is highest when I’m alone obviously, because then I can decide by myself when, where and how much I eat. When I’m alone I can even go to fast food restaurants like Subway or McDonald’s and eat there. Fast food places offer more „freedom“ than real restaurants, because technically you can always grab your burger and leave if you don’t feel comfortable eating there. But I try to always eat at these places, and not leave, in order to slowly overcome my fears. Sounds completely stupid, I know, but that’s the way it is. Things that may seem completely normal to you, can be huge challenges to me.

But I will rise up to these challenges. I will not back down, because this is my life and I don’t want irrational fears dictating how to live it. Since I posted about it in German I have made huge progress and I probably would not have booked the night in Cologne without it. Cologne is another challenge I am willing to take, because I want to have the best time of my life with my friends and my favourite band. So here’s to anxiety: fuck off.

Run out of excuses with every word
So here I am and I will not run
Guts over fear, the time is here

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