Hello Universe

2014_09_17 BNZ Literary Awards 2014

Hello there! My name’s Beth. I’m a 20-year-old university student, so naturally I’m perpetually broke and my diet consists mainly of KitKats sourced from the vending machine in my apartment complex. I study history, which I love, and media, which I love to hate. Because I’m a BA student, you’ll be able to find me in a few years’ time, sitting on the footpath on Manners Street with a cardboard sign – ‘will do Miranda Sings imprechion for food‘. (My Miranda Sings impression is actually really good though. I’m not even kidding about it.)

Hopefully by now you’ve picked up on the vibe I’ve been angling for: on the surface I seem like a normal 20-year-old girl! I’m super relateable! I’m as bewildered by the sudden onset of adulthood as the rest of my peers, but just like them I’m doing my best to stumble my way through it! And to some extent, all of that is true. To most people I’m sure I seem normal(ish), relateable(ish), and like I’m trying to get the hang of being a fully-fledged adult, but not really struggling with much beyond that. I don’t wanna seem like I’m building up to some dramatic reveal, like I’ve secretly got four prosthetic limbs or in my spare time I’ve invented a nuclear fusion reactor, because the truth will disappoint you. The truth is much more common. The truth is something loads and loads of other people will suffer from at some point throughout their lives – which is why it’s so important to me that I start this blog.

The truth is that, for the past two years (thus encompassing my entire adult life), I have struggled with anxiety. Like, really really super badly. And for most of that time, no one apart from a few close friends knew the extent to which it was affecting my quality of life.

But fuck, did it ruin me.

Lemme paint you a picture real quick, just to give you an idea of how bad it was. (I do this not because I’m seeking sympathy, but just to give you some context.) Six months ago, when I was at my worst, I was having panic attacks multiple times a week. Almost anything could set me off. One time I had a panic attack because I was sat in front of a big plate of nachos and the fact that I had to eat all of that food was just too overwhelming. Another time I had a panic attack because I got into the shower and the water was hotter than I was expecting. Everything was scary. When I say that, I’m not exaggerating. I woke up anxious each morning. Anxiety was a constant presence throughout my day. Then I’d go to bed and struggle into some restless semblance of sleep. And rinse and repeat. To get straight to the point: my life was fucking shit.

Now let me paint you another picture. Fast forward half a year, and I’m a completely different person. I haven’t had a full-on panic attack in nearly four months. I have a job, which I love; I go to the gym regularly; I don’t think twice about making plans to go out with friends. I eat well and sleep well and I look after myself, and most importantly, my attitude towards life has done a complete 180. Where I used to be negative, terrified, and expect the worst from a situation, I am learning now to be positive, hopeful, and to not dwell on the bad things. And goddamn, it feels good. I am healthy and I am happy. Things aren’t perfect, but they are so so so much better than they were.

Let’s revisit that for a second, though. Things aren’t perfect. My anxiety hasn’t gone away – that motherfucker still affects me even now I’m well on the road to recovery. I still have bad days. I still have to carry a little bottle of pills with me everywhere I go, just in case I start to have a panic attack. There are still things that scare me, things that never used to phase me before anxiety became a part of my life. I know that this is only the beginning of my recovery, and that there is so much further to go, which is one of the reasons I decided to start this blog.

So let’s get into those, shall we? First off, I thought that a blog might be a good platform through which to share and track the progress of my recovery. Because I do still have a long way to go until I am the person I want to be, and hopefully committing this blog will spur me on and remind me why it’s important that I work so hard at getting better. I want to take you on my recovery journey, and I hope you’ll come along for the ride.

Another of my aims with this blog is to contribute to the creation of an open dialogue around mental illnesses in general. Anxiety is just one of many mental illnesses that affect people all over the world. Even if you don’t suffer from one yourself, chances are you know someone who does. Maybe you even know lots of people who do. But society is really weird about mental illnesses. Mental illnesses are just like physical illnesses except that it’s your mind, not your body, that gets sick. Because we can’t always see how debilitating mental illnesses can be, we sometimes like to pretend that all the person needs to do to get better is ‘try harder’. Which is complete bullshit. There’s also this weird stigma surrounding them, where we don’t like to talk about them and it’s shameful to be mentally ill. Like it’s something a person can control. So yeah. I’d really like to do what I can to help change that mentality, by being as open and honest as I can about my experiences living with a mental illness.

Lastly, and most importantly, I want to help others who are struggling with anxiety. Because no-one should ever have to feel the way I did for two years of my life. I want to show people who are living with anxiety and panic attacks that recovery is 100% possible. This is so important to me that you know this. Whoever you are. For you, if you’re struggling with anxiety, or if you’re not but someone close to you is: I want you to know that it can get so much better. I hope that, in writing this blog, I can create the kind of content that I could have really used when I was at my worst. I hope that I can help at least one person to feel like there is hope, or that they’re not alone.

So here we go. I’m going to aim to write a new post for IronBeth every Sunday for a year. Even while uni’s on. Even if I’m so deep in assignments and deadlines that I can’t see my belly button, I’m gonna post something here. I hope you’ll join me on this tiny, huge, scary, exciting adventure of getting better that I’m embarking on. Can we be friends? Let’s be friends. Feel free to leave me a comment letting me know if you’re suffering with a mental illness, or maybe you know someone who does. Let’s all be friends and have yarns and help each other and form a beautiful network of support and bacon pancakes and roast turkeys and all those kinds of things. Beth out.

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5 thoughts on “Hello Universe

  1. This is awesome Beth.
    I don’t know if you remember me, but I used to teach Graphics and Art at Karamu.
    I can totally relate to everything you’re saying here, and I want to give you a high five for speaking up. I hope one day I won’t have to carry around my own little bottle of pills for those pesky panic attacks.

    Like

    • Hi Liz! Of course I remember you! You were one of my favourite teachers.
      Thank you so much for your kind words, and for taking the time to leave a comment. I really appreciate it. 🙂
      Recovery involves a lot of work, but I believe it is 100% worth working towards. And I do believe that one day you won’t have to carry around those pills anymore!
      I think it really helps to talk to other people who have experienced anxiety and panic attacks, it’s just really good knowing you’re not alone.
      I hope you keep following my posts! 🙂

      Like

      • Thanks Beth
        I am officially following you now (but I was following you on bloglovin anyway).
        Thanks for the kind words. You’re doing a great thing.
        I’ve actually left teaching because of my anxiety, and I’m going back to uni. I know there will still be heaps of pressure, but I think it’s going to be a huge step in the right direction.
        Stay cool 🙂

        Like

    • Yay, thank you! I’m following you too. 🙂
      I can definitely see how teaching wouldn’t help your anxiety, it must be so stressful. I hope that uni is a better fit for you! I for one feel like I could keep studying for the rest of my life..
      These days, my recovery comes before anything else, and I hope that that’s the same for you too. 🙂 Good luck!

      Like

  2. Pingback: ONE YEAR OLD! – Iron Beth

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