How I dealt with my anxiety
by Rosie Howard, NCS Graduate 2016
When people talk about anxiety, they often refer to a fear of being in social situations, a fear of a certain place, or a fear of speaking in public. With the rise of awareness about mental health, the amount of information on these types of anxiety has also risen. Whilst this is an amazing achievement, there are still a few crucial gaps in this information, which have completely shaped my experience with mental health.
I first experienced anxiety when I was around 13 years old – I was sitting on the bus on the way to school, and suddenly I got the same feelings you get before you take an important test, or make an important phone call – I felt nauseous, my heart started beating fast, and my head felt fuzzy. But, most importantly, I couldn’t identify the reason for it. Fast forward a couple of years, when it had started happening multiple times a day, I finally told my family.
Where I found help
At first I met with the school counsellor, only to be told that there must be an underlying cause to it – a certain trigger – it can’t just happen for no reason. As you can imagine, I was quite confused and upset with this – I had been dealing with it, at that point, for 2 years, and so I’d pretty much confirmed to myself that it just came on whenever my body felt like it. A few more counsellors later, and after being told the same thing over and over, I felt completely abnormal and strange. Nobody seemed to understand my problem – I spent hours and hours researching, reading leaflets about anxiety, and watching videos, just to again, find nothing.
At this point, I wanted to give up with getting help. I felt completely isolated and alone, I felt like my problem wasn’t real, and weirdly, I felt like I was almost faking it – if a counsellor couldn’t understand, how valid could it be? So, I left it. My anxiety was affecting my friendships, my school work, and I was constantly apprehensive to try anything new – if I didn’t know why it happened, how could I figure out how to stop it?
Then, I discovered an anxiety forum online. I thought I’d give it a shot, and so I posted about my problems on there. I was almost immediately inundated with replies from people saying how they’d had the same experiences as me – they would be perfectly happy and content, then just hit with a wave of anxiety for no reason at all. This gave me the confidence I needed to go and speak to another doctor, and I got referred to a mental health service. The counsellors there were amazing – they listened to me, they understood me, and most importantly, they made me feel like my problems were valid. Now, I am on my way to getting better, all thanks to a group of people online who took the time to tell me they understood.
So, if you feel like you’re having issues with your mental health, don’t pass them off. Speak to someone, whether it’s your counsellor, your friend, or your parents – and if they don’t understand you, try someone else. Everyone’s brain is unique, we are all individual people, and we all have different problems. Mental health is so confusing to understand, and incredibly difficult to put into words, but remember that nothing you feel is invalid or untrue, and just because someone doesn’t get it, doesn’t mean it’s fake. You wouldn’t dismiss a physical illness – so why would you dismiss a mental one?
Why I got involved in NCS
NCS helped me overcome many parts of my anxiety. Being put in new situations with a group of completely new people is very scary to start with, but you soon realise you’re all in the same boat. You’re all there facing your own individual fears and obstacles, you do just learn to let go of the fear of embarrassing yourself and you really embrace the situation. There were times where my anxiety played up a lot, but I tried my absolute hardest to keep the ‘you’ll only get this opportunity once so grab it with both hands’ attitude, and that is what pushed me to do things I’d previously thought were way out of my comfort zone. The amount of pride you have coming away from doing something like that hugely outweighs the anxiousness you feel in the build up to it!