If you, like me, suffer from anxiety and panic attacks, please know that you are not alone, seriously.
Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the US, affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older (18% of U.S. population).
If you don’t suffer from even a little anxiety every now and again, whether it is doing a presentation in class, or going to a family event, then you are probably the luckiest person alive! But if you do, that’s just you being human.
I started extremely suffering from this pain in the arse called anxiety when I was about fourteen years old, when answering a question in class became a sudden dread and weight on my shoulders from the minute my alarm went off for school. I started noticing the signs when I would not want to speak too loud or be noticed if the room had more than three people in it, if made centre of attention in class or even sitting with my peers I would go a bright red colour, clammy, then start to breathe funny, later on this would turn into a panic attack.
I finally begun to understand what was (in my head) ”wrong with me” when I turned sixteen and started college, I had previously shrugged off the word ‘anxiety’ until people around me noticed I wasn’t acting like other people my age. A YouTuber (who you have probably heard of) ‘Zoella’ made a video explaining her story and how she deals with what I and thousands of other people have to go through, this gave me the confidence to accept who I am and try to deal with this myself. However my anxiety shot through the roof so suddenly that I couldn’t even stand to be in the common room with the rest of my friends in worry I was going to get made centre of attention in a conversation or by a person who everyone would always be drawn to. Therefore I decided to spend my free time and lunch hours alone in the library. Isolating myself was not a good idea when I think back, as this made social situations even harder for me to deal with. Throughout this period of time I would have my panic attacks around once or twice a day. I would never attend assemblies that were held for my year group due to the sickening anxiety my name was going to be called out for an award or the fact that I was missing so many assemblies perhaps. This made my attendance and patience the member’s of staff for me go downhill, fast. I was a good student however, I always listened (mostly due to the worry of being asked a question and embarrassingly getting it wrong) and I got good grades in my final exams. Only the teachers who didn’t teach me seen my attendance records and thought ”bad student”.
I started taking action in the middle of my first college year when I mentioned my anxiety and panic attacks to my head of my year group, who was also a councillor to many students such as myself, she was fabulous. I attended support sessions every Tuesday to try and tackle this brain swelling thing that well and truly takes over my life. She informed my teachers who then took a lighter approach to their methods (such as not making the students do class presentations) and gave me breathing techniques (breath in five, breathe out five). A great one was to press your thumb in your palm while covering this with your hands, think of your ”happy place” every time you do this, eventually doing the ‘thumb action’ will automatically make you think of this ”happy place” and calm you down! (Great for interviews)
I believe one of the main factors that has settled my anxiety the most is getting a part time job (simple as that!) I work in a local boutique hotel where I meet new people every single day and as terrifying as it was the first couple of shifts I did, it started to become easy and now I absolutely love it!
Many people are shocked when I explain that my anxiety is at it’s lowest when I am around strangers (which is the opposite of a lot of other anxiety suffers) But let me explain, if I am around people who know me well and understand that I can have a panic attack at any given time, they seem to expect it, like waiting for a bomb to explode. This, makes me more anxious as I know they are thinking about me and looking at me for all the signs I mentioned previously. However strangers have no idea that I’m a little different, therefore I can ‘fake it’ almost, crack a joke or answer a question for example and nobody is expecting me to flip out in a mess on the floor.
I decided to get away from my school of six years and study beauty therapy, which involves meeting clients every week, both young and old and making their day when they go home after a day of being pampered and the smiles on their faces, I couldn’t be happier! It also helps I am doing something I am extremely passionate about (Probably would have sunk into hell if I where to do maths or science)
I still suffer daily with anxiety, but I know I have changed the pathway of my life for the better, taking myself out of my comfort zone, to be in an even comfier one in the end.
That’s probably my biggest advice, throw yourself in the deep end, it may look like a deep end which goes on forever and you just can’t make the cut, but if it’s something you love to do like sports, baking, working with children then go ahead and do it!
You only live one life, so make it a life where you can look back when you are old and grey, and not regret a single step you made.
I would never wish what feels like such a curse on my worst enemy, so remember, if you make a comment on anyone who you think is ”weirdly” shy, or being ”arrogant” because they aren’t as flamboyant as you, or can’t keep eye contact for a very long time. Remember, that they are fighting an on going battle. We tell ourselves to act a certain way however our bodies can’t seem to do the same, so try to understand.
If you or somebody you know is suffering with anxiety and panic attacks, please go and see a councillor, this isn’t the 1900’s where they’d put you in straight jackets or something. They are regular people like you and me who deal with situations like this every day, they know what they’re talking about, trust me.
Don’t be afraid to speak out, because the only person getting in your way, is you.