Stories can come from anywhere and anyone. Mental health can be affected by anything and anyone. In Chapter 5, we hear from Rebecca Jayne, a fantastic blogger, who tells her story about experiencing social anxiety and depression. These kind of stories help us to normalise our own experience and make sense of that desperate emptiness of feeling alone.
For those of you who don’t know me I’m the creator of ‘Rebecca Jayne’ a Beauty & Lifestyle blog. For those of you who have seen some of my existing content you may already know that I suffer with depression and anxiety just from daily life really. I’ve already written a more generalised post about how depression doesn’t have to be that thing in your life that destroys everything. If you want to give it a read its titled ‘What came first the star or the black hole’ and can be found on my blog site: https://rebeccajayne.blog
My idea for this post was to give you guys a personal insight in regard to my journey with mental illness. I hope this post helps people realise that as bad or as overwhelmed as you may feel, there’s an amazing support system available to help! If anyone relates to any topics covered in this post don’t hesitate to reach out to me via my socials! My twitter and Instagram are both under the handle ‘rebeccajblog’.
I feel like I’ve probably suffered with social anxiety since I was around 12 years old, but I didn’t notice that’s why I was acting a certain way until I started to suffer with depression around the age of 17 and the treatment I received in regard to that opened my eyes up to why I’d acted in certain ways in my past. The first important thing I need to relay to you guys is that any slight change in your mood, the way you act or how you value yourself is important to pay attention to. I didn’t realise what was going on with me and it has taken me years to identify the effects mental illness has had on me.
In regard to my social anxiety it was brought on by a traumatic experience that impacted my transition into High School. I think it was maybe the second week in my first year of High School when I was the victim of an assault. This meant I missed a few weeks of school whilst associated wounds healed. The impact of this was that firstly my confidence was knocked due embarrassment I guess associated to what happened to me. Secondly, missing school at a point where everyone was forming friendships sort of put me at a social disadvantage, when I went back to school people had started forming groups and people in my classes had started to form friendships. Luckily, I did know people from primary school; I wasn’t isolated in that sense. I found it hard seeing everyone form those friendships easily and I just didn’t have the confidence to do that. It’s a skill I’ve never really learnt. All of my friends are friends by association, I’ve built friendships from existing friendships I’ve had my whole life.
The second point I want to highlight is the correlation between mental illness and physical illness. I was constantly ill in my first year of High School and this was probably my body telling me that I wasn’t happy, I wasn’t okay. This is something people don’t consider when it comes to mental illness. At the age of 12 there wasn’t a logical connection for me, being unconfident and being physically unwell? As I got older I slightly found the link, I noticed that If I was particularly worried about a social event I would often be unwell either on the day or the days leading up to it. Similar to that ‘nauseous’ feeling people get when they’re nervous, I would just be physically ill before events. I didn’t realise it was anxiety, I just avoided doing things that I thought would make me ill, probably actually worsening my symptoms, but I had no idea why I was like that.
Up until I was around 17 I just accepted that the way I was acting was just the norm for me, I honestly thought it was just my personality. But whose personality is to naturally be scared of social interaction? That’s social anxiety, that’s not my personality and I know that now.
I first started to face depression in my first year of college. I had a lot to cope with that year. I found out in the January that my Mother had been diagnosed with a serious illness and I had to grow up relatively fast in order to support and care for her. This was a lot, I was 17, I didn’t know how to manage responsibilities. Moreover, it took a hit on me mentally. I’ve had people say to me ‘Oh I couldn’t have done that’. They say it like I was so perfect in that situation, I wasn’t. I went on what I’m going to call ‘automatic mode’. I went through the motions of everything I needed to do, I wasn’t emotionally present because I wasn’t my focus, my Mum was.
Holding onto a lot like I was meant my head was just never really at peace and I didn’t actually realise how much I was carrying around with me on a daily basis…
It was around April/May and my Mum had to be in hospital for a few days and whenever this happened I had to inform college of any absences I needed to take. The support system at college reached out to me and said, ‘do you think you would be willing to go to a counsellor?’ At the time I didn’t know much about counselling or what it could do. I went into my first session and honestly, I broke down. Everything I’d kept to myself not only whilst my Mother was ill but over my entire life just poured out. I felt a sense of relief, something I hadn’t had for a while. This was when I began to understand my own mental health and how the way I was acting was hurting myself. I put links together with my anxiety and my assumed personality traits. It was eye opening.
Counselling didn’t fix all my problems, it made me understand, it put me in a better position to get better. My depression was quite bad for probably 12-18 months. Mental health is the same as any aspect of your health, once its damaged it takes time to heal. I’m not going to say I’m 100% fine, I still have panic attacks, if I’m feeling overwhelmed my body will shut down and even now, 8 years on, when my anxiety kicks in I’ll feel sick. But that to me is miles better than I was at age 18. Not to sound over dramatic but I’ve fought to get where I am now. Those who are close to me can easily tell you they were worried about my health and wellbeing at 18. If you met me now, you’d never know. You need to start to reach an end. I needed a 50-minute counselling session to get me on a path to be okay. Never ever be afraid to take that first step or even half a step.
I think as I’ve treated my anxiety I’ve noticed it can materialise in a variety of ways, sometimes I feel like I’m putting out fires as another one builds. Anxiety tends to take a hold when I have too much spare time, the emptiness of my mind allows negative and irrational thoughts creep in.
For example, a couple of summers ago I finished college in June and didn’t start University until September and during that time I had nothing at all to do other than a part time job amounting to 10 hours a week, this lack of mental stimulation gave me around 3 months of being unable to sleep in the dark, feeling panicky when I left the house alone, feeling panicky even being alone in my own house. There was no root cause to this other than my brain working overtime. It doesn’t always have an answer or explanation but there’s always a solution, I worked with a counsellor who gave me tips to overcome my anxiety and now I couldn’t sleep with the light on if I tried to!
I have a positive outlook moving forward. I’ve tried counselling, CBT and medication but what is so vital to recovery is having a good support system, having an outlet and knowing that it takes time, don’t beat yourself up over one bad day. One day doesn’t set a precedent for the rest of your life. The progress you make does. The smallest changes and steps forward could be the steps that alter your life.
Rebecca Jayne XO
Rebecca Jayne is a Beauty & Lifestyle Blogger who is PR friendly! Contact her on firstname.lastname@example.org
For reviews, makeup looks and general life anecdotes, visit her blog at rebeccajayne.blog