Anxiety finally broke me.

I've been feeling social anxiety, or at least what I assume is social anxiety, for as long as I can remember. When I was younger, back in school,  just assumed I was really shy and would magically grow out of it one day. As the years went on however, it became obvious that that wasn't going to be the case.

I decided to go to university purely because I didn't know what else to do since I didn't want to get a job. I basically thought of it as a continuation of school, just a little more specific, and didn't let myself think about the fact that it was completely my decision - I just thought of it as the next part of life after school. For the whole of the three years, the fact that I would have to get a job afterwards and actually face the "real" world was always in the back of my mind, but I didn't let myself dwell on it.

I wasn't doing fantastic at university because I had absolutely no idea how to make friends. I tried to use facebook and sent requests to quite a few people who were going to be studying the same subject as me, along with a message. Literally none of them replied to me or added me and I still look back at that and feel horribly embarrassed. I can't even remember how I found them all, but I assume there was some sort of facebook group for the university that I was going to be attending. If that was the case, then posting publically to the group would have not been something I wanted to do, hence the private messaging. Some of the people I messaged actually ended up hanging around with the people I made friends with, and so by extension with me. I was never able to talk to them or connect to them at all, and none of them seemed to make any effort to do so either, although I can't exactly blame them for it - it was my responsibility as much as theirs.

I made my actual friends pretty much by accident. I was waiting outside a lecture hall for the lecture to begin, standing on my own. I was still slightly drunk from the night before. I don't recall whether I'd been drinking on my own or whether I'd been drinking with my flatmates in an effort to actually become friendly with them, which never happened.

A girl came up to me and asked if I thought she was sociable. All signs point to yes by way of the fact that she was going around literally everyone asking them this, and engaging in conversations with some of them. Normally I would have just answered yes and that would have been the end of it - we would neve have spoken again. However, since I was still slightly drunk from the night before, I rambled on about how I didn't know because I didn't know anything about her. Somehow from this a conversation started, and she introduced me to the group of people she hung out with most.

Recognising this as probably my only opportunity to make friends at university, I grabbed on to it with both hands and basically forced myself to sit with and talk to them every day. If I hadn't met them, I would have been done with university and definitely would have dropped out within the next month or so.

I ended up living with one of those people for the next two years, and they were basically the only people I spoke to at university. It wasn't a lot of people, but it was infinitely better than no one and I'm so grateful to them even though I only keep in touch with one of them now.

The one I lived with convinced me I should go and take advantage of the counciling service the university offered, and I did so. I didn't go that many times, honestly, and it wasn't that helpful. I think it was after a Christmas break that I wanted to go back and emailed them about it, but they never replied and that was the end of it. I don't know whether this was a bad thing or not, because like I said it didn't seem to be helping me much. In hindsight I probably should have tried harder to start going again, but that's all in the past now.

I'm not sure when the first time I self-harmed was, but it was at university. I remember I found it kinda stupid because it was on my birthday or something, although I think I tried to cut myself for the first time on my birthday but didn't really try hard enough, and then the next day I actually gave myself some actual cuts, the scars of which I can still see today.

Cutting actually really helped - I felt amazing for a while and all my troubles seemed to just disappear. It was like some kind of miracle cure that I'd been told didn't exist. In those moments I saw absolutely nothing wrong with self-harming, especially if it could make you feel as good as I felt in that moment. However, that great feeling didn't last for long, and when I cut myself again I barely felt anything.

I turned to the internet, as I do for pretty much any issue, and read all about the downwards spiral that self-harming would turn into. You do it once and it feels like the best thing in the world. You can't believe it. So you do it again when you next feel down, but it doesn't work as well. You have to cut harder and deeper to get that same feeling every time, until you've cut yourself so hard and so deep that you end up in the hospital, and suddenly everyone knows your secret.

Fortunately, my self-harm stopped with that disappointing second experience, for the most part. I had a really bad day some time later, and came back to an empty house. It's not like a full house would have stopped me either, but since it was empty I decided to cut myself. I remember thinking to myself "my knee would look so much better with a nice cut on it", so I unscrewed the blade from my pencil sharpener. I couldn't get myself to push hard enough though.

Instead, I turned to the pack of cigarettes I'd bought to take with me when I went out drinking. I went out into the garden and lit one. I started smoking it, but honestly it was just disgusting and I couldn't stop coughing, so I put it out and went back inside. I put the pencil sharpener and its blade away too - at least that cigarette had been good for something.

As far as I can recall, I only had one more experience with self-harm. This was after I'd left univiersity. I can't remember the reasons, but one day I was feeling absolutely terrible. I was sat on the toilet in my bathroom, waiting as the shower heated up, just crying my eyes out and clawing at my legs. In that moment there was nothing I wanted more than to cease to exist. I grabbed the closest thing to me that looked at all sharp, which turned out to be a tube of toothpaste. I stabbed and scratched at my legs a bit, but the most I did was break the skin very lightly. Still, it was a cut, and seeing it made me slightly happy for the next couple of days it took to fade away.

I managed to get a job with a single interview. Technically I am just a temporary worker, but I've been at my place of work for a good few months now. I've been finding it harder and harder to leave the house without having to rush back to the toilet, but I have always forced myself out of the house feeling like I'm going to have an accident so far.

Over Christmas I had a couple of weeks off from work, where I only really left the house once. Today was my first day back at work. I felt panicky, felt like I couldn't breathe properly, and almost started crying on the bus at one point.

When I got to work I was breathing quite heavily, not quite hyper ventilating. I locked myself into a toilet in an effort to calm down, but suffered a mild panic attack and decided I had to talk to my boss. I think I only managed to calm down in there because I was texting a friend.

After I left the toilet, I headed straight for my boss and asked if we could talk in private for a moment. I couldn't believe how shaky my voice was - it sounded like I was about to burst out crying. My intention was to tell her I was suffering from quite bad anxiety, and that I had always been quite socially anxious, and that I was in desperate need of making a doctor's appointmenet. Instead, as soon as we got to a private room I burst out crying and couldn't talk for a couple of minutes.

My boss was very understanding, and I'm so so grateful for that. I did make a doctor's appointment, and he did take my seriously - he gave me some medication and spoke to me about talking therapy, which I actually referred myself to yesterday (he was going to recommend I do this anyway). I feel like this is the start of my journey to feeling better about life in general.

Here's to a better 2016.

User Comments
Anon-1

Good Luck with your therapy, I hope 2016 is a good year for you.