My anxiety story
From wobbly girl to worry warrior
I’ve worried my whole life.
I once ran home crying because I worried I wouldn’t pass my final year exams. I was nine!
Back then, my anxiety was diagnosed as Attention Deficit Disorder. I grew ashamed and afraid of my sensitive spirit and anxious mind. It made me different. It made me weird. It made me ‘difficult’. And so, I was bullied. A lot.
When the planes hit the Twin Towers, I remember watching the horror unfold on the live TV news. Then I was no longer in my body. I felt totally disconnected from myself and the room. I’ve since discovered this is called dissociative disorder. It happens when you can’t deal with severe trauma. It was terrifying.
In my 20s, my worries peaked. I panicked when people got too close, and pushed them away when they tried to help. I also couldn’t handle tricky work situations (not ideal when you’re the PR assistant at a major sports venue, and have to look after journalists and sports stars!) In fact, I can’t count the number of times I cried in the loos at every job I had.
To silence my anxiety, I partied hard and overate. It was the only way I knew how to cope with my muddy mind. And I kept treating people terribly.
After breaking up with my first ‘real’ boyfriend of five years, I packed up my life and ran. I ran away from the mess I’d created around me.
I ran away from the self-destruction. I ran away from myself.
For the next three years, I travelled the world. Just me and my laptop, picking up freelance writing work on the road.
The best part? I didn’t have to get close to anyone, because I’d just pack up and move on.
On my erratic journey, I faced many fears. Because I had to. I was stripped bare. There were no familiar faces to cushion my insecurities.
I was forced to put myself out there, make friends with strangers, figure out who to trust. And sit, alone, with my irritability.
I climbed an 11,000 foot volcano at midnight with no preparation. I became an advanced scuba diver, drifting with sharks and manta rays…and I had a panic attack 30m underwater.
I said ‘yes’ to almost any invitation.
I cried in lonely hotel rooms.
I loved myself.
I loathed myself.
But bit by bit, the armour wore away. I settled into my self.
And I started to make friends with my mind.
Insomnia, caused by the anxiety of being anxious about going to bed with anxiety!
Feeling like I can’t breathe and will die (panic attack)
Feeling disconnected from my body and surroundings (dissociative disorder)
Compulsively twisting my hair, biting nails, tapping feet…
Scared to leave the house (feeling the world outside is too loud and scary)
Fear my loved ones hate me
Working at hyper speed (people have always applauded my productivity. But that just makes me work even harder and faster, fuelling more anxiety!)
Having to prepare for every single possibility and outcome (will I need an umbrella? Will food be served? What time can I come back home and hide?)