(Melbourne, Victoria, Australia)
My name is Larisa and I am 18 years old.
Throughout my childhood and teen years, I have suffered with generalised anxiety. Panic attacks in the car on the way to school, at school and anxiety attacks that have occasionally ended up in ED. I have felt worthless, alone, ugly and lost. At my lowest points I would do nothing all day and wouldn’t leave the house.
I had many opportunities to build on potential friendships, but social anxiety held me back. My school attendance was very poor and the more I didn’t go the more anxious I was to go back. I had friends but was worried what they would think of me after missing so many days of school. I thought moving from school to school and starting over again with attendance would solve it, but I was just running away from my problems. I would fall back into the same cycle and my poor attendance would continue.
There were good friendships and there were the bad, just like any person will experience regardless of anxiety. However, because of poor self-esteem issues I let some people walk on me and involved myself in toxic relationships.
I let anxiety define me as a person and used it as an excuse for everything. I thought I was entitled to be treated like a ‘special butterfly’ and I treated people terribly. Just because I had anxiety it did not entitle me to be nasty.
It may take a long time, but until you get to the point where you realise you need help that’s when the ball will start rolling. Obviously what I was doing was not working, so seeking help from various professionals was important. It may take a few times to find a counsellor or psychologist to click with, but they will be able to help you work through your anxiety. They will provide you with knowledge, tools and skills to implement into your life that will help with your mental illness. However, you have to put them into place because they can’t. It can be hard to accept at first, but only you as an individual have the power to change.
An important thing I learnt and I believe suffering people sometimes don’t want to accept is that you cannot rely on other people to overcome anxiety as a whole. Don’t go out seeking a friendship, especially a relationship, thinking it will heal you. It is important to have their support and be able to confide in them, but they won’t fix you.
You can make up excuses about what you can and can’t do, but it won’t solve anything. I had to learn to throw myself in the deep end and also literally ‘harden the f*** up’. It was scary, challenging and I was riddled with anxiety. I didn’t necessarily conquer my anxieties, but they turned into less stressful events, for example answering the phone. It didn’t happen overnight, it took persistence and resilience, but the grass is greener on the other side. I am able to attract so much more positivity into my life because I don’t hold onto the negative.
In regards to attracting positivity and negativity, I believe social media plays an aspect. I do believe social media is a fantastic platform to spread awareness on mental health and is comforting and inspiring to read articles. At first I never wanted to post about my anxiety on social media because I didn’t want people to know about it publicly. When I understood anxiety more I was more open to share about it, but never on social media. Social media may be a great for some to express themselves, but by putting it out there on my social media page it would be labeling me as the girl with anxiety. There were times when I was feeling really low where I thought posting about being anxious would get me attention, however that attention wouldn’t resolve my issues. I know some people like the attention they get out of it, but it’s not always healthy. It is feeding your anxiety by letting it creep into every aspect of your life. My belief was if I was going to post about my anxiety, that was what I was putting out into the world and what I would get back.
I am not ‘cured’ of anxiety. I still have many more things to overcome and improve on. I have my down days and panic attacks here and there, that’s okay.