It’s a weird thing anxiety, and if you’ve never had it I’m not sure you’ll ever be able to fully understand it. I don’t mean that in a patronising way, but on days that I don’t feel anxious I even struggle to rationalise or understand my own past thoughts.
When I look back at myself in 6th form, around age 17/18 I feel like I barely recognise myself, and sometimes I long for the careless, confident Chloe I once was back. I’d strike up conversations anyone, be the first to say yes to going on a night out and I’d always go to things even if I didn’t know anyone going and be so excited to meet new people. I’m not too sure what happened but I feel like this all changed during my first year at University. I started to get thoughts and feelings which I now know were anxiety – i feel like this slowly but surely chipped away at me and my confidence.
It started with meeting people in the library – which sounds ridiculous. I would never ever go into the University library unless I knew exactly what floor my friend was sat on and where their desk was. If I didn’t know exactly where someone was sat I had this overbearing thought that everyone was looking at me and thought I looked stupid. How ridiculous! Of course no one was looking at me or even cared – this then leaked into other areas of my life, I would never go to the pub/lacrosse training/pres etc the list goes on, unless I knew exactly where people were going to be when I arrived.
I then started getting anxiety in social situations, this I really really struggled with as I knew it was so unlike me. It’s crazy because the one thing we’re taught from the second we can say our first word is how to talk to people, how to ask questions and how to hold conversations. But when I was on my semester abroad in Australia I noticed that when with certain people I would get so anxious and forget how to do exactly that. My brain would go into overdrive and I’d think things like: ‘What do I ask next?’ ‘I have absolutely nothing in common with this person they’re going to think I’m so boring’ ‘This person thinks I’m boring.’ ‘Why are they talking to me?’ ‘God, I bet they wish then never started talking to me now’. It was so irrational and left me feeling like the social and confident side of me had completely disappeared. Where had the girl who used to love meeting and talking to new people gone?
When I started working it followed me. Commuting during rush hour would be horrendous and now I always try to get a later train to miss the crowds and I avoid busy tubes at all costs. There was one specific day I remember when I couldn’t keep my thoughts quiet and I got so overwhelmed. I thought I was going to have a panic attack, my lungs couldn’t take in enough air, my chest was getting tighter and my mind would flick from one thought to another in 0.2 seconds. I remember the exact thoughts running through my head so clearly: ‘Where are the windows on the train?’ ‘It’s really hot on here’ ‘Where are we getting air from’ ‘How are we breathing if there are no windows’ etc. they spiraled out of control and I had to sit on the floor and ask a stranger for water until I felt normal again. It’s weird because before the overthinking happens I can always tell it’s coming, my sense’s heighten and I am completely alert.
At my new job my anxiety started off really bad, but has definitely got better – although I do still have my moments. At the start I felt like I was a shell of a person – such a horrid feeling when all you want to do is portray your best self at work. To me, everything I said came across scripted and I was barely showing my personality at all, I sounded like a robot. Who knows if other people noticed or not, but I definitely did and I hate it. It’s only in the past couple of months I think I’ve really found my feet and started to feel a bit more me at work (even though everything is virtual at the moment) and I really hope that continues when we go back into the office
I don’t even know where I was going with this blog post, but I suppose it’s ended up being a bit of a story and to try and make people feel less alone as I know having anxiety can feel all consuming. The worst part of anxiety for me is when I unintentionally come across as rude, but it’s purely the voice in my head getting a little too loud and drowning Chloe out. I definitely have days where I feel like the person I was before Uni, and these have become more frequent recently, but I doubt she’ll ever be 100% back.
I’ll probably do another post on managing anxiety but all I know is that managing your mind and reducing the amount you mentally consume each day is so important to leading a mentally healthy life.
Have you ever experience anxiety before? If you have could you relate to any of the irrational thought processes above and what has helped you manage it best?
If you haven’t had anxiety before, do you think the above has helped you understand it a little more?
Hope you’re okay and thank you for reading, Chloe x