Oh, hai. So I'm gonna talk about something totally personal to me, yet something that's shared by millions of people every day. And I NEVER talk about this stuff. For the first time in seven years I've only just managed to talk about it to someone and it felt good, and after that I was able to tell someone else, which also felt good, so now I'm gonna tell all y'all.
(Please note that this isn't a cry for attention or sympathy. I'm just sharing my story with the kindling hope that it might help or comfort people who suffer in a similar way).
When I was seventeen I inexplicably developed a case of social anxiety. I don't know much about the hows or whys but I can tell you this: it totally messed me up. Back then I was in college (all you Americans call it High School) and although I had some awesome friends, some days I couldn't bring myself to leave the house much less go on crazy social adventures out of hours.
Schooling was an issue. I missed so mainly classes. Sometimes I'd be off for weeks. I got into so much trouble. People thought I was a slacker but I was happy to fuel this image because it was easier than admitting I actually had a mental problem. I ended up dropping a load of subjects that I loved simply because I couldn't bear to be in a classroom situation. I kept art because art was conducted in a studio. In an art class there's little conformity compared to an academic classroom, plus I could leave the room at my discretion when the situation became too suffocating.
At its worse, I finally decided I needed help. I went to the doctors. I was laughed off. I remember sitting in the surgery crying because I was so sad and terrified of that awful, dark anxiety that had such a grip on my life, yet the doctor told me it was a phase. My case was dismissed because I was young, I suppose. A raging ball of teenage hormones. I was made to feel like a complete idiot and decided not to talk to anyone about it again.
Two years later I decided I needed to rely on myself to change. What helped me? Buddhism and meditation. Herbal remedies and peppermint tea. I shit you not. I sound like a massive hippy but, hey, it helped me go to university (college for y'all 'muricans).
Don't get me wrong, it didn't totally disappear. I still got 'attacks' every now and again, but I learnt to wrestle it down, for the most part (I DID miss my first day of university though, heh).
So when, a month ago, I started getting the old Buddhism book out again, I should've noticed the signs. Too much going on at once: the anniversary of the death of my little sister, family confrontations, relationship issues and being bullied at work.
And then last night I woke up at 3am and had a panic attack. Yaaaaay /sarcasm.
BUT. This time, I actually TALKED to people using WORDS (and a few tears). My long term boyfriend (who had no idea what the heck was going on when I suddenly and inexplicably had to leave a dinner at a restaurant with a group of friends a few months back, bless his patience), who was actually really gentle and understanding and didn't tell me it was a phase. I feel so much better because now he'll actually understand when I become a stammering mess while attempting to merge with society, and then loosely blaming it on 'a headache'. I also talked to my co-worker, who offered very sound advice and has promised to support me 100%.
I FEEL SO MUCH BETTER.
I don't think my anxiety will ever go away completely. I live primarily in sunshine, yet with the knowledge that rain will return at some point. BUT. I know that there are a lot of us out there. Depression. Anxiety. All dat shiz. And if you wanna talk or vent or cry you can in the comments. I'll listen. Maybe I can help. Maybe someone who reads your comment can help. Maybe it will help just to get it down in writing. If it helps you, you can keep coming back to this blog and venting over and over. I don't mind. That's why I've written it.
IT'S GOOD TO TALK. I wish I'd known that seven years ago but opening up is hard for me, especially in today's society where everyone is so judgemental and dismissive of mental illnesses such as depression. Don't you love the old 'Why can't you just get over it' response?
Here's a list of things that help me. Maybe they'll help you, maybe not. But it might open up some avenues that lead to partial if not complete recovery.
Herbal tea – specifically peppermint. When I get anxiety (specifically before entering a situation that will give me an anxiety attack) I find it therapeutic to sip on peppermint tea. It calms an unsettled belly and focuses my mind.
Herbal remedies – The one down from prescribed medication. Let's be honest: no one wants to be on medication anyway. Herbal remedy 'Kalms' helped me loads, though sometimes I felt that their effect was perhaps purely psychological.
Meditation – Clearing my mind allowed me to focus on my problems one by one, analyse them in a detached way rather than during a heightened state of panic.
Breathing exercises – Particularly helpful when IN said situation. In through the nose, out through the mouth. Again, a calming effect.
Lingering on the outside of situations – In particular, I always choose desks/chairs at the back of classrooms/workplaces. Near the door would be the best. It defeats some of the suffocation of being surrounded by a lot of people in a situation I can't necessarily escape from. If I'm near a door I feel comforted.
Lastly, talking. It helped. It helps.
So if you wanna talk, you can here. Share experiences, advice, lend an ear. What helps you through bad situations? How do you fight your way out of a rubbish situation?
If you don't wanna talk, then I hope you defeat your demons in a way that suits you best
Your journal was absolutely amazing. I find it very supportive, even more so since I use a lot of your helping methods (I love peppermint/licorice tea, and meditation.) I would like to ask though, How did you get out of your shell? I'm really shy, and it's really hard for me to talk to people, even if I don't get panic attacks. However, I really want to make some friends now that I'm going to a university, I just don't know how.
Thank you for such an uplifting post, and congratulations on your achievements!