The first time I realised I had anxiety was when I was 13 and I had arranged to meet my friends in a coffee shop to revise. We were meant to meet at 1 so I got there early because I don’t like being late, but mainly I realised that I didn’t want to walk in to a crowded coffee shop alone. I suddenly started panicking that people would be looking at me, judging me, laughing at the way I look, the way I walked in, what if I fell down? What if I could see them but they can see me, wouldn’t that be embarrassing! When I’m embarrassed I go bright red, that would be worse and they would all know what a loser I was. It was a small shop and I probably could have seen everyone in there from the door, but it was like something was physically stopping me from going inside.So after pacing up and down outside the shop for 15 minutes, I decided not to go in and I went home.
I didn’t know that this was anxiety, I thought I was just being pathetic or maybe everyone felt this way, and it wasn’t until I was 20 that I truly understood what anxiety meant.
Anxiety changes how you see the world. Before anxiety, I would cross the road after looking both ways, and now I stand on the curb expecting a car to appear out of nowhere. looking left and right, and left and right, and left and right… Taking a step back then looking again, wondering if I could just turn around or if people in cars already thought I was ridiculous and then just going as quickly as I can and hoping from the best, just to get away from the judgemental gaze of drivers. I used to drive normally, and now I’m terrified that someone will appear out of nowhere and that I’ll end up hurting someone. Simply, I used to go to the bathroom or changing room and feel safe in the fact that the door is locked so no one will come in, but now I pace around thinking maybe the lock will break, maybe I didn’t even lock it properly, someone will come in and it will be horrific. I would never be able to look at them, they would never be able to look at me, so sometimes I’ve been in there for 5 minutes and I’m still considering everything that could go wrong…. But now I’ve been in here too long, what will people think?! So I leave immediately and hope no one even knew I was in there. I used to walk normally, trusting myself to be able to put one foot successfully in front of the other. Now I walk with my head down, watching each movement of my feet, expecting each step to be the one that trips me up,leaving me sprawled on the floor, embarrassed and in pain. Basically, to me, anxiety is hell. I may be the same person but my outlook on everything is completely different, which means the way other people see me is also differ t, prompting the sentence “you’ve changed”. Well you try having your world turned upside down and inside out and see if you stay the same!
To anyone who has never experienced a panic attack, its not the same as worrying. I hate it when people say they’re having a panic attack when maybe they’re just worried over something. A panic attack can be crippling. Your mouth goes dry, your hands, arms , feet, legs tingle so it’s painful yet feel distanced from your body. Your heart beats faster , so fast you wonder if your heart will beat out of your chest.your ears ring so loudly that it blocks out the sound of everyone around you, you know they’re there and speaking or you know there’s noise but it’s like you aren’t physically there anymore. Your head is spinning, you feel light headed, dizzy, you can’t see straight, you can’t hold your own head up, you can’t make any sense of your thoughts, you want to scream but nothing comes out. You slur your words, these words are not coming from you, I have no idea where they are coming from because my brain is so overworked and overwhelmed, that I’m not even sure it’s there anymore.You want to cry but you’re so terrified you feel numb. No matter how many times you experience this, you feel like you’re going to die, that there’s no possible way out.
I wish I could say that it was getting better but it isn’t. The anxiety appears in more situations now.
When I split up with my ex, I was so worried that I would see him and wouldn’t know what to say or do, I would have panic attacks in tesco thinking that at any moment he could turn the corner and be stood in front of me. I would abandon full trolling in the middle of the aisle to run back to my car to cry, just at the thought! What would I be like if it happened… Cue more crying!! The worst was driving, thinking I could see his car… Sometimes I would be so scared I would look everywhere but at the traffic just in case, then I’d terrify myself that I would crash, but then the anxiety would actually put me in danger. I tried to tell myself that maybe he didn’t even have that car anymore, I didn’t need to look out for white cars anymore! But then I became worried by every car that would pass me which made it worse. It seems like a simple thing, but to someone with anxiety, it’s a living hell.
Now sometimes stand at the top of the stairs, too worried to go downstairs and see people in case I cry or don’t know what to say. Having to text people from another room to tell them what I wanted to say, because it was like the words just wouldn’t come out. I don’t know if I believe anything Anybody says, do they like me, hate, just don’t care!? I never know if my thoughts are real, rational or the anxiety, it makes it difficult to make any decision so you end up doubting yourself completely. You feel useless, worthless and confused. It’s all consuming, it’s exhausting! But I think I’m still the same person, I just see things differently now.
I think it’s very difficult for anyone to know how it feels to live with anxiety, even if you have it yourself, you never really know how anyone else is feeling or what battles they are facing. I’d beg anyone to not judge, you never know what’s going through someone’s head. Please be sensitive and considerate, you never know when you’ll need that yourself.