Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Some Thoughts on Anxiety and Progress

Three years ago I dropped out of school, stopped leaving the house, and lost all but one of my friends in the process.

Two years ago, I was finally diagnosed with chronic anxiety and panic disorder.

One year ago, things hadn't changed much. I was leaving the house, but I was still struggling to do normal things.

Today? I've just got home from yet another job interview. It's boiling hot and I'm wiped out, but I'm still going to the cinema with friends tonight - the fourth time this month. Today's interview was my second of the summer, and I have two more later this week.

And whether I get a job at the end of all this or not, I class it as a success. 

Because three years ago I couldn't stand outside of my front door for more than a minute without being consumed by anxiety and retreating inside. It took months of exposure therapy to start going out again: first with my parents, and eventually on my own. It was like learning to walk again, like building up to where I'd happily been before the winter of 2012. 

Agoraphobia wasn't my only issue. Speaking to anyone other than my parents was a Big Deal I often avoided by hiding in my room whenever we had visitors. And there was my Emetophobia, too, which meant lugging around supplies 'just in case' wherever I went, no matter how inconvenient.

And I still struggle with these things. Today's job interview made me so anxious I couldn't eat - but I didn't run away from the situation like I used to. I got on the train, I walked through the narrow, cobbled, crowded streets, I stopped outside the shop where I'd applied for the job, and took a few deep breaths, gathering myself together, before walking in and saying, 'Hi, I'm here for a job interview?' Firm handshake, wide smile and perky YouTube persona switched on, and anxiety pushed to the pit of my stomach.

I was friendly, polite and professional. I felt hot, sick, and like my heart was racing at 100mph. But no one would have thought I was anything but completely normal and unfazed, and it was fine. Nothing bad happened. I didn't freak out. All was well.

Resource: Talkspace, an online therapy app that connects users with licensed professionals.

The same can be said for the other job interview I had a few weeks ago, and I'm sure it'll be the same again for my two other interviews at the end of the week. 

Anxiety is hard no matter how old you are, but when you're a teenager, it can be even trickier: everyone around you is working, learning to drive, maybe even moving out - and you're stuck on the sofa with a book and a bag of crisps to call friends. 

I still have anxiety. There are a lot of things I really struggle with - I know I wouldn't be able to go to a mainstream school all day every day, and there are certain places I just couldn't work in regardless of how much I needed the money. Sometimes a wave of panic will hit me for absolutely no reason. Who knows, this time next year I might be back in a place where normality is impossible once again.

But what I've done this summer proves that it doesn't have to be forever. Anxiety changes, and so do you.

To the people who are where I was three years ago, bored out of your mind, worried that you'll never be able to earn a living, wondering if this is it forever - you'll get through it. Time heals, and progress is always possible.


  1. This post is so inspirational and full of hope! I love seeing how far you've come and I think looking back on it , it becomes obvious how well you're doing. I really admire how well you're tackling any obstacles in your way.
    Well done,

  2. Amber, thank you so much for this post! My anxiety has been pretty bad the past few weeks again and it was really inspiring reading about how well yours is doing! So thank you so much for writing this! <3

  3. Congratulations! It's fantastic hearing about what progress you've made! Also job interviews are hell whether you have anxiety or not but when talking to strangers - especially about yourself - is one of your Worst Things that makes it so much harder! But I got through it and have a job and you're getting through it and will hopefully have a job. Good luck! :D

  4. Beautifully said! Thank you for speaking openly about your experiences. I feel like the more people talk about anxiety, the less stigmatized it will become. Good luck will all the interviews!

  5. Hope this comment goes through - tried before & not managed it - but yr post above makes me try again. Yes -well done - I never experienced yr problems but can sympathise a bit as know a 50 yr old man who suffers a bit like you and he only just manages as he sometimes admits its too hard for him to mix with other people. Hope you continue to improve - what can I say - just proud to know you. John S.

  6. Huge congrats - You've made soo much progress, you should be really proud of yourself! I've never had anxiety the way you have, but I used to that girl who would do nothing for herself. I couldn't even call for a takeaway! Then I moved to China, now I'm quite content to mime a chicken to get my dinner lol. Anyway, good luck with the job hunting! :)