This is the first blog post of a series I have called "Anxiety Insight" which other people suffering from anxiety get to share their stories with my readers too. This insight really will show how diverse and different anxiety is from person to person. Part one in this series is Belle's story. Belle* is a 23 year old student who has suffered from anxiety for 9 years...
"For years I never knew what was wrong with me. I suppose it started when I was 14. I was really really poorly with a virus over Christmas and stayed off school for about a month, then when I went back I just remember being so scared. The fear that I had when I was outside of the house and at school meant that I stopped eating because I was so scared of getting ill and being sick again. Every morning was a constant battle with my Mum to not go to school.
After a while my Mum went to the doctors on my behalf and explained how I was. I had lost between 1 and 1.5 stone in a month so I had to go the doctors and talk about how I was feeling. At this point I still didn't know what was wrong with me. Eventually, I got referred to CAMHS (Child and Adolecent Mental Health Services) where I was diagnosed with an eating disorder at the age of 17. This was solely down to the fact that I didn't eat because of the fear of becoming ill like I was over that Christmas again.
While all this was going on, my anxiety had progressed to the point where I was unable to even leave the house at all some days, and if I was able to leave, I had a huge checklist of things I had to take with me in order to make me feel safe. I would take plastic bags in case I was sick, three bottles of water (I hardly ever took a sip out of one let alone 3, but I would worry that I would run out of water if I only took one bottle), ginger biscuits to settle nausea, hair bobbles and hair grips in case I was sick in public and lots of tablets. Paracetamol, ibuprofen and antiemetics galore. In reality I never needed them. It was the only way I'd go out of the house.
Only in recent years have I been able to accept and understand that my anorexia diagnosis was incorrect and was only given to me by CAMHS due to the fact my fear of the unknown outside the four walls of my safe home was causing me not to eat. What I was actually suffering from was anxiety. I have since tried to get this diagnosis label removed as its got in the way of things in my life and nearly prevented me from getting a place on my course at university.
I was referred for Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) which in my opinion hasn't worked for me. I soon realised that I had to accept what was wrong with me and find my own ways of dealing with it all. Something that helps me a lot with my anxiety is tackling each little thing at a time and not expecting everything to be fixed over night. Knowing everything I've accomplished, and the things I've got through, proves it can't control my life and I understand now that there are going to be down days and things I struggle with but I stay positive and remember how well I've done. I have to try my best with things that trigger my anxiety, and if it doesn't go to plan, I try again another day.
I think something that I would like others dealing with anxiety to know is that it does get better. I'm proof of that. I've gone from not being able to leave the house and having my attendance at school at 42% during my GCSE year, to studying for a university degree that will get me a job that I've wanted my whole life. My anxiety controlled my life to the point where I didn't have a life. It's been 9 years, and it's important to note that I do still struggle but I am 110% better than I was and ever thought I could be."
*names have been changed to protect the identity of the individual