I guess I’ve always been an anxious person. I think at the time, growing up in the 80s & 90s, it wasn’t something that I was aware of, I just considered myself a bit of a worrier and hadn’t attached the word anxiety to it.
As I got older anxiety slowly gained more presence, but it was still something that I hadn’t acknowledged and just assumed it was a way of feeling scared. It wasn’t a constant feeling of dread and I had a good time with good friends. It was only in recent years I realised that growing up I wasn’t exposed to a lot of different experiences, or encouraged to talk about how I was feeling with my parents, siblings or friends. Mental Health wasn’t really a thing back then, it was a case of shake it off and pull yourself together.
I found, when growing up, that I would feel worried when I had to do something new, talk to someone I didn’t know or be in an unfamiliar situation (the same is still true now, but I try to be realistic). This is a normal feeling for people, but my friends just got on with it and didn’t say how they’re feeling. I would worry about something, before, during and afterwards. Worrying that I hadn’t done as well as I could have done. I could never pull off being a blagger as I never had the confidence to do so.
Slowly it started to impact on my life, but I would try to ignore how I felt. In times of extreme worry I would take myself out of situations. Little did I realise that the damage I would be doing to myself in later life. I would try to overcome my problems, buy self-help books and read them in private. I didn’t want anyone to know what I was feeling. Eventually I got good at suppressing how I felt.
I lived a long time like that. It was only when I met my partner who over time encouraged me to talk about things, that I started to get things out in the open and if I wanted to get help, she’d encouraged me to do so.
I wouldn’t say that I have conquered my anxiety. I think it’s a basic human need to have anxiety to stay alive, but acknowledging it and talking about it have helped me to take the steps towards being able to live alongside it, without it controlling me.
I still doubt and sometimes sabotage myself. I think that it is such a deep-rooted way of thinking that it takes time to change. The main thing is to continue to work at it and try to get the right balance.
If anyone is reading, it’s ok to not be ok.