As I said in a previous post, I do believe that one of the best things anyone who suffers from Anxiety can have is a strong support network. That isn’t to say people who are supported won’t suffer and people who aren’t will, its just something that has been key to my good mental health.
Turning 21 was a transition for me in terms of support networks. I had been suffering consistently, depending on my boyfriend completely to keep me on the straight and narrow. My new friends were finding it tiring and starting to act odd and I didn’t really have any true work friends. I would suffer from terrible lows at the way I found myself, deeply unhappy with how I looked, what I weighed, what I ate, what I wore, where I worked, my hobbies… the list goes on. And I found myself taking it out on my friends and family. The stress would get better of me and my flight or fight reaction would kick in, and needless to say I constantly tried to run. My boyfriend and I were best friends but I constantly felt too young to be in such a committed relationship, and yearned for the life of exploration and success I had once dreamt of. But I was happy and he was a tower of strength for me, especially in the months to come.
As I had said my friends were starting to act oddly towards me, two even came to my 21st birthday party and made a significant point of not talking to me. Sadly my memories of my 21st will forever be me dressed up as Marilyn Monroe sobbing outside the venue because of other peoples nastiness. I’m sure I wasn’t an easy friend to have but my friends were older and intelligent and had a good understanding of my problem. I have always been open and honest about my issues and hoped people understood and tolerated it.
Luckily a few weeks before my 21st I landed a new job, more money and more exciting, doing something I actually felt proud to do. In this role I was given responsibility and the chance to thrive. I also found significant people in my journey. I started working in a tiny office full of attractive, healthy confident people…. You can imagine how I felt!! But from these people I learnt life didn’t need taking as seriously as I had been. Sure I had to force them to understand that I didn’t want to hold myself back from doing things in life, that I couldn’t stop the overwhelming panic attacks. But once they had got their head around it, they were some of the most important and key people in the beginnings of my recovery.
I was pushed out of my comfort zone, taught to laugh at the silly things, and most importantly taught that I didn’t have to stand by and let people walk over me. I don’t think even they realise how much they helped me to move on from such a stagnant and unhappy part of my life.
I slowly drifted away from the girls who had made me so panicked for the last two or so years, whose main hobby was to bitch, and took comfort in friends who had been there for me since I started my first job post uni. Charlotte and Fit Ben (he has asked me to to call him that…) took me under their wing, I had always been there but they looked out for me, with Charlotte introducing me to her group of friends who quickly took me in and treated me as a long lost friend. I am aware I sound like a homeless puppy but thats how I felt, I had been passed over several times for a problem in my brain and with my hormones that I had no control over, but I had found a few people who saw the other side of me, the fun (!) ambitious sarcastic side.
These girls are now my best friends, each one of them an inspiration (but thats for another post)
With a little push from my office I also started working out again, I had lost my way when I had met my boyfriend, but one of the lads gave me some guidance again and soon I was training every lunch time, I also started experimenting with what I was eating and slowly I started to lose weight at a steady pace.
This period in my life took me from one of the lowest points to one of the highest, and through friends, exercise and diet I learnt to control my anxiety. I still had my boundaries in my place, but I had reached a milestone. I no longer had regular panic attacks!! I got stressed out and I worried, but I could stop the panic. Being creative and using my hands became a way to release pent up frustration, and endorphins helped me on stressed out days in work.
I was slowly starting to gather myself back together.
And then the recession hit!