Back in September last year, I purchased the domain for clairesyear.com because I wanted to write about my gap year and how I will cope with my anxiety while having a year out of education. It didn’t exactly work out that way. Once I stopped being classed as a student, my anxiety decided to take a little year long holiday. You are probably thinking “pft you obviously weren’t that bad if your anxiety and nerves vanished just like that” but weirdly enough, I was.
I like to view my anxiety as just a very heightened personality trait. Some people are sarcastic, some people are shy but me… I’m just a little nervous about everything. When I was younger, I would always get a sore tummy before doing something new and my Mum made up something called “magic hand” where she would lie next to me and rub my tummy to make it better. Looking back, I know it was nerves but as a 5 year old about to go on a school trip to see the deer at Tatton Park, I thought it was just a sore tummy for no reason. I didn’t know I was nervous about going, it’s just how I felt.
Then when I was 11, I came down with a really weird bug. I am horrendously afraid of being sick and that is the cause of 99% of my panic attacks and this bug was the trigger. I wasn’t sick, but I felt like I was going to be. Because of that, I just stopped eating. My parent’s would try every single food to get me to eat anything but I just didn’t want anything. Obviously, being the food queen I am now, I got better but that was the moment I felt lowest of the low and the panic attacks started. They would always start as feeling sick or I would start to cry and therefore I would feel sick while crying, which would make it worse and there I go. Since then, that was really how it went. Through the majority of high school, I hardly ate and it was only in Year 11 when I started to enjoy food again. Then a few horrific things happened to me in the space of a month at the end of year 11 and it all started all over again all the way through college.
Then, I finished college. I can’t say that college was horrible or scary or unpleasant, I think I was just exhausted. As I have mentioned in a few blog posts previously, I went to a very peer pressure driven college where you had little “popularity pyramid” and everybody seemed to be getting exhausted of trying to reach the top. I didn’t really care about reaching the top, I just wanted to stay up from the bottom but even that was exhausting. My college was also one of them that didn’t understand the phrase “I don’t want to go to university” and that was quite stressful as well. If you weren’t going to university, they seemed to just bin you off and ignore you, which is incredibly unfair. I remember telling my form tutor that I was planning on taking a gap year so I could have some thinking time and she was so mad. As if it affected her life but, whatever. This really put a strain on how I was feeling and my Dad was in and out of hospital the whole way through as well and I was tired. Really tired.
When I started my gap year, I was waving goodbye to a lot of things that were upsetting me throughout them years and it was like having 18 years worth of therapy hitting you all at once. It was emotional but incredible. The fact that hardly any of it will pop up in the next 14 months is a feeling I could only try to describe. Now, obviously, the cause of my panic attacks are still an issue. I can’t just rip out my stomach and make it impossible to be sick but I could distance myself from triggers that made me nervous and upset and that was more than enough for me to feel an amazing difference. At the very beginning of my gap year, I went into a full time 5 day a week job, therefore I was quite busy. But as soon as my summer job finished, I stopped. Stopped and had some time to do whatever the hell I wanted. I started this blog, planned a few days out, dedicated a day to just researching what Christmas markets were on that year. It could be seen as a waste of time to a lot of people but I needed it because now, I am about to move out (yes, college Claire would have never even considered it) and start a degree (throughout my gap year, I had been offered 5 apprenticeships because I was convinced university wasn’t for me but hey presto, look what I’m doing now.)
If you are really struggling with your anxiety, it is possible for it to turn around. I was lucky that I had a little bit of an incling as to what was causing the majority of my panic attacks and I was able to drift away from them to give myself time to breathe but, if you can’t do that, there are many other ways. I found time off amazing. Time to watch three movies in a row without having to worry about anything, having a day to do something fun that wasn’t classed as a job. Everybody seems to say “push yourself” and “step out of your comfort zone to see if you can handle it” but if you aren’t comfortable in your comfort zone first, be nice to yourself and make that a priority. That’s what I did and I can fully recommend it.
This doesn’t mean I have tweaked that personality trait or made it disappear. I will still be a complete mess when I spend my first night at university and ring my Mum like “Mum, I hate it, come and visit me please please please” but I have much more of a chance of getting through the rough patch now than I would have last year and I think that is enough for me to be chuffed with what I have managed to achieve anxiety wise. Going from a panic attack everyday, having to walk out of lessons, turn down invites to go out with friends, stare at the floor pretty much all the time to being much more sure of myself, enjoying driving to wherever I want to go, giving out the invites to meet up with friends and even write a blog post all about it is probably what I would consider a successful gap year.
If anybody is reading this and wants to talk about anything I have covered then please message me on Twitter (@clairesyear) or even email me on my blog email address firstname.lastname@example.org and I would be more than happy to chat to you. Anxiety needs to be talked about and I am more than up for doing it.
I hope you have enjoyed this post. I will be back tomorrow with day #36!