In the world we live in today, I think it is important to continue talking about mental health, especially with social media and the new pressures that come with modern life. I want to make more of an impact than ever on helping those suffering. I want to make it known that it’s okay not to be okay and there are many of us out there that struggle with our mental health daily. My hope is that by sharing my experience of living with an anxiety disorder/depression, I can help to spread awareness to those who don’t suffer from a mental health problem and help those who do.
8 years ago, I was diagnosed with Generalised Anxiety Disorder at CAMHS. Over the years I’ve seen therapist after therapist, undergone therapy, and I’m currently taking medication number two every day. I have now accepted this may be a part of my life forever. Whilst living with Generalised Anxiety Disorder, there is not only the social anxiety aspect for me. Personally, I also suffer from depression, low self-esteem, constant negative thoughts, and general overthinking. My anxiety and low mood lead to things including (but not limited to):
- Difficulty/inability to talk or converse, communicate, and ask questions
- Difficulty making friends
- Looking around me wherever I am due to being constantly paranoid of people judging me/talking about me or even planning to attack me
- Not eating/drinking in public/in front of people I’m not comfortable with
- Not being able to order food or drink etc. for myself
- Walking in and straight back out of crowded places
- Not walking into a place at all
- Relying on others to do things for me such as ordering my food/drink or just needing them to be patient when it takes me 10 minutes to enter a busy place
- Thinking everyone hates me
- Believing that I am not capable of doing things e.g., driving, jobs, uni, making friends etc. spending days on end in my room/alone
- Lack of independence
- Feeling unmotivated and unable to do anything
- Feeling lethargic and constantly tired
- Lack of concentration
- Panic attacks
How it’s affected my day to day life
Not only do these struggles affect my daily life, but I also missed out on things that people my age enjoyed like parties and prom. At one very dark point in my life, I lived in my bedroom. I would come home from school and crawl straight into bed and just sleep. I would lock myself away and only leave when I absolutely had to.
No motivation, and unable to see a future for myself, I would constantly switch between crying myself to sleep and being too numb to shed a tear. Dealing with these feelings constantly, made me a cynical person with the mentality that because I was hurting everyone else should too. Hating the world and everyone around me, I would push people out and make myself look unapproachable and cold. At school and at any new job, I was always known as the one that didn’t talk. This was because my anxiety also includes trouble with verbal communication. As a result of this, I was bullied for most of my school life, and it led to me having to be taken out of school for a while. Of course, this meant I was behind and constantly playing catch up with my schoolwork. Unfortunately, bullying didn’t stop in the workplace.
During work, people presumed I was incapable of a job just because I struggled to communicate and found it extremely difficult to ask for help when I needed it. The problem is one part of anxiety is having an extreme fear of being judged and vulnerable but as I’m so quiet and visibly anxious I end up drawing more attention to myself. It’s difficult to convey to others that some of my actions/behaviour is a result of my anxiety and not my personality. This can be so frustrating as I’m desperate for people to see the real me. However, some would argue that my anxiety is my personality. I agree with this to some extent, but I believe it is only an aspect as I think of myself as having a very complex personality – strong, opinionated, and self-aware, but also vulnerable, insecure and in need of reassurance. This is difficult to accept when you just want to be the best version of yourself and are trying to figure out who you are during your teenage years. Am I quiet or am I outgoing? Self-assured or needy? I’ve finally realised that it’s possible to be all those things and it doesn’t have to be negative. It just depends on the people I’m around – if people stick around long enough for me to get comfortable, they get to see the ‘better’ me.
Looking back and the positive outcomes
I tell myself now that it is okay to be different and my complexity makes me unique, and I know now that this is true. I have developed in ways I never thought would be possible. I have finished job number five, and although I still experienced the same as in all my other jobs, I felt better able to deal with it as I knew it wasn’t forever. Another positive is that I passed my driving test after doubting my abilities and I’m so happy that the driving lessons are over! In terms of socialising, I occasionally order my drinks (better than never, right?) and I go into shops on my own sometimes when I’m feeling courageous. Also, I am now in my final year of university, and I would never have thought a few years ago that I would have managed the full three years. It has been difficult, but I wouldn’t change it and I am so proud of myself for sticking at it. It has opened me up to new experiences and allowed me to challenge myself in new ways.
Some days are still difficult, and I still have my days when all I want to do is just sleep and hide from the world, but those days are less now. A combination of CBT, medication and self-help such as yoga and meditation has helped me by changing my thinking and allowing me to see things more positively. Overall, after many hard years, I can say that I am proud of myself for dealing with everything that I have had to go through. I feel as though it makes me who I am as a person today; I am now completely okay with that. Even though it may sound ridiculous, now that I’m in a better place, I’m glad that I have been through these things. It has made me a stronger, more empathetic person and gives me the chance to offer my support to others. Every day is still a struggle for me, especially in terms of social situations, but now I finally have some hope that things will continue to improve. You can be proud of yourself too. It is okay to be struggling and to ask for help. It is okay to take medication and to get therapy. And it is okay to cry. Things do get better if you allow them to.
I am a psychology student and I struggle with my own mental health on a daily basis. Although, I have improved massively over the years with a variety of different support systems and strategies. I blog about my personal experiences on my personal blog and I would love to share it with students to help in any way that I can.