For a very long time I have struggled with anxiety. It has been with me from a young age however it was something I didn’t know much about and therefore couldn’t categorise the feelings I felt. As a child it picked away at me, just teeny chips, not much for anyone to notice. It was the dread of marking that homework in case I got a question wrong or it was the fear of playing that game in case I made a fool of myself. It showed itself in small ways when I was in primary school but it was there, lurking beneath the surface.
As I got older my anxiety became more apparent and much harder to live with. I was constantly afraid of failing, of not being good enough or just of something generally going wrong. It could be something as little as getting a few questions wrong in a school test to being sick in public.
I had my first panic attack while still in primary school. I had been asleep and when I woke up I started to panic. I couldn’t breathe properly and it felt like all the walls were closing in on me. I remember running downstairs to my mum and she calmed me down. It didn’t last long but it was the scariest ten minutes of my little life so far and it was the start of my panic attacks.
I had them on and off for a few years and around the time of GCSE’s, when my mental health took a turn for the worse, my anxiety also got quite bad. I lived in constant fear of failure. For my whole life I had been the goody two shoes who did everything right and who got great marks and did well at pretty much everything. The particular secondary school I went to highly valued academic success which only added to my fear but once I hit year 11, the start of my GCSE years, I realised how much work I had to put in and all I could tell myself is that I couldn’t fail anything. I couldn’t get below a B. It was drilled into my head that anything under an A was bad. I aimed for an A* in every subject and hated myself every time I didn’t get it. I dreaded every test. All I could think throughout was that there was a possibility I could fail and everything would go wrong if I did. I mistook good grades and academia for worth. To myself I was only as good as my grades, nothing else mattered.
As I neared the end of my GCSE’s my anxiety continued to get worse. Not only was I desperate to pass everything, I now panicked over the smallest and most insignificant things. I would panic if I felt hungry in class in case my stomach rumbled and I made a fool of myself. I would panic if I was too hot in case I fainted. I panicked if I felt a little sick. I panicked if I had to go out in public. I panicked if I had to go somewhere more than 10 minutes from my house. I panicked if I had to talk to someone I didn’t know. I literally panicked over daily activities and for a while it ruined my life. I couldn’t get through the day without having at least one panic attack.
In a situation I felt uncomfortable in or there was a possibility something could go wrong I could feel my body getting warmer. I would feel like I couldn’t sit still so I would move my hands and jiggle my legs. My heart rate would go up and sometimes I would get chest pains. I would feel sick. If it was particularly bad I would be short of breath or get so dizzy I would be on the verge of fainting. It was a horrible experience and something triggered by the smallest of things. It got so bad I even dreaded going to theatres to watch shows which I love due to associating one bad theatre experience with every other.
Anxiety literally took over my whole life and sadly there wasn’t really even a reason for it. I had 8 months of counselling and due to one amazing woman I have learned to cope with my anxiety. It’s not gone. It’s always there just under the surface waiting to show its face but when it does I am equipped to deal with it. I can calm myself down and there are plenty of techniques out there to help with that. Anxiety is likely to always be a part of my life but with help it can get better.
I’ve written this post as I know anxiety is a very common illness and I know many people suffering from it. I hope that by sharing my own experiences those people will see that they’re not suffering alone and there are ways to get through it and get help. I will be writing more posts on my experience with anxiety and for my coping mechanisms and how I deal with it you can read my previous post!