Last week, Robyn posted about her experience with anxiety and it made me think about mine. There is a such a stigma surrounding mental health, even with it being more openly talked about. As mentioned in my post about Accepting Depression, I’ve been dealing with my mental health for about five years. Funnily enough, this post has come at an interesting time as now I’m back at university, my anxiety is through the roof again.
I don’t struggle with anxiety when I’m physically ill, I don’t suffer when I’m exposed to new people, and I don’t get caught short when I get lost in a new place. My anxiety is always present, but is brought on worse at times of high emotions. Stress, anger, sadness, frustration, jealously, fear, and even things like happiness and excitement.
My first panic attack came about at a walk-in centre after a feared stroke (we never did quite find out what that was but I guess that’s a story for another day). I remember not being able to breathe and thinking that I was going to die. It took ten minutes for a doctor and a nurse to calm me down and convince me that everything was going to be okay. After that first attack, they happened frequently. One of my worst experiences after that very first time was in a French class in year 11. The two people either side of me (both friends of mine) were taking my ruler and messing around and I got angrier and angrier until I snapped. I slammed the ruler down and stormed out of the classroom. I then had a panic attack under some stairs by a doorway. My worst one recently was when I got drunk a few days after I lost Twiggy, and I cried and had a horrible panic attack in a hotel room in front of my boyfriend. He didn’t realise quite how bad they were until that point, and does always baby me a little bit when he knows I’m not in the best way.
Each panic attack I’ve ever had have all been very similar, and yet all different. They all cause my chest to ache, my head to pound, and my brain to go into total meltdown. And yet they are nowhere near as exhausting as having anxiety 24/7. The constant racing thoughts about not being good enough or failing eat me up inside, and the only way I feel like I can get through them is by eating my feelings and staying in bed all day. Even with my stupid calorie consumption during times like this, I still lose weight like I’m not eating at all. Everyone can tell that I’m bad, even when I put on my biggest smile.
The people I lived with last year didn’t understand, and it broke my heart. They didn’t understand that I couldn’t get out of bed for days without shaking. They didn’t understand that I couldn’t go out for dinner without hyperventilating. They didn’t understand that my thoughts raced constantly and there were nothing I could do about it.
I was going to take a year out and do a work placement as part of my degree, but in May I decided that I couldn’t have my degree looming over my head any longer. I got out of the negative environment of the house I wa living in and got my own place, and I decided to sit the final year of my degree without a year out. I need to work on me, and live my life for me. And the only way I can do that is to get away from the things that agitate me and set my emotions high. Sure, this year is going to be tough and I’ll probably encounter many lows but I need to get out of student life and make time for me. I genuinely think it’s the only way I’m going to get better.
If you want to get involved with this project, post your experience on your blog and share it on Twitter with the hashtag #letstalkanxiety and let’s end the stigma that surrounds mental health.