If you’ve ever dealt with anxiety and know what the recovery journey is like, you’ve probably also experienced what I call “little big wins”. I thought a blog category to capture these would be great, so here I am capturing one of these moments: a little big win over being afraid of water. This is actually a very recent win, and for later posts I might write about what kind of wins I came across earlier on in my journey. There are many.
What are little big wins?
So what does “little big win” mean? It might be different for others, but for me, it’s a realisation, or a milestone, of something that used to be negative, and is now neutral or even positive. It’s a personal win, and mine are mostly related to some difficulty I had due to mental illness. It’s about overcoming an obstacle and realising that I am a little bit closer to establishing normal daily routines, or that I have managed to do something or feel something good that I wasn’t able to before. And it feels really, really good once you realise you’ve hit one. 🙂
Anxiety and the challenge of doing something
I used to love taking showers and soak in a bath. A long, hot shower was relaxing and a way to tune out the day, think of nothing in particular, and just enjoy the feeling of warmth all over my body.
When I had anxiety, it manifested in several awful ways, and one of them was that I developed a hatred – or maybe a fear – of water. It was incredibly difficult to take care of personal hygiene when every time I thought it was time to take a shower or a bath, anxiety kicked in and stopped the plans. I wanted to walk to the bathroom, but my mind would not let me, and I got stuck in a loop of thoughts like “which foot do I start walking with? Which towel will I pick? How much time does it take to walk there? Should I walk to the kitchen instead to finish the dishes? Yes? No? Yes? No? Yes? No?”
This was not just about showering, but with many normal tasks whose starting and completion I used to take for granted. I often ended up standing within the confines of my livingroom rug, shaking and hyperventilating, not able to step over the edge of the rug because my racing thoughts and anxious mind would not let me make any kind of decision as to what step to take next, which leg, where to go, what to do. The only thing I could do in those situations was to slump down on the rug and try calm my mind down. Sometimes I slept there.
Bypassing the water anxiety
I had to wash myself. I had been in a place before, with depression, where this was not happening, and I didn’t want to go to that place again. I developed methods to kind of take little half-steps towards showering, such as sitting for a long time in the bathroom, getting used to the room and waiting for the mind chaos to go away – kind of bypassing the anxiety. Then I would take the hand shower and wash my hair over the edge of the tub. I would rub wet towels on my body to wash myself. It wasn’t ideal, but it got the job done.
I got used to washing that way and I still do this sometimes even now when I’m not suffering from anxiety anymore, out of habit, I think. Also because of all the issues in the past, I started to associate showering, and water in general, with negative feelings. That’s why it’s been an unpleasant chore ever since to take a shower and I’d rather avoid it if I can.
This morning I took a full shower. It’s not unheard of, I do shower fully nowadays, I just really dislike it and won’t linger there for long. So, today I took a shower, and while I was standing there under the flow of water, I turned up the heat, and it felt amazing. My body was tingling and I stayed there, periodically turning around so the other side of my body got equally warm, and then I turned again and again. I shampooed my hair, used conditioner, used a delicious vanilla shower gel that’s been sitting on my shelf for several years, untouched.
It hit me afterwards when came out of the bathroom with a towel around my hair that I had actually enjoyed that shower. It was a pleasurable experience, and it’s been SO long since I have felt that. I felt so relieved that I almost cried!
So, that was my most recent little big win, and I’m looking forward to my shower again tomorrow. 😀
I’d love to hear what little big wins you’ve had too? 🙂 Anything related to anxiety specifically?