Today, you can say that I did something brave. Today, I sat in front of a nurse and talked about something that has been impacting my life for a long time - anxiety. I worry a lot. Okay, I worry too much. But I don't just worry about the odd thing, it's constant. I'm not panicking over college work, and then it's on to something else, and then when I go to switch off and sleep, it takes a long time for my brain to stop worrying and thinking through what happened during the day to actually fall asleep.
I knew that I had some kind of anxiety, because no matter how many teachers told me that 'Oh, everyone gets nervous and worries about things!' I was never convinced that the cold sweats, pins and needles, heart palpitations and tears something like being called on in to answer a question class could cause were down to the same kind of nerves that everyone experienced. So you could say that I always had a suspicion that my pretty much constant anxiousness was because of something more than general nerves.
But thinking you have something is not as good as being actually told you have something. Well, according to most people, anyway - not me. But until today, whenever I told people that I was an anxious person before I had to do something that made my heart have palpitations, my hands shake and made me want to cry - I was always told that 'You're just nervous! Everyone gets nervous! You'll be fine once you do it.' Funnily enough, I never am. No matter how many times I do public speaking, I'm still just as anxious. It's almost like I never was 'just nervous' in the first place...
I guess that's why I'm writing this post. Because today, after years of being frustrated at people who would just brush off my anxiety as being a 'diva' or 'just being nervous', I finally have the one thing that will make them take me seriously. A diagnosis. (This needing of an official diagnosis to be taken seriously about a condition is another blog post in itself, actually...)
So yeah. I have anxiety. Specifically, I have social anxiety, as well as elements of a general anxiety disorder. Wow. You have no idea how pleased I am to be able to say that.
'Wait, how can you be pleased to say you have a mental illness?' I hear you cry. Good question.
Here's my answer: When you've been told that what feels to you like a brick wall, stopping you do really easy things like talking on the phone and even leaving the house, is nothing at all - that actually, it's something that most people just deal with - you start to feel pretty rubbish about yourself. Because what everyone else just deals with isn't like your brick wall. It's like a door that's hard to open, but can be passed through, closed, and forgot about for a while. But you're still stuck there, stopped by that brick wall.
When other people are out doing and accomplishing things that you can't because of you being so anxious, you obviously aren't experiencing the same thing as everyone else, but you aren't really listened to, because a doctor hasn't agreed with you... Yeah. It's not great.
So that's why I'm pleased to finally be told that 'Chloe, you have anxiety.' Not because I do actually have it. But because I was right, I do have that brick wall. I wasn't just making it up all along. (Because after a while, you even start believing what people tell you.)
Yes, the appointment was scary. (The night before, I was literally an anxious person being anxious about an appointment about their anxiety.) I was this close to cancelling it. If I didn't have my Mom and Dad supporting me, I might have done. But I'm very lucky to have them, and the nurse was lovely - so I finally got my answer, and my diagnosis.
I know it's scary, talking to people about things like this, so if you take anything away from this post, let it be this: If you are in my position, if you think you might have anxiety, or any other kind of mental illness, please speak to a friend, family member or even GP, if you can. You'll feel so, so much better afterwards, especially when you can start working on getting better. You have nothing to be ashamed of, in fact, you're really, really brave, because you're not only dealing with something difficult, but you're making the necessary steps to get better.
Personally, I'll be embarking on some CBT therapy soon, but whatever path you embark on to get your anxiety/mental illness manageable, at least people will start listening, and we can finally start taking apart that brick wall. Bit by bit.