I was unsure whether to write this post for two reasons. Firstly, I've never actually talked about my personal experiences with anxiety anywhere on the internet before. Secondly, I had a negative experience when it came to seeking help with my anxiety and I didn't want to put people off looking for help if they need it.
However, I feel like it is important to talk about my negative experience, since it identifies a flaw in the system and I feel like it is an important subject to raise awareness for. My experience won't reflect everyone's, and now that I'm in a better place looking back I do feel like I did the right thing by seeking help.
If you've known me in person at any stage of my life you will know that I've always just been a shy person. At the age of 14, this really intensified and with exams approaching I noticed my stress levels were through the roof. I found myself having panic attacks and literally bursting into tears in social situations that required me to talk in front of people. I was isolating myself away out of fear of going out of my comfort zone, I couldn't sleep and my hair was literally falling out due to stress.
You can see in this screenshot from a old video
how thin my hair got around my hairline
As I said before, I put my feelings and symptoms entirely down to exam stress. And then after leaving school I was still experiencing panic attacks and feeling anxious, even though I was in my "stress free gap year" and technically didn't have anything to worry about. This is when I realized I had a problem.
At the age of 18, after 4 years of feeling like this every day, I decided to take the first steps in seeking help and made a doctor appointment. I told my mum I was doing this, and she really encouraged me to do this because she could see how it was affecting me. I was so nervous to even go and speak to a doctor, because I never actually told anyone out loud how I was feeling.
After a consultation with my doctor, he diagnosed me with anxiety and having a stress disorder. He advised me to make an appointment with a counselor and gave me an information booklet with their details on it. The first thing I had to do was have a phone consultation with this counselor before they decided whether to do sessions in person.
The reason I was looking for help with dealing with my anxiety was because everyday situations were causing me to become extremely distressed. The woman who interviewed me on the phone asked me "are you able to do everyday tasks such as go to work?"
I answered that yes I could physically do these tasks, yet they were causing me anxiety to do. She replied "I'm sorry, but I'm really struggling to see why you're making an appointment if it seems like you can do every day tasks".
I know that she didn't mean it to come across rude, but it was just a huge slap in the face to be told by a counselor that you should even be looking for help when it took me 4 years to pluck up the courage to even make an appointment because I felt like I was being silly by doing so in the first place.
Like I know that I could physically perform tasks, like get on a bus to go to work, but I'd rather learn how to cope with my anxiety so that I didn't get panic attacks at the thought alone of getting on public transport. I was looking for a solution to live an every day life, without not only having my anxiety stop me, but not cause me any distress in the meantime.
Luckily, my life circumstances changed. I met new people, I was constantly challenged to go out of my comfort zone in my gap year and I ended up gaining a lot of confidence. This lead me to almost naturally fight my anxiety away. I still have moments where I feel like all I want to do is lock myself away in my room because I feel like I cant do something, but I'm coping a lot better now. I think the most important step I took was admitting that I had a problem, and confessing to people close to me how I felt.
I'm writing this post because I feel like a flaw in the system of treating mental health is a lack of understanding from professionals who treat people. Don't get me wrong, I know there are lot's of amazing people out there who do wonders treating people. Yet I just feel like it can be such an intimidating experience to even ask for help, yet alone being told that you don't fully qualify for treatment. Anyone asking for help to deal with mental health should be treated with care and understanding. There are different levels of mental health illnesses, and anyone dealing with one should feel like they can receive help if they ask for it, not just extreme cases.
Even though the route of seeking counselling wasn't effective for me when I first tried it, I still encourage people to tell people how they feel and not be ashamed to look for help with mental health. I'm just proud of myself for speaking up about how I felt, because that alone felt like a huge weight off my shoulder.
Thank you for reading, this was the first time that I've spoke about my own personally experiences with mental health on the internet. The song of the day is Human by The Killers. I hope that this has been a useful post to read and if you have any questions, please let me know in the comments,
Izzy K xxx