I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t anxious. When there wasn’t a bubble of unease in the pit of my stomach. I used to panic over things over kids my age seemed to tackle with ease. I couldn’t sleep without going over every little thing over and over again in my mind.
Anxiety, whether I was conscious of it in my mind, has been a constant in my life. It comes in ebbs and waves, and as I’ve grown up, I’ve learned to cope, learned to recover from panic attacks, learned to talk myself into calmness.
But, from when a very small child, I kept it secret. I didn’t tell my parents, or my friends, or my teachers that I was asking to go to the toilet so much because I was having a quick panic attack, or that the reason I stayed up to midnight reading was to calm myself down.
Nobody told me to keep it a secret. I just got the distinct feeling, that it was something to keep to myself, that it was something not talked about. At times I felt like a time bomb of panic, ticking down to oblivion. Everything was suppressed, and held in, and kept hidden. Like it was something to be ashamed of.
But it isn’t. Anxiety UK have said three million people in the UK have an anxiety disorder, and another three million depression. This is a common ailment. And yet, the historical treatment of anxiety, and other mental health conditions has led it to be stigmatising–something not talked about in the open.
But this is something that needs to change. For me, talking helps, a lot. It was only when I had counselling as a teen that I really began to understand my anxiety, to live with it. Goodness knows what could’ve have happened had I thought it was okay to talk openly about anxiety as a kid. Massive bouts of anxiety could’ve have been worked through in a far less traumatising way. Now, I’m pretty open about my anxiety–my family knows, my friends know, and so does the internet. Having the freedom to say, “I’m having a panic attack,” around trusted family and friends is so liberating.
There needs to be a normalisation of mental illness. The more we talk, and accept and learn, the less stigma there is to be living with one.
I have an anxiety disorder, one that I’m really not ashamed of.
- Heads Together
- The Mental Health Foundation — Mental Health Awareness Week
- Time to Change
- Anxiety UK
- The Samaritans