5 May 2019

Living with Generalised Anxiety | My Story

I think it is really important to continue talking about mental health, especially with social media and the new pressures that come with modern life. I want to make more of an impact than ever on helping those suffering and making it known that it is okay not to be okay and there are many of us out there that struggle with our mental health on a daily basis. I hope by sharing my experience of living with anxiety/low mood, I can help to spread awareness to those who do not suffer with their mental health and help those who do.

So, I was diagnosed with generalised anxiety disorder/low mood at a young age (around 11) and I am now 18. Over the years I have seen therapist after therapist and I am currently taking medication on a daily basis - to which I have now accepted may be a part of my life forever.

Living with Generalised Anxiety Disorder (...)

There is not only the social anxiety aspect, but also the low mood, the low self esteem, the constant negative thoughts and the general overthinking.

My anxiety and low mood leads to things including (but definitley not limited to):
- Looking around me wherever I am due to being constantly paranoid of people judging me/talking about me or even planning to attack me
- Not eating/drinking in public/in front of people I'm not comfortable with
- Not being able to order for myself
- Walking in and straight back out of crowded places
- Not walking into a place at all
- Relying on others to do things for me such as ordering my food/drink or just needing them to be patient when it takes me 10 minutes to enter a busy place
- Thinking everyone hates me
- Thinking my boyfriend has stopped liking me because of simple things like not holding my hand
- Believing that I am not capable of doing things e.g. driving, jobs, uni, making friends etc.
- Difficulty communicating, conversing, asking questions
- Difficulty making friends
- Days on end in my room
- Lack of independence
- Feeling unmotivated and unable to do anything
- Feeling lethargic and constantly tired

Not only does it affect my day to day life but I also missed out on a lot of things that people my age enjoyed such as parties and unfortunately, there was no prom for me. At one very dark point in my life, I lived in my bedroom. I would come home from school and crawl straight into bed and just sleep. I would just lock myself away and only leave when I absolutely had to - and even that was a struggle. I had no motivation, I was the most cynical person, and could see no positivity or future for myself. I would constantly switch between crying myself to sleep and being too numb to shed a single tear.

At school, college, and any new job I was always getting labelled 'the one that didn't talk' because my anxiety also includes trouble with communication (like all of the other stuff wasn't enough to have to deal with). I was bullied because of this for most of my school life and it led to me having to be taken out of school for a while. The bullying didn't stop in the workplace (I thought adults were supposed to be more mature?). I have had people presuming I am incapable of a job just because I didn't talk very much and found it extremely difficult to ask for help.

It is difficult to convey to others that some of my actions/behaviour is a result of my anxiety and not just my personality and that can be frustrating as I was desperate for people to see the real me. However, some would argue that my anxiety is my personality. I agree with this to some extent but I believe it is only an aspect as I think of myself as having a split personality - strong, opinionated and self assured but on the other hand vulnerable, insecure and in need of reassurance. This is difficult to accept when you just want to be the best version of yourself and are trying to figure out who you are as a person. Am I weak or am I strong? am I quiet or am I outgoing? am I self assured or am I needy? But I think at this point I have finally realised that it is possible to be all of those things and doesn't have to be seen as a negative. It just depends on the people I am around and if people stick around long enough for me to get comfortable with them then they get to see the 'better' me. I tell myself now that it is okay to be different and my complexity makes me unique and I know now that this is true.

So, where am I in my life now?

I have developed in ways I never thought would be possible. I have just finished  job number 5, and although I still experienced the same as in all of my other jobs, I felt better able to deal with it as I knew that that job wasn't forever and that I am strong. A positive is that I passed my driving test after constantly doubting my abilities and I am so happy that all of the driving lessons are over! In terms of social, I occasionally order my drinks (better than never, right?), I go into shops on my own sometimes and I am going to university in September all on my own after having a year out to work on myself. Every day is still difficult, and I still have my days when all I want to do is just sleep and not go out into world, but those days are less now. A combination of CBT, counselling, medication and self-help such as yoga and meditation is what has helped me to improve by changing my thinking and allowing me to see situations and myself in a more positive way. Luckily, I also have a very supportive family and boyfriend who will always encourage me and are there for me if I need them, but they will always be so proud and cheer me on when I've achieved something even if it something that seems so small and insignificant like a phone call or managing to order my food. I am now in the process of finding the best course of therapy to help with my communication aspect as oppose to the social anxiety part of my disorder which is proving difficult as there seems to be a lack of understanding/knowledge in this area. I am also about to change my medication to one more specifically focused on anxiety and less on low mood which hopefully will be more effective in helping my communication and general anxiety and help me a lot more in terms of going to university.

Overall, after many hard years, I can say that I am proud of myself for dealing with everything that I have had to go through. People say 'your mental health doesn't define you' and whilst that is true in some ways, I partly do feel as though it makes me who I am as a person today and I am now completely okay with that - it isn't a negative. Even though it may sound ridiculous for some, now that I am in a better place, I am glad that I have been through these things as it has made me a stronger and more empathetic person and it gives me the chance to offer my support and help to others who are going through the same thing or something similar. Every day is still a struggle for me, especially in terms of communication, but now I finally have some hope that things will improve. You can be proud of yourself too. It is okay to be struggling. It is okay to ask for help. It is okay to take medication. It is okay to get therapy. It is okay to cry. It is okay to be proud of yourself. Things do get better, if you allow them to.

What to do if you are feeling this way

Talk to your family about how you feel
Visit your GP and explain your symptoms (or get someone else to if you are unable to)
They should refer you to the appropriate place to get some help
You may be prescribed some medication if they feel it is the best option (alongside therapy)
Visit the below websites
Self help methods (will expand on in another post)

Helpful websites:

mind.org.uk
kooth.com (online counselling)

I am doing tough mudder in September to raise money for the mental health charity Mind. All donations would be very appreciated!
https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/MollySmith12

Email: mollyisabels@gmail.com - feel free to email me if you need to chat or alternatively give me a DM over on my Instagram @mollyisabels

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