Back in February Hidden Beneath was approached by the nonprofit organization, Walk On who had joined forces with Student Minds, (a charity that helps university students with mental health in the UK) to take part in a charity fashion show at Dundee University. I immediately felt the need to take part because during the last year of my university education I developed anxiety issues.
I believe I'm over it for the most part, but I thought I’d share my story for those who aren’t or for those who just want a distraction. It always helps to know other people are going through what you did/are and came out on the other side.
One of the best things about getting older is the gift of hindsight and experience. I can look back at my last year at uni and know what the trigger was. For me, it was not knowing what to do after I had left. I had been in education since I was 5 years old until I was 22. I was told what to do by teachers, I had schedules, homework yearly goals. It was all very safe and structured and I didn't really have to make any life-altering decisions. My hand was held tightly by adults for a long time but, then I left uni and they let go of my hand but I wasn't ready. I was of adult age but my brain was nowhere near ready to handle real life and I needed help and guidance which I never got. Looking back even now I felt let down by every 'adult' in my life, why didn't anyone ask me what my plan B was? I say this but my generation could have never been prepared for what was about to come.
I did an extra year at uni in the form of a foundation art degree at Wimbledon School of Art so I actually left university life a year later than most of my friends. By the time I left they all had jobs or had moved on to PHDs etc. I looked at them and wondered how had they made that decision because I didn't have a clue what to do. Ironically, I had no intention of getting a job in fashion. I was sick of it by the end. A couple of months before I graduated I started going for very long runs. At the time I didn't really think much of it, I just knew I felt good afterward. Now looking back I know that I was running away from what I was feeling. I was desperate to stay in London but I graduated in 2008, when the recession started and to get a creative job I needed more unpaid experience and I couldn't afford to live in the city for free. I reluctantly left England and went back home to Jersey. 5 months later I eventually caved and got a job in finance. This is where the anxiety reared its ugly head.
I had lost a bit of weight over the course of the 4 years. Mostly by educating myself on healthy eating along with the running. I lost even more weight when I got back home but this wasn't in a healthy way. I hadn't noticed it myself but I wasn't eating much. The anxious energy was also feeding off me and getting my weight down to around 8 stone at its lowest. My friends started asking if I was ok but I didn't know what they were talking about. I've never really been good with emotions so I just said 'yes'.
One day I woke up physically shaking and absolutely terrified. I wasn't sure what I was terrified of, I couldn't put the feelings into words so I didn't want to talk to anyone about it thinking that people would think I was stupid or weird, overreacting, something dramatic and perhaps not take me seriously. Looking back I perhaps tried to reach out in my own way but no one saw it.
A couple of days of feeling like this had me worn down. I thought that if I wasn't here then I wouldn't feel like this and it would all stop. I'm not sure if that classified as a suicidal thought but I knew I had had enough. I eventually tried to tell my boyfriend and basically had a breakdown. He booked me a doctor's appointment and didn't make me feel stupid. I felt listened to for the first time in a long time and I almost felt better instantly.
I was put on beta-blockers and had CBT therapy which really helped, I also quit my accountancy job, which also played a part. My head is not made for offices and numbers. Long story short it got so much better once I took a break, took control and went back to being creative. Creativity is my lifeline, it's in my soul and it's something I continually go to if life feels a bit too much and it always makes me feel better. If you haven't found your lifeline yet and you feel like your anxiety is getting too much please just talk to someone. Every feeling is valid even if it doesn't make sense for that situation and what you're feeling at that moment is not stupid and you're not pathetic for being unable to deal with it and I'm here too if you need me. x