I feel in a better position to write about things now, than I did do when I lived under the cloud of ‘anxiety’. I know its become a bit of a buzzword in blogging circles, some people openly eye-rolling or disregarding the experiences of someone who suffers with such a thing. But I think unless you’ve suffered through something as complex and as cold as anxiety, you won’t ever fully understand or empathise with those who suffer. I’m writing this post as a ‘hurrah!‘ to myself – as well as a more journalistic entry on the blog, looking back on how far I’ve come really does spur me on.
Since Zoella opened up about her own experiences with anxiety, others who perhaps didn’t think what they suffered with had a name – came forward. I’m one of those people. Through school, I preferred the company of online games where I didn’t need to interact face to face with people. There were many times at family gatherings or parties, where everyone would be downstairs and I’d be upstairs simply turning to my coping mechanism. Of course, back in 2005/6, anxiety wasn’t really a recognised thing – I was antisocial, rude, cold and a whole host of other boxes that people tried to fit me in. I was introverted, reclusive and very tied into my own little world – nobody understood how my mind worked so nobody really contested it. That meant my coping mechanisms were pretty much set in stone – my fight or flight was essentially, ‘no fight just alienating myself’.
I can cope with me. I never disagreed with me, I never thought me was wrong and me never made me go out of my comfort zone so I was happier being in the comfort of me and in control.
This continued for a good few years. In that time I’d had and walked away from a relationship, I was literally – on my own. That was when a message had popped up online from a charming gentleman, and I knew if I wanted to move forward then I’d have to start making myself uncomfortable in order to get there. I’d have to put myself in situations and learn from them, watch other people and pick up their social signals and almost mimic them to get by – fake it till you make it, right?
Fast forward to having purchased tickets to meet this gentleman, and having taken the train from Leeds to Manchester – I was seconds away from meeting him. I did it, you know. He’s currently sat on the other side of the room with his son. He’s a medal of me going against my anxiety, and I’m very proud of that. But something I did make sure I did, was put all my cards on the table about how I felt around people, what made me tick, what I felt like when I spiralled out of control. I was genuine, transparent and completely honest – not just to Mike, but to everyone after that. It was April 2011.
In December 2011, Zoella published the Panic Attacks.. post and something changed. It had a name. I wasn’t irrational. I wasn’t rude. I wasn’t a bad person. I was someone who was “Dealing with it”. I was able to go to my GP and really get across how I felt – how I had done for years. I’d touched on it once or twice, but had never pursued it because it sounded ridiculous – how can someone simply not like other people? But now, I wanted to lose those negative tags people had stuck me with.
Being able to do that was a huge turning point for me. Zoella, even though she’s four years my junior, helped me in ways I can’t ever thank her for – and countless other people besides. Her speaking out about something like anxiety really was a turning point for me. It had a name. Thank you for that, Zoe.
Here in 2016, I have wobbles. But, I’m not on my own. I have friends who can talk me around the dreaded pit – a huge fall where panic attacks and loneliness are abound. Friends who know that seeing the ‘received’ tab on a text message with no message back doesn’t mean I’m ignoring them – I’m waiting to formulate the response I want. I have family who tell me how proud they are that I got this far – that I’m no longer the one hunched over the PC until 5-6am. I have a job – when I’m at work, my anxiety doesn’t bother me. It plays second fiddle to me wanting to work, and me enjoying my job so I’m incredibly lucky that my brain has compartmentalised that side of my life – not everyone is as lucky.
One of the best things I’ve learned to do however, is when I meet people. I’m strong enough now to say “Hello, I’m Tilly. I have social anxiety and I’m bad with people – I’m dealing with it though, please be patient.”
Its okay to feel this way. I have more of a social circle, more friends than I ever have done and its because I have been incredibly honest about my anxiety. Its not something I’m ashamed of anymore.