It’s time for me to share a story I’ve kept quiet about most of my professional life. It’s time to speak up and let somebody else know who might be feeling how I once did, that they’re not alone. Shortly after my dad passed away, at the age of 16 I started suffering with severe anxiety, spiralling very quickly into a very dark place where anxiety completely paralysed me. For those of you that know me now, I guarantee that will shock you. I bet you wouldn’t even have the slightest inkling that the sassy, confident, giggly, gobby girl you know now ever struggled with her mental health. But I did - and that’s why I feel it’s so important to speak up.
I fumbled through my last year of school filing away my feelings under ‘I’ll deal with you later’. Summer came and went and there was this immense pressure to go to University, because it was the done thing and you had to have a degree if you were going to get anywhere in life (worst advice ever). I for one wasn’t going to lose face - so I went, I went and I hated every second of it. I desperately wanted to be what everyone else was, confident, cool, giving zero fucks and enjoying life. Seeing everyone being ‘normal’ freshers acted as a constant reminder as to what I wasn’t. Not only did I have emotional baggage the size of Barcelona but I was having anxiety attacks like they were going out of fashion. After just 4 weeks I dropped out, unable to cope and aching for home. When I came home I felt lost. All of my friends that I knew were off making new ones. I was the lone wolf, the loser who couldn’t hack the ‘drinking scene’ and who wanted mum. When people say the expression “If you don’t jump you’ll never know if you can fly”, what they don’t tell you is that if you do jump, you can also fall flat on your face. Into a pile of shit.
Over the next year whilst friends were shimmying in the club I was shaking in the checkout queue. I was petrified to leave the house, I’d have panic attacks, I’d shake, tremble, palpitate, sweat, cry and everything else in-between. Whilst others were out on the pull, I was pulling my clothes on over my PJs, convinced I was going to be needed in the middle of the night like I had been when Dad was poorly. I’d analyse every single fibre of my body - self diagnosing myself with some kind of deadly disease on a daily basis. I was flicking through symptom checkers like they were the new Facebook feed.
As anyone who suffers with anxiety will tell you, when you’re having a panic attack simply saying ‘it will be ok’ just doesn’t cut it. In fact, it’s probably going to land you with a head butt square between the eyes. I had all the support and love of my family around me but it was me that needed to make the first move. After about a year of this intense torture, I knew I needed to do something, it was time to unleash my inner ‘yolo’. After a failed attempt to the GP which ended up in pills I didn’t want to pop, I downloaded Charles Linden’s recovery course “The Linden Method” and began listening to it daily. Every day, without fail. I put into practice his method staring anxiety in the face and asking it to do its worse to me. Charles was right, it had nothing to say back - and in those moments you see it for what it really is, sensations. Nothing more, nothing less. Overcoming anxiety was by far the hardest thing I’ve ever done, it was tough, and it took time. It still takes time.
I went from being petrified of leaving the house, to a Masters grad and the youngest senior creative member of one of the UK’s top marketing agencies. I haven’t shared this story because I want you to think differently of me. What I want is for my voice to be heard by someone who right about now probably needs to hear it. Mental health isn’t something to be embarrassed of, we need to speak up and stem the stigma. It’s taken me a long time to realise that just because you’ve had/have anxiety, it doesn’t make you weak. It’s not a story to be embarrassed of, or to shy away from sharing. It’s one to be proud of, it’s made me who I am today and for that, I’m thankful. I’m going to be talking more and more about mental health, in particular how our Social Media feeds can impact how we feel. I’ve said before that I think you should fill your feed like you do your belly, with good stuff that makes you feel happy and healthy. I still believe this is one of the best things I’ve said.