Anxiety for me was nothing genetic or a condition I was born with. It was a mental illness that developed over years of mental strain caused by the people and circumstances in my life. In many respects, I think people assume mental health is black and white, and the truth is, it’s not. For those people who decide mental health issues are the same as any old illness are ignorant. They are the people who have never experienced the torment of being unable to experience life, do what they want, or be who they want to be because of an illness which is holding them back and which they can’t control. In many ways, it’s cruel to say people can control mental illness easily when in reality, if we could control it, why wouldn't we?
My anxiety developed when I was fifteen after I entered a mentally and emotionally abusive relationship. I was only a child so my brain was easily manipulated. I was constantly reminded that I wasn't good enough, and that nobody would ever love me so I might as well not try. I was called a bitch, a slut, and many other cruel names daily for doing absolutely nothing. I was threatened and made to feel isolated. I couldn’t talk to other guys and any male friends I had, I was supposedly cheating on him with. When he cheated, it was my fault. How dare I ask him if he cheated when I had evidence? I couldn’t leave, as he would threaten suicide if I did.
Mental health is not a weapon to be used at your convenience. The boy was born insecure and he projected that onto me to make himself feel better. It would of been nice to say it didn't affect me, but after four and a half years in the relationship and constant emotional abuse, my brain gave way. I was constantly on edge and felt the desperate need to please people so that they would think I was worthy of their time. I was captured in his grasp because I hadn't known any other life since I was a child. My anxiety only worsened over time. I tried to work out for five months and in all honesty, it did help, but I still felt mentally trapped, scared by flashbacks of abuse. I was finally set free when he turned to emotionally abuse others right in front of me. He even physically beat my friend because I wouldn’t take him back, and again, he threatened suicide. I had to call his parents just to make sure he was monitored. Only then could I really see that it was him who triggered my now long life battle with anxiety.
Unfortunately, once I escaped the abusive relationship, my anxiety remained. It still affects me to this day. I took medication for anxiety for years and my mother broke down when I told her I was suffering severely from the illness. There had been zero history of it in our family. I felt awful for upsetting her but I couldn't help what had happened. My anxiety started to affect me, not just in my personal life but at work as well. I had to quit my job because I would have panic attacks daily. I would hide at work just to get some fresh air so I could breathe, but management started to notice my ongoing absence. My anxiety would start from my lower stomach and rise slowly to my throat until it felt like I was drowning. Waiting for it to go away when you're in a public situation is terrible as you must sit there in silent panic, holding back tears.
My anxiety is not social. I don't panic when I meet new people or friends and for that I feel very fortunate. My anxiety is more so, constant fidgeting. It's wringing your fingers with worry over nothing. It's not speaking for ages and hoping nobody notices your vocal absence. It's panicking, thinking you've said the wrong thing, or that you’ve hurt somebody's feelings. It's being unable to stand up for yourself and fight back because it may retort in a cruel way that will only further your anxious state. It's replaying your day in your head a thousand times and thinking: Why did I do that? It's not being able to sleep at night because you have a thousand thoughts going through your head and having people think you ramble too much when you speak because you don't know when to stop or that you should.
This type of anxiety, I feel, has become fashionable in the media; however, it is anything but. Sure, we all get anxious from time to time but when it is a constant battle with yourself to shut your brain up, it can be hurtful when people joke about it. To be fair, sometimes, with the right people, making a joke of it with others can ease the burden from you and make it appear less threatening, however for most of the time this is not the case.
A few years ago, I came off medication for a year, but my anxiety has slowly returned. Unfortunately, it has caused me to develop a stutter. My new partner helps to lighten it by making fun of it with me or laughing. If I couldn't laugh about it, I would be back where I was at the start, but I'm not, I'm stronger now. My anxiety still affects me daily, in that I still feel the need to please people, bottle up my anger, and shy away from talking, but those who know me would say I am upbeat, chatty, and kind. I don't necessarily hide it, but I try my best to show people who I truly am, rather than expose constantly expose the young girl who was traumatised from an abusive childhood relationship.
In many ways I believe I have become a better person for all of this. I think for anyone that suffers a traumatic experience during their childhood, and whom has the courage and strength to move on, accept and understand their mental illness should be commended. It’s a true achievement and shows the integrity of the human spirit for all the people battling with mental health issues. I strongly believe that we mustn't let those we trust, take advantage of us. My trust and naivety caused me to have a mental illness that will affect me, most likely, for the rest of my life. It has led me to depressive episodes where I have felt like there was no point in going on. Even this year, at my strongest, I still have frequently visited thoughts of suicide, and yet my life is so ideal. I have no reason to feel this way except for how that one person made me feel over and over and over again when I was just a child.
Born with mental health issues, or developed, they just make us who we are, and we are stronger people for it. I hope my story inspires others to be strong and share their story with the world.