For several years now I’ve been struggling with anxiety. For a long time I didn’t realize that’s what it was. I would find myself unable to go to lessons at school, crippled by the thought of being in the room with 10 other people! When things went wrong I would become so angry I would be throwing things at the wall and tearing my hair out.
The University (or when the things got worse)
I went away to university, thinking that 5 years of boarding school was plenty of preparation for being away from home. Maybe so, but on some days I would be so nervous I couldn’t even get out of bed, let alone get to lectures. My grades suffered as a result, and so fear of failure created a vicious circle, not helped by my heart problems which put me into hospital three times in my first year. Unsurprisingly, I failed my first-year exams in spectacular fashion and spent my summer holidays revising for resits – for my 19th birthday I was back at university and revising for an exam the next day. I failed most of those as well, and spent the next year and a half working at the local pharmaceutical factory, packing inhalers into small cardboard boxes.
Managing my anxiety at work
Since then I worked for an activity company, but it turned out that living in staff accommodation was even more destructive than university. The drinking culture was even heavier, and the living conditions themselves were…. well, let’s just leave it with: I got pneumonia and my roommate ended up with pleurisy. I started taking Prozac after I tried to overdose on ibuprofen, which really didn’t help. It lowered my inhibitions and I ended up drinking more and more. Eventually I realized I couldn’t carry on. I used my day off to go home to see a friend play a gig in a nearby village, planning to get back to work the next morning ready to start at 8:00 AM. I ended up staying in the pub long after my friends left, drinking Jager Bombs with complete strangers and leaving with some guy. I ended up at the station on my own with hours till the next train. I don’t really remember much of what happened, but from what my friend who I phoned told me I’d completely lost it. I ended up getting picked up and taken home, but I snuck out to go and stay with a male friend. We found out in the morning that after my friend saw I hadn’t turned up for work, he told my boss about my phone call, he’d phoned my mother, and my mum, unable to find me, phoned the police, who had to come round and check I wasn’t being held against my will!
What helped with anxiety
When I finally got back to work, I handed in my four weeks’ notice, although we agreed I’d only stay a week. Knowing I was then leaving made me feel a million times better, and I had the best week ever. I snogged the guy I’d fancied for ages on my last night there, and carried on seeing him for a while afterwards. I think that really was the point where things started turning around.
I took some time out, and also changed my medication to Citalopram which was supposed to help with my anxiety issues. When I looked into anxiety disorders I knew that this was what I had been struggling with for so long. I’ve stopped biting my nails down to the quick, chewing my fingers till they bleed and pulling my hair out. I’ve found a new job, working part time in a cafe, and I’ve cut down my drinking so much it’s hard to believe I’m the same person! Then at my 21st birthday party I met a guy who I had an amazing connection with. It turns out we want exactly the same thing; and both have struggles with mental health. Knowing I have his support, and being able to be there for someone else as well, is having a huge effect. I’m still having difficulties – I was away for a week with a group from church and had a very hard time being away from the support I have at home, but after that I know I can do it and hopefully will be able to do it again.
I know how important having the help of my family and friends has been to me, and I’m writing this hoping that someone might read it and see something of themselves, and know that they’re not the only one. If that’s you, I hope this helps, and that things look better for you soon.