When I started this blog I made a promise to myself that I would be 100% open and honest in every post that I write, so today I am going to write about something that I haven’t shared with many people; My struggle with anxiety. Anxiety is something that I battle with daily and, over the course of a few years, have learned to control. Anxiety is one of the most common mental health problems that people struggle with yet isn’t considered important by some.
I can’t pinpoint the exact moment that I first encountered anxiety but I know that I was roughly thirteen years of age. My earliest memories are of being in the first year homeroom at school and feeling nauseous and nervous whilst being surrounded by my classmates. I would get the same feeling every day and continued to do so for the following three years. I would rarely answer questions in class as I didn’t want to draw attention to myself and I had a fear of being called upon. On one occasion I was asked to write on the whiteboard and having completed the task, I excused myself to the bathroom, locked myself in a cubicle and cried.
I hated social situations involving my peers apart from my closest friends whom I had grown to be comfortable with. I refrained from taking part in things such as youth club and going to discos as I knew that my time there would be spent on the verge of tears. I was embarrassed that I felt this way and chose to keep it a secret from my family and most of my friends. My best friends were quick to pick up on my anxiety much to my dismay. However, I soon learned that confiding in them when I was at my worst would help me to relax. I spoke to the doctor about how I was feeling when visiting him for a check-up and he informed me that anxiety is very common in teens and is often linked to hormones. I spent hours researching ways to manage anxiety and found that walking, painting and singing were very effective in calming me down. Over the next three years my symptoms had decreased dramatically.
When I reached the age of sixteen I began to experience problems with my hormones and developed PCOS (which I didn’t find out until a few months ago). My anxiety came back and it was worse than ever. I feigned illness on multiple occasions as I felt that I couldn’t handle going to school. Between anxiety and regular throat infections I missed a lot of fifth year and fell behind in many subjects. This increased my anxiety as I had a huge pile of work to catch up on in a short amount of time. Around the same time my relationships with my closest friends had become strained and teachers noticed some changes in me. My parents also noticed these changes which eventually forced me to open up to them. I received a lot of support from teachers and family and formed new friendships with some amazing people.
Being more honest with people really helped me as I no longer had to make excuses as to why I couldn’t do something. I began to challenge myself to go to events and spend time away from home. Sometimes I would really enjoy myself while other times I would have a panic attack. Luckily I had formed a good support system which consisted of my best friends and family. I remember being on the verge of a panic attack at my debs and heading straight for the bathrooms. I was followed by my best friend who refused to leave the bathroom until I felt better and proceeded to drag me out to dance with her once I was feeling okay again.
The most difficult aspect of anxiety for me is not knowing when it is going to show its face. I was able to take a week-long holiday by myself to Barcelona and manoeuvre my way around the city for my 18th birthday without feeling anxious yet I couldn’t enjoy a big family dinner in my hometown and had to leave as soon as I had eaten just a few months later. I only go out and drink alcohol a few times a year as I know that this will make me feel anxious but I can go to a busy café for lunch on a regular basis and feel completely fine.
I think it is important to be honest if you suffer from anxiety as it allows for people to provide the support that you need. You may feel embarrassed or think that others may not take you seriously but there is always somebody out there that can help. Some people find it difficult to understand anxiety and I believe that this is due to the lack of information out there. That is the exact reason that I am sharing my story and I hope that this can help in some way.
I will be writing a lot more on this topic in the hopes to spread awareness for the disorder as well as helping people to understand what it means to suffer from anxiety.
Until next time