Sometimes when I feel as though everything’s getting too much, I like to remind myself of how far I’ve come in my past.
I mean the big achievements. The big things that I’ve overcome already in my life.
The things that at the time felt impossible.The things that I was sure would kill me, but that I eventually wiped out myself before they had the chance.
Anxiety feels impossible to manage all the bloody time and sometimes (a lot of the time!) any hope I have to overcome it drains from me so quickly. I just want to give up and admit that this is it, this is my life.
But strangely, I’m in a unique position – and advantaged in some ways – because I’ve overcome another anxiety disorder already in my life.
In the summer of 2009, I was seventeen and quickly becoming incredibly ill.
Out of absolutely nowhere, I’d developed a fear of choking.
By the time I turned eighteen four months later, I was just a skeleton of the person I was before. I dropped a couple of stone in weight and developed an eating disorder because my anxiety prevented me from eating anything solid.
I was so scared every single day to eat anything. I remember a friend of mine trying to force a biscuit down me because I hadn’t eaten anything for a long time, but I couldn’t do it.
Everywhere I went I got comments on how ill I looked making me feel even more anxious and self-conscious about my problem. Even from waiters in restaurants that would take away my food and say something along the lines of ‘was something wrong with your food?’ or ‘maybe a children’s portion for you next time, hey!’.
Everyone and everything was drawing attention to it.
My brain stopped functioning and it affected my ability to drive my car safely. I’d completely forget how to break and my reactions were slow.
My BMI was 15.2 and at 5 ft 7 I looked like I could fall over at any moment. My skin looked pale and my cheek bones were harsh. My body looked like that of a young girl, with every curve disappearing.
I really thought this was my life forever. I thought I was destined to live in fear and bad health until it inevitably sometime soon would take my life.
But then, I packed up my bags in the February and moved to Canada…
I didn’t really know why I was going or what to expect. I went to live with family that I didn’t even know. But it was the best thing I ever did.
From almost the minute I landed in Toronto my big Greek family were trying to fatten me up.
I left Canada six months later after having gained two and a half stone, and I’ve never felt that intense anxiety about eating again.
It’s still there under the surface. When I order food in restaurants I analyse the menu for what I consider a threat, and my stomach has never returned to the size it once was. I eat my food incredibly slowly now, and I still get self-conscious in restaurants when I don’t finish my food; placing a napkin over my plate to avoid the comments.
But other than that, I’m fine. I eat a normal amount every day and have no real issues with food or anxiety relating to it.
I overcame it. I overcame something that seemed impossible and was taking my life away from me.
And that’s amazing!
Occasionally it’s nice to remind myself of that and keep moving forward. It’s good to recognise that my agoraphobia really doesn’t stand a chance against me.