How are you feeling right now?
Do you feel satisfied? Fulfilled? Or do you feel confused, and overwhelmed - your circumstances appear as if they are beyond your ability to cope or understand. Do you suffer from anxiety, perhaps without even knowing it?
That sensation of tightness in your chest or a lump in your throat, you're noticing that your breathing is shallow, you're talking really fast, you find it difficult to concentrate on the task at hand or be fully present in the moment, exhaustion from trying to be or look perfect, you're feeling constantly irritable, experiencing an elevated sense of vigilance in the world as if you have to muster all your resources to keep yourself safe, a heightened sense of worry or fear even though your rational mind knows there's nothing to worry about!
Do you regularly fear having a panic attack whilst travelling on the Tube? Are you hesitant to get on the aeroplane, even for a vacation you've been looking forward to so much?
Do you find yourself compulsively washing your hands or turning off the switches daily before leaving the house, in case something bad happens? Or carry an irrational fear of going out of the house, such that even a trip to the local grocery store becomes an insurmountable task?
Do you feel both excitement and a low hum of dread about using social media? You are aware that hours of scrolling newsfeeds leave you feeling drained, possibly dismal about your life, but the pull towards it feels out of your control somehow.
Do you feel a constant dark cloud hanging over you? Do you find that everyone around you is able to laugh easily and enjoy a warm summer evening in the park, while you walk around forlorn, desperately trying to find a connection to something or someone but are simply unable to?
Do you have a critical inner voice that says 'I'm worthless', 'I'll never do better than this for myself' or the many other ways that keeps you out of reach of a full life?
Do you have intrusive thoughts that won't stop, and your best, most creative efforts at thwarting or re-directing these thoughts via meditation, yoga, or prayer deliver only temporary relief?
Has it been your experience that life has felt at once beautiful but also desperately out of reach? A feeling that everyone else deserves to be happy but me? A vague sense that life is not as fulfilling as it can be.
It may be that outwardly everything looks just fine, but inside there is a sense of unease – as if things are quite all right. You may find yourself spending more time on these uncomfortable feelings and thoughts than you would like to, some of them even getting in the way of your day-to-day functioning.
Have you constantly been told that you're too sensitive, too serious, too this or too that? That you're somehow not 'normal'?
Does any of these sound or feel familiar? How are you feeling holding these thoughts and ideas right now?
Your feelings may show up in your relationships, or you may find your circumstances at home or work challenging. It may not be immediately obvious to you how your world affects you and vice-versa, but you experience a vague sense of dis-ease being you in this world.
It may be that you've been living with many such thoughts and feelings for a huge part of your life, perhaps even as long as you've known yourself, but have never quite joined the dots that you may be suffering from anxiety or depression or any number of such 'conditions'?
It may be that your background or culture minimises mental health issues, which leaves you feeling even more alienated and alone: 'Is there something wrong with me?'.
You may find yourself constantly seeking reassurance from others around you - family members, friends, co-workers - and may temporarily feel a gush of relief off-loading these feelings, but soon again, you may find these sneaky feelings catch up with you.
These feelings in and of themselves are nothing to be afraid of; however, left unexplored, in a state of unawareness, they may have a way of contaminating healthy, life-affirming parts of you. You may find yourself unnecessarily fearful and adopt avoidance behaviours, shrinking and contracting in ways that affect you and relationships in your life. These feelings are pointing to parts of you that need care and exploration because these same parts of you are ready to shrug off old ways of feeling and thinking, to don a new mantle.
If you find that these thoughts and feelings are restricting your ability to fully engage with life, reach out for help and support.