Posted on June 03 2015
I never really understood what people meant when they said they couldn’t do something because they were anxious. It had never crossed my mind that there was something that wasn’t tacit that could stand in the way of something you wanted to do.
I would always say I understood, because I knew patience and understanding was polite. But I didn’t understand. I was lying. I mean, I didn’t know I was lying. Not until I found myself right there myself. But that took a few years, a few mistakes, and a few changes to find myself in that position.
Anxiety to me was laziness, or at least a cop-out. I know this sounds a bit harsh, but I’m trying to emphasise the fact that I really was ignorant to mental health problems. It’s true what they say, that you really don’t truly understand until you’d gone through it.
I was always a very social person. I liked people, I liked going out, and I liked taking chances, without a second thought. When I was younger, life was easy and carefree and that’s how I liked it. And that’s how I thought everybody else saw the world.
Growing up, we had moved a lot, so adapting was what I was best at. Different cities, different people, different life. It was very exciting and truly eye-opening to the world around me.
But when you’re constantly adapting, you’re never really growing into your own skin. Instead you’re actually taking facets of different people’s skin, and placing it onto your own skin so you can fit in. Kind of like a patch-work quilt.. made of skin. Sounds kind of Dexter-ish, but that’s the best way I can describe it.
When you’re younger, people aren’t as judgemental. They haven’t yet began to see that what draw people together are core values, morals, beliefs and interests. You hang out solely because you’re the same age, in the same school, and have the same classes.
So, what happens when you reach high school, when cliques become a thing and you haven’t found who you are beneath your strung together skin patches? Well, you have a hard time.
High school was a hard time for me. But heck, who doesn’t have a hard high school time? Constantly trying to adapt to various social groups became exhausting and difficult. So much so, that I started to shy away from various social situations. I didn’t know whom I was, so how the heck could I expect others to know?
When I hit university, I thought great! This can be a new start, in a new town, with my best friend. It was a great thing to look forward to and I was so excited.
In my first year of university I completely retracted. I spent hours in my room alone and only spent time with my boyfriend at the time. I was completely and utterly terrified of anything that was outside of my little bubble of comfort. Social situations were a nightmare to me, and gods forbid that I intentionally immerse myself in one.
The worst part was that I really wanted to be in social settings. I wanted to integrate with other university students. I wanted to be able to function in a party setting, but I just couldn’t get my mind out of the future. “What if I say something stupid?” “What if they don’t like me?” “What if they talk about me once I leave?” Questions and scenarios would just circle around my mind until I’d already convinced myself that I’d have a bad time before I even went.
It was exhausting.
So, I did what was comfortable to me and I moved.
I moved to a big city, with the guy I was seeing at the time, into a new place where I wouldn’t have to face the terrors of social situations. There was 3 million people in this city, and here I could start new and find myself.
Pro tip: running away from your problems doesn’t fix them, it elongates them.
I fell into a pit of neuroticism where I just couldn’t immerse myself in social settings at all. In fact, I was more afraid than ever. I would go to school, or work, or the gym and come home. And repeat. I could not convince or push myself to do anything besides these three things. Anytime I was invited to go anywhere, and would try to muster up the gull to go, I would instantly talk myself out of it. What if I say something dumb? What if they don’t like me? What if they won’t want to be my friend anymore once they get to know me? The circle of questions would start to repeat and I was not going.
One morning I just couldn’t take it anymore. I remember waking up and feeling like I was going to explode. I knew I had to talk to somebody. I just couldn’t live in my head, within the 4 walls of my apartment anymore.
That day, I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder. If you had told me a few years prior that I would be diagnosed with a mental health issue, I would have probably fallen over.
So this is where it gets a little bit complicated, because once you find out you have anxiety, you can do one of three things:
- take medication
- go through therapy (aka talk to a therapist who helps you understand why you feel the way that you feel)
- take medication while simultaneously seeking therapy (probably the smartest choice)
Initially, I started out with therapy. I really wanted to try to avoid medication. Needless to say it didn’t work, or at least it didn’t work for me. Okay, being totally transparent, I don’t think I tried hard enough. I have a lot on my plate; so taking the time to go and see a shrink just didn’t work for me. I know I had said that I wanted to avoid medication, but it came to a point that for me, that was the best alternative.
I began taking the medication and at first it sent me into a tailspin. I couldn’t sleep, I had no desire to eat, and all of the thoughts that I had before started coming at me at 100km an hour, rather than 60km. Initially I had talked to my doctor to say that it wasn’t working for me, but she said to wait it out. So I did.
It really did start to help. My moods and thoughts began to stabilize, and while social situations still made me nervous, the sharp edge was gone and I could push myself into social situations.
It wasn’t too long before I started to realize something. The ‘terror’ of social situations had substantially depleted, but something was still off. I was no longer afraid of going to parties and social situations, but I realized hey, I don’t actually want to.
I found that I had been putting myself in situations where I just wasn’t happy. I realized that hey, I’m actually and introvert and you know what? I kind of like to be by myself, but even more so, I like to be around people in small groups or individually. If you wanted to get really technical, I’m actually an ambivert. I like social settings, I like to go to parties, but more often than not I’m just as happy being alone.
It took me a long time to realize that hey, that’s actually ok.
When you’re in university, or in your early-20’s it’s seen as customary to want to party all of the time, be in social settings and be wild and crazy. But frankly, I’m just as happy staying home and reading a book, or hanging out with friends in a sober setting. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love my friends, but social situations make me very tired and I need alone-time to recharge. It doesn’t mean I don’t like anybody, and yes, maybe it sometimes comes across that way. But me showing love or friendship, is spending quality time with people when I’m fully charged. So yes, sometimes that means that occasional party, and heck, sometimes I’m rearing to go, but more often than not I just like my space.
It took me a long time to come to terms with that. But once you start to find yourself and where your fellow ambiverts/introverts/
I received a few questions a while back on my Instagram and blog about anxiety that I would love to address (sorry it took me so long.)
What does anxiety feel like?
I think it feels differently for everybody. For me personally, it feels like you’re high on caffeine (heart pounding, awkwardly going through the motions because your mind is racing, but your thoughts can’t reach your mouth fast enough, ect.) While also feel like there’s looming doom over you that you can’t seem to shake. I find myself thinking a lot into the future about events that haven’t even happened yet.
Are depression and anxiety hand-in-hand?
Again, I think when it comes to depression and anxiety everybody is different. Personally, I had highs and lows throughout my teenage years, but I think that may be more from teenage hormones levelling out than anything else. Depression and anxiety were not intertwined for me.
Is anxiety genetic?
My doctor had told me once that anxious parents tend to have anxious children. From what she said, it doesn’t sound like it’s so much genetic as it may be a personality trait that you pick up from your parents. Maybe I’m messing that up, but I don’t think it’s necessarily genetic.
Do you think your anxiety will ever go away? Have you always had it?
I don’t really think that it will completely go away. I think if I continue to take measures to control it and acknowledge when I’m feeling anxious, than it will become more second nature to nip it in the bud. No, I don’t think I’ve always had it.. I think I kind of grew into it.
Thanks for reading everyone.
I’m sorry if I didn’t address all of the questions. These are the ones I actually remembered to write down haha.
If I forgot any of your questions, please leave them in the comments below.