We all get anxious from time to time, whether it’s an exam, argument or just meeting new people but what about the individuals who have chronic anxiety on a daily basis? The people who struggle to get out of the bed in the morning and can’t leave the house for no reason at all? Research shows that 1 in 6 young people will suffer from anxiety at some point in their lifetime, and it usually starts in childhood or adolescence. That is a lot of people so why is the concept of anxiety so misused? I’m an anxiety sufferer, and this is my story.
From that picture, I look like a normal teenage girl, don’t I? Looking back, I was an anxious child, but I never thought anything of it, I’m a worrier, and I worry if I’m not worrying (Bet it took you a moment to work that out). It’s stupid, I know but something that I cannot control. If a friend had a birthday party or I had a big day ahead of me at school, my mind would be filled with negative thoughts, at the time that’s okay to you so you just deal with it.
Mental health is something that isn’t picked up on enough; it’s dismissed because it isn’t visible. In February 2015 I went to the doctors after becoming severely anxious over every tiny thing in my life. I had a lot of stressful situations going on, from exams to family problems and I thought I was coping, but my body couldn’t take it anymore. I wrote a list of symptoms down because I had so many and felt so anxious that I couldn’t speak, just trying to do my relaxation exercises that I’d found online. My doctor experience wasn’t pleasant; I was looked down upon and felt like no one believed me because I’m young and of course “young people don’t have anything to worry about”. However, I managed to get a referral to counselling (CAMHS) and got a doctors note to prove I was too unwell to attend school which was another barrier I had to face.
It was exam period, and there was a lot of work to catch up on, school was banging on my front door every day, demanding me to do more and more work and asking me when I would next be in school, arranging meetings and constant phone calls. This was way too much for me, I didn’t need this, and it proved that the education system only cares about themselves so they look good. I tried to revise and complete the work given to me, but sometimes it made me too ill, my heart pounding, my breathing getting faster. I did miss my exams due to anxiety, but I tried my hardest not to get upset because your health is so much more important than a piece of paper.
My first panic attack is something I’d never want to relive, I’ve learnt how my body reacts to anxiety now, however, they can still be incredibly terrifying. I remember it like it was yesterday, I was sitting in a restaurant with Lewis in Meadowhall, and I felt fine until I realised the more I ate, the more anxious I became. I felt so distant from everyone, so on edge, I couldn’t stand up or speak. I was so scared; I needed to escape. Fast. My brain was going into overdrive, I was uncontrollably shaking, an intense amount of pain making me numb. My chest tightened and I started to breathe faster to the point of hyperventilation; I ran out of the restaurant and into the nearest toilet where I threw up. Why was this happening? Was I dying? I was a wreck, and I just needed to get out of there.
Luckily for me, Lewis managed to take me to a quieter place to calm me down but even afterwards I felt shaken up, I had no idea what just happened but I knew that I never wanted to experience it again. Unfortunately, that attack was one of many, in fact, I had them every time I needed to leave the house to the point where I became agoraphobic.
For a while, I had to deal with everything on my own, yeah my family was there, but they knew as much as me about what was going on. The referral for counselling took forever, but I finally started my sessions in October 2015. My counsellor was a lady called Janet, who at first I wasn’t sure about, I didn’t want to be there, I just wanted to be better. However, she was very nice and looked after me, and we just talked about what my anxiety is like, and she set me little tasks to try and complete that would be a step forward in my recovery. Anxiety is all about pushing past those barriers; you have to take control of it.
In May 2016 I got referred to CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy). Now, I’ve only been to two sessions so far, and I now see a man called John, this therapy will be more detailed, trying to find out what my brain does when I’m anxious and to look into how to stop it. The sessions are draining, I admit that, but I’m determined to beat this. I have Panic Disorder, Generalised Anxiety Disorder and Borderline Agraphobia so it’s going to be a real challenge.
I still get panic attacks every time before I leave the house to go out but I’ve learnt how my body deals with my symptoms, and now it feels a lot easier to control. Of course, I get good and bad days, but I wouldn’t wish mental health upon anybody. I’m now able to go out a lot more, and I’m slowly starting to become my old self, however, I’m still not in any education, but it’s all about baby steps. Social media portrays an appalling image in any form of anxiety/depression, posting images that make it seem that everyone has got it. It’s not cute; it’s hell.
I will continue to update my journey, and I’m always here for support, my email address is [email protected] if you would like to talk. We will beat this together.