My name is Heather. I am a graduate. I am married and live in a nice house. I have a good job with my own office. I have a good social life. I have wonderful friends and family. I am a fully functioning adult.
I have anxiety.
I was formally diagnosed with anxiety and depression in the Winter of 2016, however, the more I learn about it the more I can see it’s been a life long battle.
I have never felt like I was allowed to be anxious. Now, don’t get me wrong, early childhood and early teens for me was not peachy in the slightest – mix together homelessness, tragic deaths and a lack of security and you’ve pretty much got the perfect concoction for a very valid excuse of why you’re waving a white flag on life and going down any easy peasy but dodgy path you fancy. I had no idea that ‘not being the best me’ was an option (thankfully) so I mustered on through. Threw myself in to being an over achiever and an all round morally sound and good human being and here I am as an adult with a life many would possibly envy. I felt like I’d missed out on my chance to be a bit messed up, and seeing as I just worked my way through life and had ‘gotten over it’, I presumed I would never have a mental health problem.
Now I’m 24, on my own little journey of recovery and I’m here to embrace what makes me me. It hasn’t been pretty, or perfect but it has been real and I want other people to know it’s ok to not be ok – no matter the timing or the reason.
When I first heard of anxiety, all I knew was that it meant sometimes people didn’t like socialising. That it stopped people from being the best version of themselves. This is down to naivety, a lack of awareness of anxiety from both the media/school/conversation and my own experience of who I knew to be struggling. Every article I read, every conversation I had – I could never identify with it or fit nicely in to a little label that explained why I felt and thought the way I did.
I first boiled over into the real of mental health when my need for control manifested itself into a pretty unhealthy and miserable obsession with food and exercise. Despite my success in my job and my social life, I was adamant that I would not find/ did not deserve happiness until I looked like one of the many insta fit models I looked at with adoration whilst mindlessly scrolling through my social media feeds. I spent every waking hour at the gym and lost a tonne of weigh which was followed by a showering of compliments on how tiny I was – hurray – maybe I can start enjoying life soon? Thankfully I got myself out of that horrible chapter of my life thanks to some wonderful buddies and my hubby and I am now loving life as a slightly chubby, gym avoiding vegan. But this descent into ‘destination addiction’ had unlocked the door to a need for control to make sure nothing bad ever happened ever again, so that one day I would ‘deserve’ to be happy.
It wasn’t until I first broke down in my GP’s medical room, and was asked to fill out the reams of mental health questionnaires that I knew I had a problem. I was ticking ‘I feel this every day’ for things I had never associated with mental illness. The past been buried and I had no idea what the signs to look out for were. Anxiety had reared it’s ugly head over the years through the dread of failure, change, the desire to be perfect and an intense fear of being happy. Now I knew it had a name, and it’s name was anxiety. It was not the anxiety I had seen portrayed in the media, but it was real and it was painful.
I am afraid of not being perfect, of letting others down, of having free time, of forgetting, of not being able to work at a million miles an hour 24/7. I live in a constant ‘brace’ position; waiting for the next bout of bad news, for people to walk away, for everything to come crashing down around me. I cannot relax – I do not even know how to go about ‘self care’. But here I am. I am still happy little bean and hope to spread love across the world!
I just want you to all know that no matter how perfect your life may seem. No matter how much you’re absolutely killing it. No matter how much you love socialising and being a happy bunny – you are allowed to struggle.
Anxiety is different for everyone. Everyone has their own triggers, coping mechanisms and way of life. We all deserve to be heard and we are all very special, lovely people.