Gemma, May 29, 2019

"To them, it was just a joke. But to me, those comments made me feel so much worse."

Anxiety is an ongoing struggle that most people never seem to understand. Battling with your own mind every single day is a scary place to be in - and that’s something that I have to live with 24/7.

I was first diagnosed with anxiety and depression when I was 19 during my time at University. I’ve always known that something wasn’t quite right since I was a child and I’ve never known what life is like without anxiety. When I was younger, I put this down to simply me just being a kid and the environment I was living in as I grew up. I would brush my feelings off and hope it would go away as I became older and more independent. It didn’t go away. 

I was becoming quieter and shy and when relatives or friends would make a comment, I would feel even worse. “You need to talk more!” “You are painfully quiet!” or if I would try to make a conversation, they would say “wow, she actually said something!”. To them, it was just a joke. But to me, those comments made me feel so much worse and shattered my self-esteem and confidence. I felt worthless.

I also suffer from social anxiety which is yet to be formally diagnosed. I always prefer to stay in than rather go out with friends, but then this also leads me to feeling very left out very easily and then I feel like I have missed out on opportunities to meet new people. 

I’m a sensitive person, so I can dwell on a comment, even to this day. I was bullied at school because I’m so short. I'm only 4"10, and I also look a lot younger than my age, so I receive comments most days from customers at work. "Shouldn't you be in school? you look about 12!" and "How old are you?!". Comments like these bother me and sometimes ruin my whole day. I get the same comments on a night out from strangers. I don't mind joking around with family and friends because they understand me, but when I receive patronising looks and comments from people I don't know, it works me up and my confidence goes downhill. The intellectual bullying I got at University never helped me get better. Now, at the age of 27, I still struggle everyday.

My anxiety hits me the most when people argue, even if it is just bickering. The fight-or-flight response kicks in and I panic and I feel like I’m in danger.

If somebody I’m living with goes out, goes to work, etc and is late coming back home, I immediately think something bad has happened and the stressor does not go away until that person is home. My husband finishes late from work, sometimes it can be later than usual if it’s been a busy night. My mind will always wander and I’ll pace around panicking until he gets home.

If I have to be up for work very early the next day, it interrupts my sleeping pattern, and I end up feeling the effects the following day. 

I feel fatigued and generally unwell. I have so many other anxieties, that would be too much to list. 

Due to embarrassment, feeling disappointment, feeling misunderstood, mocked by other people, and the stigma that surrounds mental health, I’ve been unable to express my feelings. Just like so many other people in this world that feel the same way as I do.

It’s a journey that I’m fighting every day. I have good and bad days. I still struggle to get out of bed on my weekends off and be productive, not because I’m feeling lazy - it’s just too hard. 

I know that I will have to live with this for the rest of my life and I’m continuing to improve my confidence and motivation, and trying to think of different coping mechanisms to help control my anxiety when I know it’s coming.

Lately, I have been reading other peoples’ blogs and it makes me feel better knowing I’m not the only one going through this. I love that so many other people are stepping out and expressing their feelings to help raise awareness for mental health disorders. Talking about your mental health is not “attention-seeking” and it pains me that some people think that is what this is all about.

I still struggle now talking about this in person, but I hope to connect with people who are in similar situations and to educate those who have no idea. This is my very first blog attempt and I’m hoping it’s the kickstart to help improve my mental well-being.

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Too many people are made to feel ashamed. By sharing your story, you can help spread knowledge and perspective about mental illness that could change the way people think about it.