It’s been a strange few weeks, tackling overwhelming anxiety that I’ve been in control of for so long, and fighting to ensure I stay in control. I’ve been thinking about my anxiety a lot, about where it is at the moment, what I do to live with it, but more importantly, where it started.
My childhood was standard. Both parents playing a big part in my life, generally good. I was never great with being centre of attention, I hated being made to feel embarrassed, and could be a bit shy, but nothing more than what most kids would feel like. However, this changed drastically when I was 10. My parents split up and my whole world was turned upside down. My dad left, and we were on our own. The man who I looked up to and relied on to look after us wasn’t around anymore, and I’d just become the man of the house. My earliest memory of anxiety was at the age of 10, I was in the middle of the turmoil and watching my mum struggle at 5 stone to make sure we had food on our table. One morning, when I’d gotten ready for school, I had an overwhelming dread that I didn’t want to go to school. I didn’t want to leave my mum, I wanted to stay with her and just make sure we were alright. It got closer and closer and all I remember is throwing up in the dining room all over the floor. My mum knew something was wrong, so took me to the doctors. They went through the usual ‘are you being bullied?’ I wasn’t. ‘Has something bad happened there?’ It hadn’t. I just didn’t want to go. I was asked more questions about how I felt, and in the end diagnosed with depression, handed some tablets and we were sent on our way.
This was my first experience of knowing what’s anxiety could do to me. I didn’t know what anxiety was, what depression was, I didn’t even know I had it. Over the next 5 years I went through a lot. I was forced to meet the woman my dad had an affair with when he picked us up one day and said ‘you’re going to meet her and you haven’t got a choice’. At 10. I was told I’d be picked up to go to my dad’s, where I’d sit all dressed in my coat waiting for him to come – for him never to turn up. I was dragged into his car at around 14 while screaming down the phone to my mum (who later launched a tirade of abuse on him!). As I grew up, my relationship with my dad then became strained, I’d be in situations I hated and would make myself ill, I would be awful to friends in order to have some ‘control’, I gained a lot of weight. But you know what? I got through it. I grew confident, I became a nice guy, I respect people and value friendship so much.
I didn’t know what anxiety was. I didn’t even think my growing up made a difference, but it definitely did. During my CBT I was asked questions about it and it dawned on me. I’ve ALWAYS had an anxiety disorder. I struggle with the physical aspects that come with anxiety, only now it’s much more present in day to day life.
I made the decision 5 years ago to no longer speak with my dad, and in turn I no longer speak to that side of the family. But you know what? Sometimes it’s important to stand up, take a bow and decide ‘I’m leaving my past where it belongs and fighting for a future’.
I guess there is a moral to this story. At 10 I had nothing. My mum worked 50+ hours a week to help us, but eventually lost the house. We were forced to move house and had to find new friends. But it did turn out alright.
I’m 28. I graduated from university. I have a well paid job supporting myself comfortably. I lost 6 stone, I have a beautiful girlfriend who supports me as much as she can. I have a perfect family around me which, all be it small, is a loving group of people.
What stands out is that through all of those, I’ve had issues with my anxiety. It was with me when I was rock bottom, and it’s with me when things seem to be going well. It’s not what anxiety does to you, it’s how you deal with it.
If I could change what happened to me, I would do it all again as it’s made me who i am today. Always remember, ‘if you’re going through hell, keep going’.