A few things happened this week that helped me reflect on my anxiety diagnosis. So naturally, in pure millennial fashion, I’m gonna post my mindfucks on social media.
The great thing about having your own blog is that you can justify writing just about anything. Had interesting thoughts while smoking weed? BLOG POST. Bought cool shit for your house? BLOG POST. JK. In my case, I read an article by Megan Nolan in The Times and I gave a presentation about my novel at uni, and that got me thinking about being diagnosed with anxiety and all that load of crap. So now you, my lucky readers, get to read about it. ISN’T THAT GREAT????? No? OK, go away.
“How anxiety became an epidemic for young people” by Megan Nolan in The Times
In case you missed it, Megan Nolan wrote a brilliant article on The Times showing how anxiety is taking over our generation. You can read it by signing up for free to a limited amount of articles per month.
Apparently, by 2026, anxiety disorders will set the English economy back by more than £14.2bn a year. The number of young girls hospitalised due to anxiety and depression-related self-harm has increased by 68% in the past decade. Happy days.
Interviewing an NHS support worker, Nolan is told that:
“The quality of care on offer has always seemed variable, so I’m wary of ‘time to talk’-type exhortations to ‘reach out’,” he says. “You might end up with a visibly bored GP and six sessions of CBT.”
The article discusses the lack of support for mental health disorders, the differences in symptoms, the continuous use of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy that, for Nolan and for me, has proven useless. It discusses the need to work with trauma and anxiety “to construct a meaningful life, even with our symptoms”. Interestingly, it shows how love is a key aspect of recovery.
Dan, the NHS support worker, said something that sticks with me: the thing most glaringly missing in the lives of the people he works with was not clinical treatment, but love.
“I’m often one of the few safe and kind people in their lives,” he said. “And the small, painful progress they make towards feeling loved comes through talking to someone like me or my colleagues. But then what?”
Articles like these are a reminder that you are not alone. For me personally, they are also a reminder of the incredible support I’ve received from friends and family throughout my worst crises, and reading it added to my feelings of initial recovery.
The second thing that happened this week is that I did a short presentation about my novel Bad/Tender at uni for a few fellow PhD students. It was the first time I spoke about my book out loud and it turned out to be a constructive experience.
It was surprisingly hard to talk about my work in a non-email format. Even if the novel is fictional, it comes from a personal place, and discussing suicidal feelings, violence and bad sex in front of people that didn’t know me that well was a challenge. So I did the typically millennial thing to do: I poured it all on them – fears, shame, anxiety, survival.
Self-publishing can be hard because you don’t have the contacts and resources of a big publisher with agents and PRs. I’m one of those people who need to win at everything to avoid bringing themselves down, which is a stupid behaviour that doesn’t help anyone. Yet, that presentation to a tiny group of people helped me celebrate small wins and feel in peace with my work, my writing style, the direction I’m taking.
A psychiatrist sat through my presentation and told me that if I had not healed, I would have not had the strength or courage to turn my experience into a book and show that to the world. Which brings me to my anxiety diagnosis.
My Anxiety Diagnosis
I was formally diagnosed with anxiety, depression, PTSD and panic disorder only last September.
Thinking about it, this sounds ridiculous. I’ve had all of this since 2014 – four fucking years ago. Yet, I never spoke about it to a GP. My first reaction to struggling with my mental health was doing on and off therapy, either through the NHS or privately when I could afford it. I compiled a questionnaire and was told how I scored on the spectrum of mental illness, but I was also told it wasn’t a diagnosis. My therapists said I would benefit from more sessions, but they never said: “Right, you suffer from X, Y, Z.” They only referred to “negative thoughts”.
Then as soon as I came back to the UK I signed up for a routine check at the doctor’s and I explained what I was feeling. It turned out that I could apply for disability status at university and all the doctor did was put what I already knew into words: anxiety, panic disorder, PTSD, depression.
It was a relief. Not because I wanted to be ill, but because having a doctor confirm that I wasn’t crazy, that what I was feeling had a name, and that I had the right to use that name in relation to myself felt like the first step towards healing.
So I guess this was a very long-winded and convoluted way to say that healing isn’t linear, and that sometimes some steps in your journey help you realise you are on the right track.
Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain’s suicides this week are a reminder that you are never too rich, too famous, too talented, too special to feel helpless and alone. For me, my diagnosis was a way to reclaim my issues, to start working around them, to be more open about them and to make them part of what I already am. It’s been at least a four-year journey, passing from therapy, doctors and even the Samaritans. If you are feeling hopeless or are struggling, call the numbers below.
Samaritans – for everyone
Call 116 123.
Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) – for men
Call 0800 58 58 58 – 5pm to midnight every day.
0300 123 3393.
The MindinfoLine offers thousands of callers confidential help on a range of mental health issues.
Kooth.com is an online counselling service that provides vulnerable young people (11-25) with advice and support for emotional or mental health problems.
Papyrus – for people under 35
Call 0800 068 41 41 – Monday to Friday 10am to 10pm. Weekends 2pm to 10pm; bank holidays 2pm to 5pm.
Text 07786 209697
Childline – for children and young people under 19.
Call 0800 1111 – the number won’t show up on your phone bill.
The Silver Line – for older people.
Call 0800 4 70 80 90.
Drawings by: @filthyratbag on Insta.