Mental Health & Social Anxiety

So its time to talk mental health. There’s no shying away from the topic, especially when its all around social media and the news at the moment. Often more bad than good..

*super duper personal blog post that I really wasn’t going to post, so please tread carefully*

Side note: Having a mental illness does NOT instantly mean you are crazy and will go out and violently attack people. A lot of mental illnesses are very easily hidden and many of the people you see everyday may be silently suffering; one in four people experience mental health problems in their life time, so when people give you that “you’re not alone” talk they are 99.9% of the time being sincere.

I’ve never really ‘addressed’ my mental health and its weird to be one of “those people” but I think its definitely something worth talking about. I didn’t really want to overload people with every single minuscule piece of information about my life and look like I am asking for attention because being in the centre of attention is something I absolutely dread. I guess now feels like the right time to have a discussion about it, with so much happening recently I want to share my own story.

I thought this drawing was a good visual representation of how it feels to have anxiety (source)

Where to start…
I guess I have always been shy, when I was in school I made sure I was never noticed, I didn’t like answering questions in lessons mainly because of fear of getting it wrong. So I rarely participated unless I was forced to. The majority of my school reports were along the lines of “an intelligent girl, but it would be nice if she participated more in lessons and class discussions.”
It was a bit of an endless cycle because seeing those reports made me feel more self conscious so I shied away even further. I got better throughout secondary school and my confidence grew when I made a new group of friends who seem to bring out the best in me.
We all make bad choices in life and some individuals I chose to associate myself with didn’t help much with my confidence and I felt if I was without them I’d be on my own. Looking back now these people were pretty toxic, I was 100% dependant on them and they used that against me, but hey I have a super supportive group of friends now so that doesn’t matter anymore.
But I think if you want to find the “route of the problem” I think this is where mine began.

Secondary school wasn’t the best part of my childhood so I went to a different Sixth Form to have a fresh start. I made an amazing group of friends (you know who you are) and we are all really close now.

I hated A Levels. I had my mind set on becoming a vet so I chose all three sciences (Physics, Chemistry and Biology) along with English Literature as my subject choices for year 12 – big mistake! I didn’t get the right entry grade to study Physics so I swapped it for History on enrolment day, I think alarm bells were ringing at this point. So I started in September and a few weeks in I knew I was completely out of my depth, I just about understood the Biology but I spent hours each night trying to understand the Chemistry work I had been set and had numerous panic attacks and cried because I simply did not get it.
So it was pretty obvious that when I got my January exam results back I failed Chemistry but I wasn’t prepared to fail Biology as well. I decided to get rid of Chemistry and focus on my other three subjects, retaking Biology in the summer and yes, I failed again.

Somehow I don’t think I am a Science/Maths person. I stressed out so much in year 12 I didn’t have much time to do things for myself because I desperately wanted to get my work done. I should have listened to Ben when he was telling me I wasn’t myself because he was right. I had just lost all my energy, I lacked motivation and it was seriously getting me down.
My parents knew something was up and they advised I go and see a private counsellor because my stress and anxiety had caused me to get to a serious low. It helped in the short term but looking back now she was really patronising and always told me what I had to do. I went to a few sessions and decided I had had enough.
Year 13 resulted in me having to take on two AS Levels to make up my points to even be able to get into university so I wanted to get out of there as soon as I could.

Next to University. A big step for me, which led me to chose a campus that wasn’t too far away from home because I get incredibly homesick. Yes I know it probably would have done me good to be slightly further away so that I couldn’t come back as often, but it’s my safe place.
First year was fantastic, I met some amazing people but I had lots of problems with my flat mates which made it hard for me to settle. I was constantly coming home because it was away from all the drama and it caused my anxiety to sky rocket.
I really neglected my health and prioritised my university work because I didn’t want to get behind.

(source)
(source)

Fast forward to December 2015 I finally decided to go to the doctors. I had been suffering with low moods, lack of sleep, severe anxiety and the final straw was when I missed a whole week of university because I physically couldn’t get out of bed, I knew I needed to take action.
I was diagnosed with severe social anxiety and moderate depression and then began the long haul of trying a stock of medication to help my overactive brain.
So this is pretty much where I am at now. My medication is really helping and I’ve recently started CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) which I wish I had started years ago. So I am in a much better place now. Yes I have my good and bad days but I am no where near as low as I have been the last few years.

If you feel you have experienced anything similar to me please look at these resources.

Mind – for better mental health (an amazing charity that has done many people I know wonders)
Social Anxiety Disorder – NHS Choices
Depression – NHS Choices
Depression UK
Anxiety UK
CBT Register UK

Until next time,

Neneh x

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