For Beth, Katie & Caitlin.
I wasn’t sure whether to post this sort of blog, but it would seem that sometimes you just need to be honest with yourself before others can start to believe in you. I never wanted this to happen, I never asked for it, and I certainly don’t think I’ve ever done something to deserve it; but three years ago I was diagnosed with general anxiety disorder. An illness I’d actually never heard of and couldn’t understand.
Before I knew what was happening I was having up to seven panic attacks a day. Mix that with a bit of asthma and it became unbearable. I felt like I was trapped. I couldn’t go to college, I would convince myself that I was actually stupidly ill with the flu or something until my mum or dad told me to have the day off. There were times that I was fine until I got out of my dad’s car and ended up running back to him and telling him to quickly drive away.
I ended up quitting college. My attendance was poor anyway – I think the highest it had been for the two years I’d been was about 88% and that was only because it was the first week. I quit because the course bored me. I was studying health and social care in the hopes of becoming a social worker so I could help others in similar situations to me (something I won’t go into). But I realised that if I couldn’t help myself, there was no way I could convince others to take my advice. I couldn’t do it. I wouldn’t have been able to manage.
I was at home for a year. Unable to leave the house, unable to leave my room, I may as well have been in a prison. I can’t imagine what my parents went through. I was unresponsive – locked inside my own head. The only way to get out was to stand on all of my worries and insecurities, pretending like they weren’t there, to only fall off and be right back where I started. It was a never-ending cycle that I couldn’t complete any longer.
My GP offered counselling and therapy. Both of which I tried and hated. I don’t particularly like talking about my problems. I felt like I was reminding myself of everything I wanted to forget. It was simply pointless. At that point I was my own therapist – if that’s even possible. I knew the only person who could help me, was myself. I was the one that knew when I was having a panic attack and how I could stop them or at least tone them down. I was the one who knew when I was feeling anxious.
Just when I thought I was getting on top of everything, it all went pear shaped. A ‘friend’ of mine told my best friend that it seemed like I was lying. That I’d missed another friends 18th birthday because I couldn’t be arsed to go. That hurt. The trust I had in anyone fell through and I couldn’t talk to anyone about general feelings let alone the anxiety, so I shut myself away – again.
The panic attacks came back, ten times worse this time and another half year had gone by. I was bored. I was bored of being home with nothing to do apart from paint my nails and brush my hair. So I did the only thing I could, and the only thing that I wanted to. I blogged about F1.
It seemed stupid at the time. “No one would read this”, “This is pointless” I would tell myself. Yet I carried on because it was keeping me occupied. My mind was focused on something other than negative thoughts. Soon after I dragged GP2 and GP3 into it and became pretty much obsessed with writing. I wanted to do it every day. I then got offers from websites asking to write for them freelance, so of course I said yes. It was almost a job.
Then I got my big break. I saw a careers advisor because my grades from high school were shocking. To give you a rough idea I only passed about 5 GCSE’s and failed science so badly that I only just scraped an overall E grade. The careers advisor forwarded me to a friend of his who was a sports journalist and worked at Staffs Uni. I emailed him, telling him everything and then went to meet him.
I was offered a position to do the Sports Journalism degree on the spot.
I ended up deferring a year because I simply wasn’t over the worst of my anxiety. The thought of being in lecture halls with hundreds of people freaked me out and I just couldn’t go.
The next year, or should I say this year however, has been totally different. I decided to live in halls so I had no way of leaving and so I wasn’t depending on my parents. The first week was definitely hard, but the first week is always scary. After that I seemed to forget about everything. I love my course, I love my friends, I love this University.
Since the New Year, I’ve had some pretty amazing opportunities. I attended the Zoom F1 charity auction, I’ve written in The Times and The Sunday Express. I’m due to fly to Monaco in May for the Formula E to help Chris with the Zoom event. And I’ll be going to Belgium, Hungary and potentially Italy to cover GP2 for Rumble Strip News. That’s four Grands Prix if you include going to Silverstone as a fan – everyone has to sit trackside for once and remember why they want to work in the sport, right?
The reason I decided to write and publish this is because mental health is a growing illness. More people have it than you know. It’s not ‘cute’ or ‘fashionable’ and it’s certainly not something to brag about it. Anyone suffering from anything from depression to anxiety should know there is a way out, but you need to trust and believe in yourself before you’ll find your help. I wish I could tell you that it’s easy, but I won’t lie to you. I wish I could say I’m completely over it, but truth is I still have days where I feel like anything and everything is going wrong. I get stressed and anxious about even the teeniest of things, but you learn to manage and cope. It just takes time and you have to be patient. You don’t have to go through anything alone.