Anxiety has been something I’ve dealt with since I was 9, I didn’t know what it was at the time, I just know that it started after my parents messy split up.
I never spoke to anyone about it, but as the years went on, it got worse, especially through high school when dealing with bullying and numerous personal issues. I didn’t have a name for what I was feeling or how to treat it until my mom took me to the doctors when I repeatedly told her that I always felt sick before going to school, there I was diagnosed with anxiety in 2013, the doctor offered me numerous things that could help, medication, counselling etc. I didn’t take any, I was 14 and didn’t really like those options, and I thought I would just get better.
It didn’t, every morning before School; I wouldn’t eat because the anxiety made me feel physically sick.
It was in School when I experienced my first panic attack, I remember sitting in lesson and all of a sudden I felt like I couldn’t breathe, the teacher was talking but I couldn’t hear her, I could hear my heartbeat and it felt like it was out of control, my friend looked at me in concern and I just got up and ran out of the classroom, I went down to reception and told them I couldn’t breathe, they sat me down, gave me a paper bag and told me to breathe, I also called my mom.
My teacher in that lesson caught up with me later that day and she was incredibly understanding (before this point, I was terrified of her, she was my French teacher and she could be strict) but she sat down with me and she talked and she listened, from then on, I loved her.
My head teacher was also understanding, she gave me a toilet pass for when I needed to get out of class and take a breather, school was incredibly hard for me, I was struggling with past issues that I never spoke about with anyone, I struggled with the bullying that was taking place and I was dealing with personal issues at home, such as watching my mom go through treatment for breast cancer.
I couldn’t have been happier when I finished School, I had gotten good grades, I had my friends still and my mom was in remission.
But things seemed to get worse, I went on holiday with my mom, her boyfriend and my cousin, this was the first holiday since my parents had split up and my first holiday without my dad and my siblings, I was completely terrified and when they went to the holiday club for the night, that was when I experienced my second panic attack and probably my worst one, I was having a break down, I couldn’t stop crying, there were so many intrusive thoughts going through my head and it felt like my heart was going to explode out of my chest, I was terrified that something was going to happen to me so I called my mom.
She came back to the caravan and I broke down to her, I told her about the bullying, about how I missed my siblings and my dad, but I didn’t bring up everything. She sat on the floor with me and she listened, and she held me. My mom was and still is going through anxiety herself, something that was brought on after she survived cancer.
I remember the day I started college, I missed my first day because I woke up and I was physically sick from the anxiety and I had my third panic attack, I was terrified that I’d go and there’d be people just like there were at school, I went to the doctors and was given diazepam but she only gave me five with a low dosage as I was only 16, they were there to help me get through the door the next time I tried going to college.
My mom called the college and told them what happened and said I wouldn’t be in, later that day my mom received a call from the college, it was my personal tutor who I had to yet to meet and she wanted to speak to me, she spoke to me about how I had nothing to worry about and how she’d look out for me.
That year I spent in college was probably the best and worst year I’ve ever had, my personal tutor was one of the kindest people I have ever met, she was like my college mom and she was patient with me, the people in my course were absolutely amazing, I loved every single one of them.
This was also the year I started counselling, things weren’t great personally, and I was still dealing with past issues, what the bullying had done to me and hearing so much of the news, I locked myself in the house unless I really had to go out like for college. My college offered free counselling for students and it was my tutor that suggested I see one, she was friends with one of the counsellors and she came with me to introduce me to him and sort out an appointment, I then went on to see him every Wednesday.
The counselling did help, I learned how to talk about how I felt, about things in the past that happened that I was still holding onto, it also helped me to become closer with my mom, but I still was avoiding everything that gave me anxiety because I felt if I didn’t, something bad would seriously happen.
I tried getting everything to help, I got rescue remedy, I still had diazepam left over, I bought book after book, but nothing was long term.
The internet is where I found a lot of people like me were struggling with the same or similar issues. It was on Reddit that I found out about DARE, I was in a subreddit for anxiety and a girl put up a post about how she had read a book that completely turned her life around, I instantly looked it up and ordered it, praying it would work for me to.
2016, two years ago is when I found Dare and I can honestly say it’s that book that gave me a whole new perspective on anxiety. When reading it at first, I thought it was absolutely insane, facing situations that make me anxious? Asking for more? Crazy, it would make it worse, it would make me worse.
But slowly, I kept on reading and even when I put the book down, I was still thinking about it, I mean asking the anxiety to bring on more, it already has so many times in the past and I survived it. So I started to try and face situations that made me anxious by keeping the steps in my head because I didn’t want to be this person anymore, I wanted to be like the girl I was, the one who hated the thought of being stuck in the house, the love for adventure and meeting people, and to be like that again, I knew I would have to go out and experience life, even if that meant dragging the anxiety along with me.
These past two years have been a rollercoaster to say the least, and I wouldn’t change a single thing. Dare helped me to realise I could buy all the books I wanted, take medication, go to counselling etc. But what was truly going to help me, was me, going out and facing these things that I feared so much, and it works, it 100% does, when I first started reading Dare I told myself it wasn’t working but it was actually me that wasn’t making it work, because I wasn’t challenging myself.
I wouldn’t be in the position I am now if I didn’t find Dare, I have a job which I started 6 months ago and it’s my first job and it’s in retail where I have to talk to people on a daily basis, I am also currently volunteering in a primary school as a learning assistant and I have travelled to Wales and London for concerts (See attached picture) with my friends when before I couldn’t even stay the night at a friend’s house who lived 20 minutes from me without going home because of anxiety.
I’m not fully recovered; I still have a way to go. Some days anxiety wins or I feel so much anxiety within me I could cry, I still deal with issues from my past, there are moments where I have serious setbacks and I feel like just lying in bed and giving it up but I remind myself to get up and try, to dare to live, taking it day by day. I have an amazing family and amazing friends that have supported me for so long and I can now enjoy life with them.
The thought of leaving the house now excites me, it still makes me a bit nervous but more excited, I still deal with intrusive thoughts and at times I still do wake up feeling sick with anxiety, but I have the tools I need. I never leave the house without my Dare wristband, my friends say I wear it like it’s my skin, it’s a reminder for me, whenever I feel anxious, I know what to do.
If this book didn’t exist, I’m not sure where I’d be at the moment, and it’s for that reason that I can’t thank Barry enough, for sharing his story in order to help others. The Facebook group is phenomenal, people that have supported me since I started this journey and people who I’m witnessing daring themselves to live and you are all inspiring and your stories are amazing.
I wish that post was still on Reddit, so I could go back to it and message that girl and thank her for putting that post up because otherwise I wouldn’t have found out about it. I meet people every day, both in life and on the internet, who struggle with this same thing and I never forget to recommend Dare to them because I was in a serious dark place because of anxiety and it’s because of Dare that I found my way out.
“A ship is safe in harbour, but that’s not what ships are for” – William G.T. Shedd (One of my absolute favourite quotes that Barry put at the start of the book and one I didn’t truly understand until I dared)