I’ve been an “anxious” person my entire life (I am now 24). When I was a child I had all of the typical anxious/worried type characteristics – I was shy, I wasn’t very daring or brave, I was always over-thinking and I was hyper-aware of everything that could go wrong. It’s not that I was unhappy necessarily – overall I remember a very happy childhood – but when things felt unsafe I really struggled. I can remember periods of feeling extremely low and scared. When I was in year 3 (so around 8 years old), I moved to a new school which, for whatever reason, I hated. I came home and cried every single day and constantly felt terrified when I was there. I wanted the safety and familiarity of my old school.
As a child I developed a number of particular worries that I would obsess about – natural disasters, weather, night-time, school, my body. I was also terrified of authority and of being in trouble. Once I was about 9 years old, I started to keep a diary where I would write about all of my feelings. I then began to analyse the negative feelings (sadness, worry etc) and became very aware that something was “wrong” with me (why am I always feeling worried? Where does it come from? Why doesn’t anyone else feel like this?). I don’t think I ever talked to anyone about how I felt, I would just write it all down. I was constantly looking for an answer, as I knew that something wasn’t right. I really tried to keep it hidden (though I don’t know how successful I was!) as it just didn’t seem like anyone I knew struggled with their feelings.
Looking back, it’s not JUST about being anxious. I was (and still am) incredibly sensitive in every way, and I feel things so deeply. I would also have periods of feeling deeply sad, deeply happy, deeply strange… whatever. But anxiety is the thing/feeling that’s caused so much grief for me all throughout my life.
I’d say it got harder as I moved into teenage years because I became more self-aware (and there were suddenly way more things to worry about!). I had a particularly bad time when I was about 14 (can’t remember now what triggered it off) and this is when I discovered that all of the terrifying feelings actually had a name – anxiety. I know some people don’t like using labels for mental health, but I feel like being able to label what was going on in my head (and with that, knowing that other people experienced the same thing) literally saved my sanity. My mum had finally taken me to the doctors after about 36 hours with no sleep, and they just sent me home with an online questionnaire to complete. The results suggested that I was depressed. I had no idea what that meant, but it sounded scary, and my anxiety levels went through the roof. I didn’t feel like that word entirely matched how I felt. I can only describe the feeling as like being trapped inside a very small, dark box, barely able to breathe, all day every day (except for the odd moment where I forgot about how I was feeling…). Not to mention all of the other hellish aspects of it – insomnia, loss of appetite, depersonalisation, panic attacks, etc.
I eventually decided to look online for answers, which is when I discovered anxietynomore.co.uk. I honestly don’t know what would have become of me if I hadn’t found this website. Everything that Paul (the author) wrote about described how I felt, and I would strongly recommend the site to anyone who is (or thinks they might be) struggling with anxiety. There are also a huge number of other incredibly helpful websites on all different types of anxiety, and I’ll write about some of the others that have helped me later.
At some point (after discovering anxietynomore.co.uk) I recovered from that period of severe anxiety, and to be honest I didn’t think it would ever get that bad again. I think I thought of that period as just one ‘bad time’ that I had recovered from – I thought I’d “conquered” it. But, having since gone through more, potentially even worse, episodes, I have come to accept that anxiety is just something that I will always struggle with. It’s not that I am always suffering from it (as I am writing this I feel very peaceful and happy), but I suppose I have come to accept that, at some point, it will flare up again – maybe because of a stressful event, or maybe for no obvious reason at all. It’s just because of how my brain is wired. But, being able to accept the anxiety (rather than always trying to escape it) is absolutely the most important step in being able to manage it.
There are so many more things I want to share about my experience of anxiety – how it feels, how I cope with it, treatment I have received, how it shapes my life and relationships. I have always used writing as a way to manage and analyse my feelings, and so it’s really therapeutic for me to be able to write about my experiences. I also hope it might actually help someone else. Anxiety is one of the absolute worst feelings in the world, and reading about the experiences and coping mechanisms of others has been the greatest help for me.
Thank you for reading this… Please let me know your thoughts! x