Now this is a post I’ve wanted to write since the idea of starting a blog came to my mind. I can tell it will be a long one so I’m going to split it up a little into a few posts so you’re not too overwhelmed! I wanted to be able to share my own experiences with you in the hope of helping even just one other person. As I’m sure you’re aware, May is my ‘Mental Health Awareness’ Month so this post today is about my own struggle with social anxiety. I’ve mentioned before in previous posts about having anxiety but never really divulged much information; so that is what today’s post is for.
People’s first thoughts when they meet me would never be that I was shy, or quiet or nervous. I’m pretty confident and always keen to make my voice heard, so it always comes as a shock to people when I say I suffer from anxiety. I enjoy being leaders on projects and as a House Captain at my Upper school I was used to talking in front of crowds and meeting new people. I have worked in customer service jobs and always love meeting new people. You may ask how can I have social anxiety then? How could the simple act of going to school or getting on a bus cripple me with such anxiety? Surely it was all in my head? Or that you think it’s an attention seeking thing? For those people, I ask you to read on to really see just how hard it can be for those with anxiety. You can be the most confident, self-assured individual but you can still have anxiety – no-one’s immune.
The last two years or so of my life have been the hardest but also the best. When I look back at the girl I was, this time, two years ago I wouldn’t recognise myself. This was the beginning of the toughest years of my life so I look back now as a person that is so much stronger. It all happened around the time I broke up with my boyfriend. I won’t divulge details but needless to say it kickstarted a very unhappy time for me. We shared the same friends and I felt I lost them all – I felt isolated, I felt like I had no-one. This all happened around the time of our year 12 AS exams so I was already stressed and anxious enough. I’d never really had anxious experiences before so it was all new and very scary. Even getting on the bus in the morning for school was hard enough. I’d be throwing up with nerves just seconds before I had to leave the house. I would find it hard to eat for fear of throwing up once I got on the bus. I felt trapped on that journey. Once on that bus, I couldn’t get off to be ill, that terrified me. This continued until the end of the school year and I lost so much weight as a result.
Now anxiety doesn’t just make you throw up. This was just a common result of my anxiety. I would also get heart palpitations, hot and cold sweats, the feeling of not being able to breathe. I would tense up so much I’d be unable to move with my jaw locked tight. I would feel exhausted and unable to move. The feeling of being trapped would be overwhelming. Sometimes my muscles and jaw would be locked so tight I actually would struggle to break out of it.
The summer holidays arrived and I was relieved: no more school. I spent the first three weeks of those holidays in my house. I had no-one to see and was too scared to see people anyway. It was like I’d clicked a self-destruct button. I tried meeting up with people on a couple of occasions but each was faced with severe anxiety and more throwing up. I had two work experience placements lined up in the final three weeks of the holidays. On the morning of one of them, I had my first major panic attack. I look back on it now as one of the scariest moments of my life. Being on the floor of my lounge not being able to breathe or move. For those that have never experienced one before please understand that panic attacks are no laughing matter. They are scary and debilitating. It was that moment I knew I needed help.
So this was the beginning of my journey. The time when I knew I couldn’t battle my anxiety alone anymore. My next post will be about what steps I took to try and help me through my journey. So keep an eye out for that! Recently a friend of mine, Rachel, has blogged about her battle with health anxiety. You can read all of her moving and inspirational posts on it here!