Anxiety can be crippling. For those suffering with it, just getting out of bed to face the world that triggers your excessive worry is a challenge in itself. Trust me, I know.
Society's expectations of young people are particularly extreme. If you're not beautiful, you must be insanely clever. If you're not insanely clever, you're not worthy of recognition. And if you are both: brains and beauty, congratulations - you won!
For me, anxiety was (and still is) centred around the future and its uncertainty. It also impacts whether or not I feel confident enough to go out to parties or social events when I'm invited. So, as you can imagine, when I signed up for a month-long expedition to Borneo that I had to fundraise £3,980 for, I was terrified. But I have always felt that it is my duty - just as much as yours - to help others and make a difference. I signed up because I wanted to help the children who don't have access to half of the education I have received. As a result, I made my first step out of the trappings of fear: I told anxiety it wouldn't stop me from doing this.
This summer, I got to Borneo and it's safe to say that it changed my life. I met the children I'd signed up to help and I taught them conversational English, helped them with writing in our language and had fun with them too. I was in my element. Knowing that the children cared about their education and were willing to learn helped a great deal, but proving to myself that I could do something good has changed me dramatically as a person.
It didn't hit me until I returned from the majestic island of Malaysian Borneo where I climbed a mountain, trekked through the jungle, reforested some of the rainforest and helped build a kindergarten that I had accomplished more than I thought I ever would. In the process of helping others, I helped myself. When people had previously told me this, I questioned it. Aren't you supposed to help yourself and then the world? Well, I can confirm that doing one is synonymous with the other.
Now, I still worry and I still struggle with going to social events. However, nothing that I feel now is close to how I felt in January this year. I do not feel as terrified about my future as I did before I met Max, a ten-year-old boy living in the village of Bongkud. I do not feel as helpless as I did before I helped to clear weed grass in the jungle so that trees can be planted. I do not feel as small as I did before I told anxiety it wouldn't stop me from doing what I wanted to do. In that month of my life, I had proven to myself that I am not worry or fear: I am me. For so long, I had been defining myself as an anxiety-ridden workaholic but that was only on the surface.
To anyone suffering with anxiety, I know that there is a road out of it. I'm not off that road yet - and who knows when I will be - but I am on it. And that's what matters. To anyone suffering, do yourself the biggest favour and tell whatever (or whoever) is making you suffer that they aren't going to prevent you from completing a duty - whether it be to yourself or, like mine, to others. It's easier said than done, but it is so incredibly worth it. Trust me, I know.
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