2012: The year I turned 16 and left secondary school.
2012: The year I realised my ambition in life was to become a journalist.
2012: The year the Mayan Calendar ended and everybody thought the world would erupt into a ball of flames and explode. Oh, how we wish that prophecy was true now we're a day away from either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump becoming President.
2012: The year I discovered something that still affects me every day, that I suffer from anxiety.
The purpose of me writing this post isn't to entice sympathy or attention, but to discuss on an open platform what I currently experience, and hope that this could influence someone else in a similar position to mine to find their hidden strengths to fight anxiety. It isn't easy, at all. Anxiety itself prevents you from telling anybody you have anxiety. What if they don't believe me? What if they start to judge me and see me only as my anxiety, rather than the person I am? The common phrase I hear is "just talk to someone [usually a doctor] about it, it really helps", which in fairness is true, but if only it was that easy. For myself, this is initially flawed as my GP requires bookings to be made via telephone, and the social aspect of my anxiety means I am absolutely terrified of making phone calls, which isn't helpful as a journalism student.
The topic of being a student brings me on to possibly the biggest event of my life which occurred due to anxiety. I started studying Sports Journalism at the University of Bedfordshire in September 2014. It wasn't exactly my first choice university, but nevertheless I was pleased to be going off to study the course I wanted. When the time came to move and I finished unpacking my room, I sat down and thought to myself "now what?". I dropped out of university a month later. I couldn't bring myself to go out during Freshers' Week. I didn't know anyone and the thought of having to go up to complete strangers and talk to them was daunting. When the induction started, I enjoyed the sound of the course and what was approaching this semester, however I didn't exactly talk to anyone during this time. To me, it felt like everyone already knew each other and were getting along so well and I was just an intruder in their circle. There were quite a few reason aside from anxiety why I decided to drop out, however anxiety was the prominent reason behind it.
Four years on from this realisation, I still suffer with anxiety which more than likely has worsened over the years. Sleep is getting shorter and shorter - I'm lucky if I can manage 6 hours, but even then I'd be waking up numerous times throughout the night. Everyday situations fill me with dread - going to a lecture, going to the shop, not going out with friends/leaving them early due to being overwhelmed by anxiety. Heart palpitations appear more frequently. Often, I'd notice for no apparent reason my hands would be shaking or my knees would be trembling. In a scenario that occurred just last night, I found myself unable to control my breathing.
Despite all this, I find myself considerably happier than I was back in 2012. Put into perspective, I'm doing things I've always wanted to do. I spend every day surrounded by groups of friends. I'm meeting people I hadn't seen for some time, and also people I've spoke to for years but never met. I'm going to gigs I've missed out on previously due to anxiety - I was anxious as hell for a gig a few weeks ago, but it turned out to be one of the highlights of the year. I'm on the road to the career I dream of, slowly but surely. I even had a bloody conversation with Karl Pilkington the other week.
I guess the moral of this is, anxiety can get worse, but you can always become happier. Anxiety can and will always knock you back, but there are times where you will persevere and overcome it, completely smashing it out the park. So, if anxiety ever knocks you down, don't see it as a step backwards, but as a step closer to that one time where you'll defeat it, on your way to destroying anxiety for good.