The Anxiety Diaries Part 3
Myself and anxiety have been friends since around 9 years old. She befriended me after the diagnosis of my rare tumour known as AVM. To cut a long story short I have had over fifteen operations, endless hospital appointments and a complete reconstruction of my nose. It was the first major event in my life to trigger my anxiety. How at 9 years old could I comprehend that I looked so different to everyone else? The truth is I couldn’t. Being anxious seemed to be the only way I knew how to deal with these problems.
From the age of 9, I was bombarded with these thoughts:
“Look, they’re staring at you again.”
“What if you’ve done something wrong?”
“Look at them laughing, maybe it's at you.”
Around the same time as I received my diagnosis, my mother met her ex-partner who was emotionally abusive towards the both of us. The home that I once loved and felt comfortable in slowly became like hell. The more time went on, the more my anxiety engulfed me.
The minute he called my name my head would run away with itself, creating a million situations before I’d even gone down the stairs.
“What if I do something wrong?”
“What if I make him angry?”
“Did I do everything I was supposed to do?”
I started to question everything I did and by the age of 13 my anxiety was exuberating. If my general anxiety wasn’t making my life a living hell, then my social anxiety sure was. Between them both I felt exhausted and completely out of control. School was hard, in fact,to say it was ‘hard’ is an underestimation. It’s hard enough being a teenage girl or a teenager at
all, but with the added pressure of having had reconstruction surgery and looking completely different, made life just that little more complex.
During my surgery I had to shave my hair as part of the procedure, this of course added to
the extra pressure I already felt growing up. I just wanted to be normal. Whatever I thought ‘normal’ was anyway.
“You're not good enough!”
“Look everyone's staring at you!”
“ You’re such a freak!”
“ Why can’t you just be normal?”
Each thought in my head whipped around like a broken record, playing over and over again, the only difference being that I couldn’t press pause. I couldn’t make it stop.
At school I was quite comfortable with the people I knew, my anxiety would play up from time to time but I had relatively supportive friends. The classroom, however, was a totally different place. The thought of having to speak out loud terrified me. Even answering the register at times was like a military mission. What if I didn’t answer my name? Or my throat clammed up? Or my voice went weird? I just wanted to be able to do one simple thing like answer a register but life with anxiety can make the simplest of things some of the scariest. The tight chest. The sweaty palms. The uncontrollable breathing. The leg. The hand. Both trembling in fear.
Those thoughts all racing around my head. The thing with anxiety is you can’t quite explain it. It doesn’t always make sense. It’s just that overwhelming feeling.
My anxiety has always made me second guess myself. I saw danger in situations where there was none. I feared to talk to people. I feared to be myself. I used to be afraid of my anxiety but in 2018 I took control back. I decided to take the plunge and finally speak to someone, to get the help I needed. After waiting for 3 months and having no response from NHS services I couldn’t let the darkness consume me any longer.
It took 10 months of counselling and I no longer live my life by anxiety. It takes a lot of hard work and commitment. I had to put myself in situations that would fill my body with anxiety. I started to challenge myself to put my hand up in college and each time I did, the anxiety slowly started to fade. There were times I thought the anxiety would control my life forever but with my efforts to beat my anxiety and committing to counselling changed my way of thinking. I’m lucky to have an amazing counsellor, without whom I’d have never reached this point. My anxiety had deep roots. Roots in which I once believed would be permanently implanted into my life.
So, you may be thinking how’s life without anxiety? Well, I haven’t had a panic or anxiety attack in over three months. (You may be thinking that three months is not a long time, but on some occasions I'd have three anxiety attacks a week, so to have zero now feels like a miracle.) I was able to get through my a-level exams. I can now stand in crowded rooms and ask for things myself. I no longer have to rehearse the lines in my head before ordering in a restaurant and I can walk alone without the need to call someone. I still worry about things like any normal person does, but not to the extremes that I used to. I now understand that I can’t control everything in my life, and that’s okay sometimes.
Recovering from anxiety and reaching out for help was the best thing I ever did. My anxiety wouldn’t have let me to write this blog before. I’d have questioned my ability. Questioned if it was good enough, or If I sounded weird. I would’ve been scared to ‘expose myself’. You don’t have to live your life with anxiety be your side.
You can be set free.
If you’ve been struggling with your mental health or are having suicidal thoughts, or you know somebody who is, these are the numbers to call to get some help.
Samaritans: 116 123
CALM: 0800 58 58 58
Papyrus (for those under 35): 0800 068 41 41
Childline (for children and young people under 19): 0800 1111
The Silver Line (for the elderly): 0800 4 70 80 90