I’ve struggled with anxiety for much of my life, but thinking about it, I’ve never really had much to be anxious about. I enjoyed a privileged upbringing when living in Africa at an early age. Thanks to my dad’s occupation, I lived in a nice house, with a large garden and a swimming pool. I went on lots of holidays and had loving, supportive parents. I’m not trying to boast, because I hate it when people brag about that sort of thing, I’m just stating that I shouldn’t have had any real worries.
I first experienced anxiety whilst living in Tanzania at around 7 or 8-years old. I suffered with constant apprehension just about the thought of attending school in Africa, this wasn’t just the odd occurrence though, it happened every single day, I’d get my Dad to write me fake notes so I didn’t have to take part in mandatory weekly swimming lessons.
My severe anxiety became a regular theme that continued into my college days as well as during my time at university. At college, I’d regularly inform teachers that I suffered with a bladder problem when questioned about the numerous times I’d visit the toilet per day. These regular loo breaks were so I could take doses of Rescue Remedy spray to numb the constant apprehension I felt.
I can recall one memory from college that I’ll never forget. An A-Level teacher queried as to what form of occupation I wanted to pursue and when I responded with journalism, he stated, “If you become a journalist, I’ll kill myself”. Being quite shy and lacking in confidence at the time, I probably didn’t seem the type to want to go into that industry, however his comment only intensified my fears for his lessons and college as a result.
Unfortunately for him, I’m currently in my final year at university, studying… Journalism!
My anxiety has meant attendance at university has bordered on non-existent. Although, I didn’t tell her much, my girlfriend was always there for me. However, this all came to a head in June when she ended things with me. I didn’t take it well and it was the final straw for me mentally, I partook in counselling sessions and was prescribed anti-depressants.
Before my first lecture of the year in September, I purchased several Rescue Remedy products hoping that they’d prove beneficial. I wrote motivational Q card quotes and littered them all over my bedroom wall, all of this in a bid to attend university.
However, this all failed to pay off when I suffered a panic attack whilst waiting in the corridor for my first lecture of third year. This all probably sounds stupid, getting into this much of a state over attending university. A place where I’m supposed to be experiencing the best years of my life.
Last month, I was having a wander in John Lewis when a piece of very expensive technology caught my eye. But this wasn’t just any type of technology, this was a pair of Bose ‘noise-cancelling’ headphones.
One of the anxieties that has made me miss lectures is the fear of other students’ reactions. I immediately thought, if I put the noise-cancelling headphones on, then maybe I can attend lectures without having to listen to responses, mainly as I won’t be able to hear them
There isn’t a day that goes by where I’m not listening to music, either blasting it on my speaker or through earphones. There are many traditional types of therapy, people pray or partake in meditation, but music is my form of it.
As most of you probably know, if you put on Joy Division, Radiohead or The Smiths, the chances are that your mood will soon start correlating with the gloomy tracks. Therefore, I decided to make one big playlist, containing only happy and cheery songs. It involves tracks that make me feel good, or are so shit that they make me laugh, aka, 'Saturday Night' by Whigfield.
I still get that apprehensive feeling in my stomach on most weekdays, but if I’ve got some uplifting music on then it soothes me and blocks the negative thoughts in my head.
So far, it’s worked. I attended my first lectures since November 2015, yes 2015, we’re now in 2017… However, my anxiety has shown me that I’m far more intelligent than I ever anticipated, I’m only in my final year due to self-teaching myself over the past two years.
I’ve tried to combat anxiety with therapy, counselling sessions and even anti-depressants, but it seems that a set of headphones has had the biggest effect on me!
They were incredibly pricey at £330, and I’m now living on a diet of bread and water until Christmas, but it’ll be worth every penny if it can help beat my attendance battle.