Recently a few of my blog posts have touched on personal issues. Exactly two years ago today marks the anniversary of an event that changed my life. It was probably the closest I have come to hitting what I would describe as my own personal 'rock bottom'. Some people will struggle to understand that statement, as I have a happy home life, a loving family, a boyfriend who I adore... I was studying at university, I got good grades in school... on the outside I was living a pretty perfect text book life, but on the inside I was battling with crippling anxiety- (and it is thanks to my amazing support system that I am now in a place, two years on, where I can talk about my experiences with honesty in the hope of helping someone out there do the same.) J K Rowling once said 'rock bottom became a solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life'. And sitting here now I feel the exact same.
I can't remember a time in my life where I haven't felt inferior to somebody else around me, be it in academic achievements, personality, talent, body shape. I am guilty of constantly comparing myself to other people, over analysing myself and my achievements in comparison to those of the people who surround me and time and time again the conclusion of this analysis was that I was not good enough. I went to an extremely academic school, and although I loved my time there, I constantly struggled with the fact that every subject I considered myself to excel in, there was someone else who was just that little bit better. It was not that I had a desire to be the best or to be better than anyone else, I just longed to not feel inferior. It was when I was around 16 that I finally found what I thought was my niche, the talent and passion that I possessed that made me special and made me shine. I fell in love with video art, moving image, film, animation... and actually found out I was pretty good at it. While most class mates were studying towards A-levels in science and maths, with the majority of my year hoping to head to university to study medicine, law, economics, PPE; I was focused on Art and Graphic Design, and had set my heart on being accepted into the prestigious Art School, University of the Arts London, a place where Alexander McQueen, Stella McCartney, Henry Holland and Jimmy Choo had all found their success. The day I was accepted, was at the time my biggest achievement to date. For the first time in my life I felt so proud and excited that I was going to be amongst those who were considered 'the best' in their field, and I had finally earnt my place amongst them.
What I failed to realise was that once I got there, I would no longer feel like the big 'graphic design' fish in the small pond that was my school, but instead I would feel like a very very small fish in a very very big pond. To say I was out of my depth would be a complete understatement. I had never lived on my own before, cooked for myself, looked after myself, let alone done those things in London, a complete world away from what my life at home was like. I took this completely for granted. I wasn't feeding myself properly, I wasn't sleeping properly. The stress and pressure I piled on myself to try and keep up with the reputation I had set led me to a daily routine of work work work. Anything I did which did not involve my sketchbook or camera filled me with an overwhelming surge of guilt and all I could think about was the amount I still had to do, I was carrying a huge burden around with me and I wouldn't let anyone else help me carry it. Eventually, keeping all of this bottled up inside me led to a rapid health deterioration... the panic attacks started- dizzy spells, physical sickness, migraines, shortness of breath... they were horrible periods of my life, and ones that I was ashamed of. How could I admit to anyone that my perfect dream to go to the perfect Art School was not at all the perfect life that I imagined? How could I admit that the one thing I felt like I could succeed in was not making me happy? I had drained myself not only of energy, but of personality. I was a shell of the person that I once was, I felt lost and isolated and didn't recognise the person that I was becoming/ had become.
The point of this blog post isn't just to share my own experiences, but to try and help others who may feel the same. I had come to the point where I accepted that in order to succeed, these feelings were a bi-product that I would just have to deal with. This is not the case... I eventually admitted I needed help, and more importantly I wanted help. I no longer wanted to be that person anymore, I wanted to be the happy, bubbly person that I was before this journey to 'success' began. Asking for help is hard, I will still admit that it was the hardest thing I have ever done; but it is also the best thing I have ever done. Earlier, I said that being accepted to UAL was the proudest moment of my life. That is no longer the case... my proudest moment was when I finally took a step back and was honest not only to the people I love but to myself. I needed help. I asked for help.... and guess what? I got help. No one laughed, no one judged.
And now, exactly two years to the day, I am sat feeling happier and prouder than I ever have in my life. I finally feel so content with where I am, remembering that panic is only possible if we allow ourselves to imagine the worst case scenario. Anxiety is a normal human emotion, it is something that we will all experience at some point in our lives. This anxiety becomes and issue however, when it causes an overwhelming fear, resulting in a rush of adrenaline casing panic attacks when your body is in no real danger. I urge anyone who feels this way to seek help, because I did and I am now panic attack free. The journey will not be a smooth one, but I promise you that it can be done with the right attitude and the right support system around you.
You are stronger than your fears.