I’ve said this before when writing on my blog, but I am usually a very private person. I could share my every thought about a visit to a certain place, but when it comes to my feelings on pretty much any other subject I tend to be a closed book. This, compounded with some of the reactions I’ve received in the past, is why until now I haven’t really entertained sharing that I struggle an awful lot with anxiety (until now).
After two difficult years in St Andrews, this year I’ve postponed my studies at uni in an attempt to get a better handle on my mental health. My first year at university was incredibly rocky. Although I started it as super confident, the overwhelming sense of loneliness began to set in on my first night moving away. I went from having an active social life, working with my friends for years and living at home to moving in, working and learning with strangers. It didn’t take long at all before I began to neglect first myself, then slowly my friends at home, my family and my boyfriend. For about a year I developed stress related sores all over my scalp and the more stressed I felt, sure enough the worse my skin became. I made the decision about two weeks into my travels this summer, and as soon as I decided on it I felt like the weight of the world had been lifted from my shoulders. I stopped writing about where I was visiting, I stopped panicking about how I was going to pay my credit card off when I got home and I really wasn’t worried about missing out on uni every day for a whole year. I actually got to enjoy travelling, enjoy Paul, and enjoy coming home without having six days until starting back.
Anyone that truly knows me knows that I am ultra determined and won’t start anything I don’t intend on finishing. But, I don’t want to have worked so hard for the last sixteen years to fall at the last hurdle. So I’m taking a year to try and work through this problem, to relax and hopefully begin to enjoy my life again. Two months into what should have been my third year I already feel a ton better than I did for the last two, and as I slowly regain a grip on my social skills, social life and stress coping skills I’m finally, after two really difficult years, beginning to feel like myself again.
I don’t feel like I owe anybody an explanation as to why I’m feeling the way I am, but in the same turn I’m not embarrassed to explain why I am, so I will. My anxiety comes from years and years of mounding unnecessary pressure on myself and I’m fully aware of it. The crux my the problem is that I can’t stop doing it. I don’t even realise I’m doing it, and when I feel overwhelmed I don’t know what to do. I struggle enormously when plans are changed last minute, and to a lesser extent when they’re changed at all. Where I used to not think twice about questioning anybody over anything, now the thought of any form of confrontation genuinely makes my stomach drop. All throughout my teens I prided myself in not caring what anyone thought of me and now I can’t help but have it at the forefront of my mind every time I have an encounter with someone. All these examples and so many more are things that three years ago I would never had dreamed would have affected me in the slightest, and now I’m working on learning how to deal with their effects.
My actual intention behind writing this post was to perhaps shed some light on not the problems I face on a daily basis, but instead how I wish people would respond to them. It’s a little disheartening to say the least to feel embarrassed or stupid for something that (no matter how much anyone insists) I have no control over. I wish that everyone was a little more sensitive to people with mental health problems, regardless of how much or little they may know about them. Like any other illness, recovery is a process. Firstly, I had to realise what was going on with me before I could then start figuring out what it meant, and by doing that I could eventually learn to cope with it. Coping in itself is a whole other process because some things that help one person may be of no use to others, just like treatments for other illnesses.
Being told to “stop worrying over nothing” is one of those things that makes me, and I’m sure so many others, feel two feet tall. Trust me, if it was as easy as just stopping then I would have done it years ago! I completely understand when I’m in a more positive state of mind that some of the things that upset or worry me may seem insignificant to others because they often do to me, too. However, the reality is that in my mind at that time it’s all I can think about. For someone like me who is usually so in control of every aspect of their life, it’s actually quite scary to be upset or panicking and not really be able to understand why. I used to think of myself as someone who had a really good understanding of their own emotions and unfortunately I’m unable to do that anymore.
It’s not a case of needing a “thicker skin”, being “oversensitive” or having to “man up”, and I wish so much that more people would realise that. I don’t want anybody to tiptoe around me, to give me sympathy or to be concerned about me, I just need them not to belittle me. When I’m having a really good day, I don’t want to think about having a bad one. I don’t want to be reminded that I was crying last week, or that I was being really antisocial the one before. I just want everyone around me to go on with their lives as they would otherwise, and if they really are concerned, to ask me how I’m feeling instead of telling me how they think I should be.