Friday, 20 January 2017


I don't know why this feels like the right time to write this post, but it just does so I'm going to go with it. 

I'm so pleased that we are talking about mental health a lot more as a society, but I truly feel like 'anxiety' is thrown around far too much and it's something that I would like to clear up a bit by sharing my own experiences with anxiety. Throughout the duration of this post, I do not mean to undermine people who are feeling stressed out and that things are getting on top of them, but I must emphasise that stress and anxiety, though closely linked, should not be considered as one.  I also want to share some of the ways in which I have learnt to deal with my anxiety, in the hope that it might help people who struggle to find some form of release from it. 

To those closest to me, the first reaction I almost always receive when I open up about my anxiety is very much a shocked one. People seem to be under the impression that because I'm quite confident and happy-go-lucky, in addition to the fact that I have always dabbed in and out of drama and dance, that I couldn't possibly suffer with anxiety....

Well the reality is, is that nobody has the same experiences with anxiety or the same triggers that set it off. On a week to week basis, I can have some weeks where I feel completely fine and I just get through the week, no matter how many stressful obstacles I have to overcome. But similarly, I have some weeks where my anxiety weighs heavy like a pain in my chest. It's really difficult to understand myself, let alone for anyone else who tries to interpret it but what I have learnt over time are my triggers and how to deal with them (kinda). 

I guess my first experiences with anxiety stem from Year 9, although I didn't realise what those feelings were at the time. I took the majority of my GCSEs a year early (so in Year 9) and the pressures of my school-work regime, in addition to keeping up with my out of school commitments such as dance. It's safe to say, trying to keep up with my work started to take its' toll on me. I've always been super critical of myself when it comes to work and it's something I still very much suffer with now. When we used to get an essay or a piece of work back at school, I would mostly pass but in subjects such as English, History and Geography I would do considerably better. I remember when people used to congratulate me on my mark and say that I should be really happy with it and I was, but I would have to desperately hide the fact that my mind was going into overdrive and I was over-analysing every little aspect of that single assignment. 

I know, completely irrational right? Yet that is the nature of living with anxiety. 

Anxiety is feeling like you're not good enough, all the time. It's wanting to feel motivated yet feeling completely demotivated at the same time. It's feeling a complete sense of unavoidable dread at events or actions that were once so routine and familiar to you which you simply cannot bring yourself to do anymore. 

At uni for example, I have found that I suffer from mild social anxiety in claustrophobic places like clubs. If you would have asked me five years ago if I could see myself having a panic attack in a club, I would have laughed in your face. I've always liked going on nights out and the more people, the better! But since I've been at uni, I've experienced really bad cases of anxiety on particularly busy student nights and as a result, I have grown to almost fear some student nights out (if you're local to Birmingham, I'm sure you can relate to the utter claustrophic hell that is Stuesdays, Snobs and Fab). It really bothers me sometimes. Especially when going to these places is essentially normalised at my particular uni and when you say you're not going, you're usually subject to a chorus of ''whats?!'' and ''but whys?!'' The truth is, I don't care anymore. If I feel like I can cope with these places, then I will go but I am not being pressured into going, nor am I going to be made to feel like I'm abnormal for avoiding an experience which tightens my chest and completely swamps me with fear and dread. 

Like I've briefly touched upon before, anxiety is kind of like a spectrum. It affects people in different ways and has different triggers and consequences on a person's mental health and well-being, but anxiety is inevitably characterised by a sense of inner-turmoil and unpleasant feelings of dread. Everybody will experience some form of anxiety during their lifetime but unfortunately for me, my anxiety is very much in the present and it's something I can't always avoid. Sure, I can say no to going to claustrophobic student nights out as many times as I would like but my anxiety is also triggered by my workload, which is something I can't avoid but am learning to deal with. 

As everyone can relate to, if you're at school, uni or in a working environment, we all experience various forms of stress related to the work we're doing. But the difference with experiencing stress and having anxiety, is often the critical sense of dread and inner-turmoil you go through. If I'm pretty stressed or bogged down with multiple assignments at once, anxiety usually follows suit. I become really critical of everything I'm producing and anxious that I'm not doing it right or that I'm not good enough, and so a little trail of thought I have in my mind spirals out further and further until quite frankly, I'm an absolute mess inside and out. 

I simply can't avoid this mindset I plummet into sometimes, as much as I would like to. But I am learning to deal with it a lot better when it does come about. 

For example, I use blogging and drawing as minute vices or rewards to power me through my work. I have so many important figures in my life who I use to offload different emotions to. My Mum and my boyfriend are my absolute rocks when it comes to my anxiety. They always know the right thing to say and the right things to do to calm me down and make me stop my seemingly inescapable moods of self-doubt. After a shit experience on a night out, it can be quite embarrassing. But my boyfriend always knows how to reassure me that feeling claustrophobic in clubs is actually quite a normal feeling and that I'm not 'boring' or weird for having a bad experience. 

So there you have it; the most open post I have ever written and I'm actually really glad I wrote it. Like I said earlier, this post was not written with the intention to undermine people who are going through a stressful time. It's just frustrating for me to see 'anxiety' and phrases like 'it makes me so anxious' so loosely and fluidly thrown around in conversations. 

I really hope that one day my anxiety becomes a thing of the past, but for now it's an unavoidable part of my life and something that I am learning to deal with. For those who suffer with anxiety, I would implore you to really think about your triggers and have the confidence to avoid experiences which are likely to bring your anxiety on, if you feel like it will be detrimental to your happiness and well-being. 

Antonia x 




    Great article Antonia! xx

    1. Thank you so much! Really happy that you read my article x


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