It was a really hot sunny day in Spring and I was sat in the car with my mum, parked up outside of where I used to work. I remember looking around at people walking past, laughing and eating ice cream. I longed to feel as positive and care-free as them. I longed for the mental stability of a regular teenager. But that was nothing but a dream at that point in my life.
Me and mum were discussing whether I needed to go to a doctor. I'd been having regular panic attacks and felt awful all of the time. I was a fresh 15 year old at this point, soon to be turning 16. I had no idea why I was feeling like this and what these feelings were. I didn't know the word anxiety existed. I had a big cry and told my mum all of my symptoms and she concluded that it was probably depression. So she suggested seeing my GP. I remember that shift at work so clearly, I was so confused and upset that I kept dazing off at the till. I couldn't quite get my head around the idea that I, who up until that point had never had any mental health problems, could suddenly be depressed. Just like that? It made no sense to me.
So we went to see a doctor who basically grilled me asking me how often I exercised, what I ate, how social I was. You name it, she asked it. I assured her that I was very healthy, which at the time I was. She didn't believe me and told me that if I got more fresh air, I would stop feeling like this. Ironically, those comments that came from a medical professional, caused yet another panic attack. I don't know if you've ever had one, if you're not sure, then you haven't. You would know. A panic attack is the single most physically and emotionally exhausting thing I have ever experienced. It's like a dementor in harry potter sucking your soul right out of you, and it was happening to me every day.
You can imagine the kind of toll this took on my physical and mental health. Every ounce of energy I had was taken from me. And by what? By myself? It was such a confusing time and I wanted the ground to swallow me up. Not knowing why I was feeling like I was, was completely demoralising. I didn't know who I was anymore and I lost all hope of recovery from something I didn't even have a name for.
And then one day I found a video online from the famous vlogger Zoe Sugg. It was a video explaining what her anxiety is like and how it affects her. I remember feeling as if 200 pound weights were being lifted off my shoulders as I listened to her explain this mental illness. She was describing exactly how I had been feeling and it meant everything to me. I researched it further, now that I had a word for how I had been feeling and I couldn't quite believe what I found. I wasn't alone anymore. Millions of people around the world experience anxiety too and I found thousands of websites on how to deal with it. I remember shutting my laptop and crying, it was all so overwhelming. Spending months not knowing why I was feeling like this and then with a click of a button, I knew.
So we then went to see another doctor, a different one of course. She was incredibly sympathetic and suggested counselling and anti anxiety meds. I'm fully recovered now and so no longer take them or go to therapy. But these words were a life line for me. I was finally able to get help for a problem that was tearing me apart from the inside out.
That's my story. I'm so much better now, its been 8 months since my last panic attack. But I wanted to write about anxiety, mainly to help others. Its one of the most cruel, debilitating and exhausting mental illnesses to experience. Its awful and it could have killed me.
Anxiety isnt just getting nervous before a big meeting or a pretty girl crying in her room at midnight. It's ugly and its brutal. I remember one panic attack I was writhing around on the floor in pain. I was having heart palpitations and I couldn't breathe. My family were terrified and the fear I felt in that moment was like nothing I've ever felt.
It manifests itself differently in different peoples minds of course. For the majority, its suffering with panic attacks which include shaking, crying, thoughts wizzing around your head at a million miles per hour, heart palpitations, numbness in limbs and getting dizzy or even fainting. Those are just the symptoms I experience.
Aside from the attacks, anxiety also stops you from living. My anxiety held me back at every opportunity. Every time a friend asked me to hang out, my anxiety taunted me in my head telling me they didn't really want me there and so I would decline. I would shut myself in my room and drown myself in my own thoughts. I was failing in school, I was doubting every decision I made. I became physically unwell, I wasn't eating properly or looking after myself. I was pale and thin and drained.
Once I recovered, I realised how bad it was. Looking back on it now I'm shocked at how unwell I really was. Its so weird that an illness that you cant see or touch, can destroy you. Now that you have learnt the reality of anxiety, you should understand that it's totally treatable.
For so long I felt like what I was feeling was going to be permanent. But I promise you that's not true. You have to stand up and fight back. Seek help, even if its just a friend or family member. Speak to someone about how you're feeling, telling people is one of the most liberating and freeing things you can do. Find counselling or medication, they really do help. Understand that you are not alone and what you are going through has been experienced by millions of other people. Be kind to yourself. If you read all this and wondered how on earth I survived all of that. I did. I'm here, still standing and I am such a positive and happy person now. Things turn around I promise you. You just need to take the first steps towards help.
These terrible experiences were so long ago now, I'm a totally different person, I'm strong and I can handle anything life throws at me and so can you!