I suffer from Generalised Anxiety and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I say suffer – it’s actually been a little while since it’s felt like pure suffering. It’s been some time since I’ve truly struggled to push myself through the day; it’s been some time since I’ve vacantly wept until I drifted off to sleep with a crying-induced headache. But even the times that things aren’t so bad…well, they’re still pretty far from pleasant.
Anxiety runs in the family. Through my dad, my nan, and various other branches of the tree. It’s something that I’ve quietly struggled with for as long as I can remember. As a child I was always terribly shy. I tried to avoid being a part of anything in secondary school, and longed to stay hidden away in the background (although it turned out, being an emo kid attracted plenty of attention).
In more recent years, my anxiety has become a lot more prominent in my life. My fear of answering phone calls or opening the front door is an issue that my parents have noticed and not quite understood. Whilst I’m slowly gaining confidence in these areas, it’s still a huge mission for me. Even at work now, I’ve been encouraged by my managers to start answering the phones whilst I’m sat in the office – which is my absolute worst nightmare.
I can identify times of overwhelming anxiety through some little characteristics. I often find myself forcing myself to yawn, as that seems to regulate my breathing. My left thigh will twitch. I become sensitive to a lot of sounds or physical contact. And at really bad times, I’ll go so light-headed that I struggle to stand. My anxiety can be debilitating at times.
When going out to a new place, I’m always filled with nervous thoughts – nothing to do with which people I may encounter, but mostly because of public toilets. The idea of not knowing where in a building the toilets are freaks me right out. Of course, I could always just ask somebody for help. However that’s not exactly my style. Instead, I’ll just spend as long as necessary working it out myself.
I have the occasional panic and anxiety attacks, which can be triggered by anything and everything. If there’s too much noise in my home (which tends to be a lot of the time, being in a house with six other people), if I make a bad cup of tea, if I get a direct message from someone other than the usual three people who I talk to. It can be absolutely anything. Sometimes it’s justifiable, but other times it’s a bit embarrassing.
But…it’s natural. This is who I am, it’s just the way my head seems to work. I accept that, and I’m doing the best I can.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
When I was 16-17, I experienced a lot. Enough to fill a fair few chapters, if I were to write a book about my life. On January 3rd 2015 I was raped in a hotel room in Croydon by somebody who I was working (although I use that word loosely) for at the time. A despicable character that has somewhat of a streak of grooming young girls like myself, showering them with gifts, money, freebies and alcohol. As a naïve 16-year-old girl, of course I wasn’t going to turn any of that down! Life was great. I was going out and socialising with people ten years my senior, being accepted and treated as one of their own. I felt important.
Six months after that incident, following a wrestling show in Camden, the same person filled my 17-year-old self with alcohol, forced kisses and unwanted contact upon me, and proceeded to follow me all the way home to Brighton, against my will. That night my parents contacted the police, and a lengthy, draining investigation began. This is where my PTSD stemmed from.
Following that assault, I spent about five days straight in my bed, with my phone switched off. I was completely shaken up, and had no idea where to go from there. I dropped one of my courses at college, which had long-term effects as it meant I could no longer take the university Advertising & Digital Marketing course I’d had my eye on for the following year.
That whole experience left me feeling more paranoid than ever and to this day I try to avoid sitting next to the window on trains or buses at all costs.
In May 2016, after much encouragement from the police and those around me, I finally decided to start receiving counselling. That was terrifying. Drove my anxiety absolutely off the charts. It was the same before each weekly, hour-long session. But by the end of each session, I felt great. I was able to get a lot off my chest, without the fear of disappointing those who were close to me.
Counselling allowed me to have honest discussions about ongoing struggles with self-injury, all of my feelings about my police investigation and that man, and my leftover feelings from a previous relationship. I discovered new ways to look at situations, and was introduced to new resources to get me thinking in a more rational, positive manner. One thing that I took away from counselling that I still have bookmarked on my laptop today is getselfhelp. There are so many helpful pieces of information and activities and tools for a wide range of “problems”, and I highly recommend it.
I think one reason why I found counselling so helpful was actually something very simple. It felt amazing just to know that I wasn’t making up all of these problems. It was great to have somebody identify my issues, and let me know that I am not the only person feeling that way.
After attending half of my scheduled sessions, myself and Karen had both started to notice great changes.
Where Am I Now?
Since August 2016, I would say that I’ve been doing quite well. I’ve been constantly taking steps into distancing myself further from negative things and people from my past. I have a better understanding of what is and isn’t important around me. I know how to look out for myself, and be more careful with who I put my trust into. I’ve even had friends notice a change, and tell me that I’ve seemed a lot happier over the past few months.
Every now and then, I’ll still find myself being taken over by anxiety unexpectedly, banishing me to my room to wallow in self-pity for a while. Sometimes I’ll question everything that I’m doing, and convince myself that none of it has any meaning. Occasionally I’ll catch myself replaying every single bad thing that I was put through by that rapist, and I’ll struggle to come out of that head space.
But these days, it’s much less frequent. I have more positive things to keep myself busy and distracted with, and you know what? I think I’m quite enjoying life. I love the people I talk to. I love having a rabbit to care for. I have a baby sister to inspire. I have new interests. I’ve taken up blogging as a way to get myself thinking about a whole range of things in an exciting, productive way. I quite like my job. I’m passionate about makeup. I’m proud to live a vegan life, and I’m often motivated to make and try new foods. It’s all a lot of fun, and I love having such positive, fun things in my life today.
I finally believe that I deserve happiness, and I’ll do whatever I have to do to create it. Seeking help and being open about my struggles has been one of my scariest, yet greatest routes I’ve decided to take in my life. Finding lots of great distractions has definitely been a huge helping factor, which has complemented counselling perfectly. I also can’t emphasise just how much speaking openly about my troubles and experiences has helped me to recover. I’ll always be open about the abuse I endured, and I’ll never give up on trying to bring some kind of positive change.