I am a teenage girl (I will be 14 in a couple of weeks time) and have a type of teenage anxiety that affects my social life and prevents me from going out to new unknown places, especially overnight.
This is my very first post and to be honest, I am a little nervous at pressing that ‘publish’ button. I decided to start a blog as I feel it will help me get my thoughts out there and also help fellow teenage anxiety sufferers. (If you show similar symptoms, or have a teenage anxiety story then please tell me about it in the comments as I’d love know that I am not alone!!).
The story of how my teenage anxiety started …
I wasn’t “officially” diagnosed until about a year or so ago, but we’ve (me and my family) have been aware of my reluctance to do things outside of my comfort zone for some time. Not wanting to do things outside your comfort zone sounds quite normal, but when your comfort zone is as small as mine it’s can be a massive problem! Mine basically consists of me staying at home and watching TV all day as I get really stressed about going out!
How did my teenage anxiety start?
I remember it all first starting when I went to my grandparents to stay for a weekend without my parents. I’d done that sort of stuff loads of times before but for some reason this time I got really homesick and I would dread having to go to sleep because I hated sleeping away from home. In the day I could distract myself with other things, but when it started to go dark I would for some reason start to get “panicky” and start to show the symptoms of (what I now know to be) a “panic attack” coming on.
It’s hard to explain the feelings and thought-process that goes on when you are suffering with anxiety, especially during an anxiety or panic attack, because nothing really makes much sense at the time. However, these are some of my symptoms of a panic attack:
- Can’t breathe properly
- Feel light-headed
- Irrational thoughts (that don’t seem irrational at the time)
- I feel like I might be ill, which causes even more anxiety
- Feel like something bad is going to happen
The best way I can describe it is if you pick the thing you fear most, maybe a spider, a snake, an exam and think about how that makes you feel! Having anxiety might mean you experience these feeling most nights 🙁
In the beginning, I didn’t really know that what I had was anxiety, because at the time I was only about 9 or 10. Things then built up from that and I started to turn down offers to meet up with friends, especially at sleepovers. 3 years on and I still haven’t spent more than a night or two away from my parents.
All I knew in the early days, was that I was scared all the time and didn’t have a clue why!
At its worst, it got to the stage where I didn’t want to go to school because I was scared of having a panic attack in front of everyone. It was at this stage when my parents decided to get me some professional help.
How I found out that I was suffering from anxiety …
When it got bad, we went to the local doctors for advice, but we were told that it would be months before I could see anyone to help me. As a side note, I also thought the lady we saw wasn’t very helpful at all, she reminded me of my old history teacher. Anyway, we were in and out in about 5 minutes and she didn’t really listen to what I had to say. She did mention that school can help if I wanted to contact them, but I shrugged off the idea because I didn’t like the idea of having to talk to my teacher about everything – having the anxiety is bad enough, but having to be counselled by your teacher is even worse (at least it is in my mind).
After the docs, my dad did some research about private therapy, and found somebody local that could help me with CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy – I still don’t really understand what it means), and made me an appointment to go and see her.
Week 1 of counselling …
As we arrived at the counsellor’s office, it took about 5 minutes for my mum to convince me to pluck up the courage to go through the front door.
It wasn’t just because I had never been there before, it was because I would have to sit in a chair and tell a total stranger everything that goes on in my head. This was totally daunting for me and I also didn’t want her to think I was a complete weirdo (debatable).
Once my mum had dragged me up the stairs, I went in and we started talking. She wasn’t quite the child-eating monster I’d imagined, and I soon realised that she’d done this a hundred times before. I have to admit, it was a bit awkward and a little embarrassing to start with, but once I accepted that she’d probably heard much weirder things in her career listening to people like me, so I started to relax.
To start with, she pretty much did all the talking and I just sat there and tried to smile. Then she started to ask a load of questions that I honestly didn’t know the answer to and had never even thought about before. She kept asking me what I thought about what she was saying and I, being the incredibly thoughtful 13 year old I am, I just said, “Yeah, mint”.
I soon learnt that when she went on a long tangent about something, I should have an idea of what to say in mind so I was was ready when the dreaded question came. Apart from that, the therapy wasn’t as daunting as I thought it would be, and after a while, talking about my feelings was like second-nature. (Hence this blog! There’s no way on earth I’d have talked about this 12 months ago!)
What about you?
Are you a teenager suffering from similar issues? If so let me know in the comments, It’d be nice for me and others to hear whether you are getting help and how, or even if you’re only considering therapy or are in your first stages to recovery. (Be sure to use a different name, that way you can talk about your weird/not so weird therapists etc without them getting offended).