Let us journey back in time to when I was just a wee caterpillar.
I don’t believe there were any determining factors to suggest I had Anxiety as a child. My mum says I could be a demanding and talkative kid who couldn’t be told what to do. I see these qualities as endearing; I knew what I wanted and when I wanted it.
No but really, I was a goodie two shoes who rarely stepped out of line. I was too afraid of doing anything wrong in fear of disappointing anyone (because of my perfectionist nature).
My sleep was never really good. If I didn’t sleep well one night, I would be a literal nightmare the next day. Think of any sort of demonically possessed child in every horror film. That was me.
I was also incredibly clingy with my family. I needed to be close to them as that was what made me feel safe in this crazy world.
When I asked mum if I showed any signs of Anxiety at this time, she recalled a memory when we watched a documentary about baby monkeys being separated from their mothers. Apparently I bawled my eyes out, sobbed and broke into a million pieces. That’s when mum knew how sensitive I was.
I believe that Anxiety does make you sensitive, as you are always on edge and constantly watching out for possible dangers, large or small. You have such low self esteem that you take any small amount of criticism to heart.
This carried through to my schooling years, when my demanding nature become prominent.
With Anxiety, I stew over things that need to be done, until I actually do it. Got a class presentation next week? I will be stressing my body to an early grave freaking out about all worst case scenarios that could happen, including up until that time.
If I needed help with a project, I asked mum to help me with it immediately. If we didn’t start right then and there, my Anxiety would grow so wild that I would throw a tantrum or just burst into tears.
This is a combination of wanting to get things done, but also needing it to be perfect so I can get good grades and be praised. Everything had to be done 100% perfect or I would beat myself over it for years.
Ahh the teen years. Not only was I going through the early stages of hormones and womanhood, I also struggled with an anxious beast lurking inside my mind.
I became distant, easily upset, and frustrated with anything and everything. Any minor inconvenience was the end of the world. Especially at school as it felt like my entire life at that time.
Trying to get me out of bed and ready for school was about as impossible as cuddling a shark.
I went through stages of Depression where I wouldn’t leave my room (other than to go to school).
My mum and I argued regularly. I couldn’t explain the angst and pain I was going through with my Anxiety and Depression, and so she got frustrated with my attitude.
Being a teenager means your conflict resolution is still practically non-existent. I would just verbally attack her because I was in a heightened flight or fight mode most of the time.
I began to drift away from my friends, or perhaps they drifted from me. True, we may have had some differences, but I think that I may have become a bit of a handful during this time.
I was over dramatic, inflexible, and was accused of never taking anything seriously because I masked EVERYTHING with humour.
Not to mention my freak outs if somebody changed plans on me in the last minute. I still hate that to this day, but I am working on my patience.
This is where I started to realise I had mental health issues. I moved to another state to be closer to family and everything crumbled from there.
I couldn’t find a job and so had to go on Government Assistance. My mum was supporting me financially on the one wage, which was terribly difficult and stressful for the both of us.
I descended to a really dark place where some days I barely moved out of my bed. I had no friends. No one except my mum who was incredibly stressed from having to support me. Don’t get me wrong, she loves me and would do anything to help me, but it was a lot for her to take on especially when I had my anxious episodes.
Because I was so depressed, these outburst were quite volatile and I would say things I would later on regret. In these moments, I knew I was being awful and I desperately tried to stop myself. The more I tried, the more vicious I became.
Mum didn’t know there were underlying issues, and so she would get understandably upset and frustrated because she could not reason with me.
In those moments, all I wanted was for her to hold me and tell me everything would be okay.
But when the anxious monster takes over, it’s like you are locked somewhere in the back of your mind, unable to speak or break free.
Eventually I did see a doctor, who was absolutely no help whatsoever. All she did was ask a couple of questions and prescribe me a very strong antidepressant. I should not have been put on this medication in the first place.
Sure, it did help with the Depression, but it did nothing to help with my Anxiety. I spoke to a psychologist but she was focused on my Depression and I didn’t know what I wanted from the sessions.
Eventually I found a wonderful doctor who helped me wean off the medication which I managed to stay off for a few years.
Let’s fast forward to last year. I had been experiencing some severe symptoms (IBS, sleep issues, indigestion, nail biting, and anxious episodes to name a few). I also felt extremely unhappy with life and helpless to the point of exhaustion.
Every task seemed impossible and I was so intimidated by adult life and the pressures it came with.
I remember reading a post on social media, and somebody shared a meme about Anxiety. I laughed as it was completely relatable.
I then dug further, and ended up searching Anxiety on Google to find out more.
After researching this, it was like something clicked in my mind.
Almost every aspect of Anxiety mentioned was so true, I could have sworn someone had written it about me.
I knew my whole life something was not quite right with me. I would behave differently, think differently, and feel as though I struggled a lot more than others.
People would often make me feel as though it was in my control to act differently, and not be this way. And so for years I kept blaming myself for not being mentally healthier.
Every time I had an outburst, I beat myself up because I thought I could have prevented it. I believed I could choose to be relaxed and not worry about every little damn thing.
Once I read through and actually understood what it meant to have Anxiety, it was like all my thoughts, feelings, and actions had been validated.
I wasn’t crazy. I wasn’t broken. I wasn’t a bad person.
I was battling with a chemical imbalance in my brain.
There is no way in hell I could have overcome these mental health issues without seeking professional help.
Now that I know this, I allow myself to feel the way that I do. If I am stressed about anything, I don’t convince myself to get over it or ignore it. I embrace it, and find ways to help manage the stress.
Just because it is in your head, doesn’t mean it isn’t real.
I can finally back the f**K off of myself.
And it is SUCH. A. RELIEF.
I found a new doctor who specialises in mental health. She listened to everything I said, and validated my feelings. I never felt more truly heard than I did in that moment.
People often ignore me because of my overly dramatic and demanding ways. For someone who has a loud voice, no one ever listened to me.
And it’s not their fault. They didn’t know what was going on in my head.
Nor did I expect them to. Everyone had their own stuff to deal with.
I am now at the beginning of my journey in healing my mental health, and creating a happy life.
Honestly, I feel as though I am only 5% of the way, although loved ones tell me I have changed dramatically (and positively).
Family and Friends
My family and friends have all been so incredible supportive.
Once I was able to open up and explain this side of me, they were able to understand me better.
Most were shocked to hear I was going through this as I have a very convincing mask I use to cover it from others. Others have said they understand me so well now.
One of the most amazing comments I have received is that someone promised to be more understanding in situations where my Anxiety may cause me to react a certain way.
I finally have what I always wanted – for someone to acknowledge that I am dealing with something that affects my life so dramatically.
They all ask me questions as they either have something similar, or simply want to learn more. I am so happy that they come to me as I am now confident in explaining most aspects of it.
Some have even admitted to me they struggle with Anxiety, and didn’t realise until I started talking about it.
Honestly, I cannot believe it took me this long to figure this all out. Imagine those in their late years and still not know that they have mental health issues.
I really hope my experiences help those out there who don’t really understand what is going on. To validate their thoughts and feelings when no one else will.
I feel as though mental health is spoken about more often these days, but I NEVER hear people talk about Anxiety.
We all live in a very high pressure cooker of wanting to be successful and the best at everything, that we don’t consider the impact it has on our Anxiety levels.
I believe we could all benefit from some sort of mental health plan, whether it be speaking to someone about your doubts and fears, to working on everyday habits to improve your life.
The biggest change I would love to see is for the world to acknowledge that Anxiety and being anxious are two completely separate things.
We should all talk more about Anxiety and acknowledge how it can affect your life and the lives of others.
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Have a lovely day,