With tomorrow (14th May) marking the beginning of mental health awareness week, I thought I’d share a recent ‘memoir’ I wrote about my anxiety. The memoir I wrote was for an application for an internship role at Cosmopolitan magazine UK.
I am a faulty smoke detector. Imagine two smoke detectors next to one other. They both appear to be working fine. You light a match across the room and only one of them goes off. You might think the alarm is overly sensitive. That it’s faulty or broken. Well, my brain is the faulty alarm.
I often use an analogy of two smoke detectors to attempt to describe anxiety. I still remember my first wave of anxiety at the age of 10 when approaching a school trip to Manchester from my home in Blackpool. Two weeks prior to it I began to feel constantly sick and nervous. I suffer badly with travel sickness and can make myself ill with anxiety prior to a trip, even now at the age of 21. The week before the trip, I refused to go into school because I felt “ill”. Little did I know what I was feeling was my first ever proper episode of anxiety.
At my lowest and most anxious times, I can feel like the weight of the world is literally on my shoulders and it crushes me further and further into the ground; sometimes the weight is so heavy I struggle to get back up again. Other times it feels like there’s an invisible rope tied tight around my chest making it hard to breathe and my heart beats so fast I feel like it’s about to break through my rib cage.
The next episode of my anxiety started in sixth form. I struggled with the transition from going to a small high school of 800 to a sixth form of over 1600 students. I began to find myself physically unable to sit in a classroom environment. Sweaty palms, dry mouth, knotted stomach, heart racing: you name it, I’d have felt it. It got to the point where it was a battle to leave my house and I no longer enjoyed socialising. I went from an outgoing, sociable teenager to a nervous, depressed wreck – I became a shell of the person I once was.
“I can feel like the weight of the world is literally on my shoulders and it crushes me further and further into the ground.”
University was a complete write off for me when my anxiety was at its peak. The idea of moving away from home was incredibly hard and at times I believed I just couldn’t do it. But I knew journalism was my passion, so I pushed myself. University has been a rollercoaster for me; it’s included both the best and worst times of my life but it’s made me a stronger version on myself. My anxiety is like a demon in my head, and everyone at some point in their lives need to face their demons – and that’s what I’ve done.
At times I’ve felt the odds were truly against me. I wasn’t sure I’d finish my first year of sixth form, let alone graduate from university.
Following this memoir, I got to the interview stage for the internship role – over 500 people applied for the position and only 5 were interviewed, including myself. Sometimes, it really is just about believing in yourself…