Anxiety: My Story

Monday, 3 August 2015

Hello everyone. I've been putting this post off for a very long time, but now I feel ready to talk about it. You've probably guessed what that is from the title anyway, yes, I suffer from anxiety. Generalised Anxiety Disorder to be exact, this also encompasses social anxiety and I also suffer from driving anxiety (I'm going to talk about that in a future post).
 I sound like a right barrel of laughs! All joking aside, like many other bloggers who've spoken out about their experiences, I wanted to share mine and hopefully encourage people to not feel ashamed about suffering from a mental illness and to remind people that they are not alone with their suffering. Anxiety is only a part of you, it doesn't define you as a person. It took me a long time to realise that. 
So if you're ready, grab a cuppa because this post is going to be a long one!

( All credit and rights go to Toby Allen at )

For as long as I can remember I've never been a loud or outgoing child, I was always very quiet and shy but never anxious, I never worried about anything because I didn't have anything to worry about.
Looking back I can remember it starting when I moved to a different primary school when I was about 7 years old. At first it was just occasional worrying and nervousness. I put it down to just being in a new environment with new people and eventually it would go away. 
It didn't go away, it got worse. When I reached the age of about 9 or 10 years old my anxiety began to rear it's ugly head. I began to withdraw and worry constantly about everything, especially about what other people thought of me or if I was going to embarrass myself during any interaction with another person. I stopped engaging fully in lessons, I never put my hand up to answer a question, even if I knew it was right. I was so scared of messing up my answer or finding out I was wrong. It was terrifying!
 I remember on my first day of starting Year 6 I broke down crying in front of everyone because I thought the teacher was going to tell me off for being late. Any form of confrontation or telling off was panic inducing for me. I never got told off by teachers at school, it was alien to me. This frightened me because I didn't know how to handle it. What would I say? What would I do? So I avoided confrontation as much as possible.  After that I felt like I'd set myself up to be the class freak (it still makes me cringe thinking about it now). I really thought no one would be my friend after that, however, I still made many friends and one of them is still my friend to this day. You can be socially awkward and still make friends, there's hope!

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When I started high school my anxiety got progressively worse. Not only was I dealing with being a hormonal teenager, I had this to deal with as well. At the time I didn't even understand what was wrong with me, anxiety wasn't really talked about then. It was seen as "oh they're having a panic attack", no one really spoke about the source of their panic attacks, I believe there were a lot of girls in my year that had anxiety but I still felt confused and alone. 
During my high school years I never felt like I could truly be myself out of fear of being judged or laughed at. I think the playground attitude of being the most popular and having the most friends amplified those fears and self doubt that I carried. It probably doesn't help that I'm quite a sensitive person anyway (I'm building up my confidence and learning not to take people's comments to heart). Just remember to always be yourself, never hide behind a mask just to fit in. I'd rather be a lone wolf than walk with a flock of sheep. 
My symptoms were becoming more prominent. I would panic if my friend's weren't in the same class as me and I'd be forced to speak to someone I didn't know. That was one of my worst nightmares. Eventually my anxiety became so bad that I stopped going out with my friends, if they invited me somewhere I would make up an excuse not to go, out of fear of embarrassing myself or being weird. Socialising became physically and emotionally draining. I'm sure my friends thought I was being a right twat, but that was my fault for not explaining my situation to them. I just kept it to myself, instead of seeking support. Which I recommend you all do, find your safety net, it could be a relative or friend but find someone you trust to speak to if you have any worries that you need to talk about. 
Luckily they are still my friends to this day and I'm so grateful for all of them. I missed out on a lot of fun things and creating great memories because of my anxiety.

( All credit and rights go to Toby Allen at )

I didn't just hide my anxiety from my friends I also hid it from my ex-boyfriend. I didn't hide it completely, I mentioned that I had anxiety but I never explained or admitted the true extent of it. I was worried about what he would think of me (stupid, I know). I was worried he would think I was weird and wouldn't love me. However,I do want to make it clear that I never put on a persona or faked who I was. I was being my true self, but it was a side of me I just never let him see. I hid it from him for 4 years! Whether he thought something was wrong but didn't say anything I don't know. I regret not telling him everything but that's something I won't be doing again.
There were many things I missed out on during the relationship. I wouldn't go out to dinner with his family because I was too scared to eat in front of them and that they wouldn't like me because I'd be too weird or I'd say something that would be embarrassing. They probably thought I was so rude and ignorant. But my irrational fears stopped me from completely connecting with them. 
I couldn't even knock on his front door or have a phone call with him because the idea of waiting for someone to open the front door and speak to me or to have a conversation on the phone terrifies me (this is an area of my life I've been working to improve).
 I also wouldn't go out with or meet his friends because the idea of talking to them scared me. I didn't want them to hate me or make a bad impression, so not showing up seemed like a great idea Ashleigh?  I'm sure a lot of people disliked me because of it. But I can't take those years back. It just upsets me knowing I missed out on so many opportunities because I let my anxiety rule every decision I ever made. 
At the time I was ashamed of my anxiety. Don't feel ashamed to admit that you have a mental illness, behind that is a funny, amazing and brilliant person just waiting to come out. Always strive to be the best version of yourself no matter what!

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Moving on from the misery. On to the diagnosis, I started researching anxiety when I was about 18 and found that I had pretty much every symptom of generalised anxiety disorder. About a year later I went to my doctor who confirmed this and offered cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) as a treatment. It was a relief to finally know what was wrong with me after being left clueless for so long. 
Despite being offered CBT, I decided it wasn't for me. I wanted to be able to manage my anxiety consistently by myself, obviously some days are better than others. But I feel I have made the right choice. I have the support of my family and that's all I need. My mom knows I have anxiety and she suffers from it too, so we are each others support mechanisms and she has helped me better myself as a person in so many ways and I can't thank her enough.
I want to share some of the tips and techniques I found that work for me to manage my anxiety in my next post.

 (Image credit goes to )

Before I finish I just want to mention a negative side I experienced when researching anxiety.After my research (or excessive googling) I began to judge people who spoke about their experiences and their symptoms of anxiety like they were wrong. Looking back I find it utterly ridiculous that I even thought my anxiety was the "only anxiety". I should have been offering them support instead of dismissing their problems. It makes me angry with myself for behaving like that. Despite my past narrow mindedness, I have learnt to accept that anxiety can take many forms in many people and that we should all be supporting each other on our journey to overcome the monster that is anxiety. Whether you suffer from anxiety or not just be their to support someone who does and help them realise it's not as bad as it seems. 

If you've made it to the end, then I salute you! I'm sorry if this post got a bit rambley, I just wanted to cover as much as possible. Hopefully this encourages people to be more understanding of anxiety and really see it as a mental illness. Next time I'll be sharing some tips on how I manage my anxiety.If you have any experiences or opinions please share them in the comments. 

See you back soon for the next post!

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