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Yes, it happens. And it's the weirdest thing. Growing up I was such a loud and eccentric child; I was always making jokes and getting told off in class for talking to my friends too much. I always relished the opportunity of a school play or a class presentation. I just loved attention! Until I hit my teenage years, and everything went sideways.
One day I just started to feel small. Small and insufficient compared to those around me. I didn't like who I saw in the mirror and I was embarrassed of myself. I shrank away into a corner from then on; turning down most outings with my friends and fearing any prospect of a situation in which all eyes were on me. It took a real toll on my wellbeing, and I would ask myself what the point was of being around at all if this was how I was going to feel from now on.
That lasted for a few months, until I moved schools and started to find myself again amongst my new group of friends. I became the joker again, and I actually enjoyed my life and school. I was always laughing and always in a good mood. But if you don't face anxiety head-on, it will catch up with you again, no matter how fast you're running.
I started fearing going to assembly because standing in rows with a hundred other kids made me panic. I feared saying anything aloud to the teacher in class and I'd even avoid reading aloud, something which I used to love doing, because my voice would shake and I'd feel horrible. I again started to feel that feeling of shrinking that I'd felt years before. I didn't want to go to school again. I just wanted to hide away.
It's weird when you're a natural extrovert but have anxiety, because when you're around people you're loud and you're cheerful, and nobody suspects for one minute that you have an anxiety problem. I'm very open about it these days, and when I tell people they're always shocked because my personality doesn't hint at anything close to anxious. So that was hard for me; being confident but also having no confidence at all. If I was out with friends I'd be the centre of attention, but it took a lot for me to even go out with friends. I was constantly switching between two states of existence. It almost felt like I was two different people. And that can really weigh down on you.
I tried therapy, meditation, all the usual stuff, and it didn't work. Sometimes your head just can't see past those things. So I went on being anxious, for another two years, and then I came across citalopram. Yes, I know what some of you are thinking, whether you like to admit it or not. "Antidepressants are a sign of giving up! A last resort!" Yes, I moved onto antidepressants when nothing else worked, but I was far from giving up. Giving up would have been letting my anxiety completely take over and ruin my life. And I wasn't going to let that happen. So I took my doctor's prescription and I have never felt more like the person I used to be. Finally, the internal extrovert is in sync with the external one. I still get anxious, that's unavoidable. But now I'm strong enough to move past it. And I'm so happy to be me again.
I've always planned for myself a life of respect and notoriety. I want to be well known in my professional field and I want to look back on my career in 50 years and pat myself on the back for doing everything I could to be the best I could be. And, for a while, I convinced myself that my anxiety would take that all away. And it would have if I hadn't gotten the correct help. So be brave, believe in the importance of YOU, and do your best to be the person you know you are. Slap anxiety in the face. You can do it.