Here in the UK it’s mental health awareness week. So never has it been a more appropriate time to say – I’m winning my battle. You can too. Let me tell you how.
I’ve suffered with anxiety since I was a child.
It’s manifested itself in so many different ways, with the major one being social anxiety and regular feelings of failure and doom.
But I never stopped challenging myself. At first it began with little challenges. I made myself go back to college to study my A levels. From there I found some solace within the protective walls of a university to study my bachelors degree.
At first I didn’t make any friends. But I eventually got talking to people on my course and I fell in with a group.
The next challenge was to find a part time job. Let me tell you how a few years previously, before I went to college, I went through the stages of not being able to function. I couldn’t answer the phone at home. I couldn’t walk outside without the fear that there were pairs of eyes on me from every direction. I couldn’t look anyone in the eye. I felt so inadequate, so ugly. Especially in front of my relatives. I lacked confidence in myself.
But as I grew older, I continued to push myself. Oh, I suffered…My, how I suffered. But I persisted. Because I didn’t want to fall into that deep, dark pit of depression. There was always a cloud of doom following me around sure, but the dark pit was out of bounds. I didn’t want to feel what I felt previously down there. I stayed out of it. I just about managed to keep my head above water, because I forced my legs to continue to kick; no matter how slow.
After I got a part time job in retail things began to look up. In my interview I actually told the assistant manager that the job would give me confidence in myself. This was my first proper job. I told them the truth they gave me a chance. Don’t be afraid to let people help you. And I made all the right noises in terms of capability too. So I got the job. I remember the day I got that phone call. I couldn’t be happier.
What followed were years of a series of challenges from then on. One tiny challenge led to a cascade of bigger ones. And bigger ones. Until my anxiety was well and truly under control.
I finsihed university; I got another job which pushed at the boundaries of my anxiety. Every day was a struggle but I did it. Can you believe I ended up speaking to hundreds of people a week in my job in customer service? From zero to a hundred. Literally!
As my job progressed, so did my confidence. But though I was moving away from customer service and into digital relations in my job, I still had a sense of failure. I didn’t want to just be able to work, and make friends, and have a boyfriend, and a social life, all of which I had some of. It wasn’t great but hey – it existed.
I wanted to succeed. I didn’t want just a job, which by the way for someone with severe anxiety since childhood was a mighty achievement. I wanted a career.
And so, with a little financial help from the UK government, off I went to study a Masters degree at university. Guess what? I went all the way to the other side of the country. Yep. A northerner travelled south. My biggest challenge to myself yet.
It’s bloody fantastic. I have enjoyed every single minute.
In my next blog I’ll explain the amazing thing that happened next. But in the meantime challenge yourself. Even if it’s tiny. Go out of your comfort zone, even if it’s for ten minutes.
Take a leap of faith. I promise you… it will absolutely be worth it.