From the exterior, you would not think me anything less than an average girl attempting to get about their average life, striving to fulfil their average dreams. Well, let me tell you something.
I do not feel average.
Trust me, this is not me expressing my vain opinions of oneself. I feel excluded. I aspire to be average. As I walk down the pathways of my sixth form I admire the other students, compared to myself they always seem so content in one another’s company. I thought joining sixth form would be a breeze, and truthfully, it wasn’t. I settled into my classes quickly despite being the only student from my high school in each of my subjects. I do not describe myself as shy, at first I found myself initiating most conversations between others in my class, however that did not last long. You see, I suffer with anxiety.
I’ve only been aware that I have had anxiety since the age of roughly 14. Although, thinking about it, I remember an incident in which anxiety caused me problems at the meagre age of 7. It’s hard describing anxiety to someone who has never experienced it before, as by this point in my life, it has become a norm. I remember thinking how brilliant my extra-long summer holidays had been, mostly celebrating my freedom from high school and success in GCSE’s through regularly visiting the beach or going out with friends. I had a blast. I had not experienced regular anxiety at this point in my life, it would come out of nowhere and strike me hard, causing physical symptoms of vomit, shaking and utter breakdown. I had not had these experiences for months, I truly believed I outgrew it. Summer was brilliant, I believed my hard work had finally paid off and my life was headed in a good direction.
College changed these views. As the first few weeks of sixth form flew by, day by day my anxiety struck me worse. I loved the subjects I was taking, adored them in fact, I still do now! That was not the problem. To this day, I am still not fully aware as to why college triggered me so much, I can only guess it was the overwhelming amount of new people and different, relaxed learning environment. Everybody else seemed to fit in better than I, at least, that is what I thought. As each day went by in September I began to mentally exclude myself more and more. The people around me were gelling and friend groups were forming rapidly, all I could wonder is why I was not able to do the same. Throughout my high school years, I had an image of college that I always thought to be true. In my mind, I thought it a place of dreams and never-ending new experiences in which I would, of course, make new friends. My dream shattered into pieces when I realised this was not entirely true.
Each morning I would wake up feeling worse and worse. I remember one specific day where it reached its peak. I was roughly 3 weeks into college and was going through something that would usually cause anxiety anyway. Which was rare. That was the morning my mother drove me to college and I physically threw up in the car due to it. *As strangely my body tries to tackle my anxiety in an odd way; puking. I suggest you read about Fight or Flight if you’re interested in the diverse ways anxiety can strike.* It made me a mess that week, I still forced myself to attend all lessons, though, as it takes my mind off it. Well, I thought it would. I remember entering my History classroom shaking, virtually on the edge of breakdown. I simply could not deal with it. So, I decided to tell my teacher, whom was extremely understanding and I felt comfortable telling. It took me about another month to eventually tell my Literature teacher after I began crying in class for what seemed like no specific reason. I have still not told my Media teacher to this day. It’s hard to tell others about mental illnesses, which may seem ironic to say as I blurt it out across this blog for all the internet to see.
This was when I decided to do something about it, so I signed up for counselling. Oh, counselling. I utterly despised my experience. The lady I met with seemed shocked and speechless when I told her about my anxiety, perplexed by the fact I was triggered by such few and far between things. Also, that I have already tried dealing with it in methods she was going to suggest. She seemed dumbfound, clearly unaware as to what suggest, so she asked me to tell me what causes it. ‘I don’t know’, I said. ‘Think harder’, she said. ‘I don’t know’, I said. ‘Keep thinking’, she said. God, that woman frustrated me. If I knew what caused it I would not be sat there, conversing with her. When she gave up on asking me this, she told me to essentially recall each time I have had an anxiety attack. That was asking a lot, but I began to list them, a bloody stupid idea. This simply reminded me of some of the darker times I had experienced, causing me to get anxiety. I left the session feeling 10x worse than before, having reopened old wounds and no questions answered. Naturally, this made me feel even more isolated. On the other hand, even more determined to get over it.
The thing with anxiety is once you acknowledge you have anxiety… it gives you anxiety. You can get anxiety trying to overcome anxiety. You get uncontrollable physical problems. It can come at random times. From my personal experience, I also find you notice the smaller details in people that most people would not acknowledge, believing me to think they are acting differently and are annoyed at me. Also, it causes a shit ton of overthinking. About everything.
I did make a friend at college, though, someone who attended my high school but our paths never crossed. I also have my high school best friend who I unfortunately see less of these days, but I’m still in regular contact with. I’m very appreciative of these people, my anxiety was on a steady decline after September and I ended up meeting my boyfriend in October. So, I can happily say things are looking brighter. Admittedly, I still get it quite frequently but nowhere near as bad as the September incident. November and December were almost anxiety-free. It’s surprising how much help simple emotional support from people who understand and that you trust can be. I cannot express how thankful I am for them. I’d be an emotional wreck without them.