Having lived with anxiety for 2 and a half years as my own dirty secret, taking the conscious decision to talk about anxiety openly was a big step for me. I have a successful and demanding job that of paired with anxiety would not work. I have a list of judgemental friends that if they knew would ridicule me. Family members would use it against me as a sign of weakness. Speaking out about my anxiety at one point in my life was just not an option, and I kept the people that know to a bare minimum.
As mentioned previously, it was New Year’s Eve 2014 where I decided enough was enough. If conquered a lot of my anxiety issues, and was ready to accept it and be confident about my struggle, and most of all I was ready to speak out.
However, when I thought about it, thought about the stigmas attached to anxiety and other mental illnesses, I wasn’t ready to be judged, ridiculed and given a weakness. So I created an anonymous Twitter account, @anxiwarrior, where I would talk openly about my battles with anxiety and offer as much support as I could to people who may need it. It felt great! I was able to talk out, share my stories, have people telling me ‘me too!’ so I wasn’t alone. I offered help and people seemed to benefit from my advice and experience which was my sole intention as I’m a strong believer in ‘if one person is helped then I’ve had it for a reason’.
As my followers have grown, I noticed how ‘anonymity’ is a trend, with a lot of my followers choosing to do the same, and it really amazes me. In a time when freedom of speech and acceptance are key, people are unable to speak up about their difficult struggles and resort to being anonymous.
I really hope that one day we can beat stigma around anxiety and other mental health issues. I hope statements such as ‘crazy’ and ‘loony’ from the likes of Katie Hopkins stop being published in the media. I hope employers aren’t able to dismiss people easily. I hope our friends will offer an ear and be just that – friends.
Over the last few months I’ve opened up to people that are important, I told my best friend the reason I don’t go to football anymore, I stood up to my employer and said ‘you won’t judge me anymore, and I won’t apologise for it’. Slowly but surely I’m standing up for myself, and hopefully one day we all can.