Amazing still it seems
I’ll be 23
I won’t always love what I’ll never have
I won’t always live in my regrets

– ‘23’ by Jimmy Eat World

I rediscovered this song on my ipod the other day (after having not listened to it in years) and it reminded me of how much progress I’ve made over these last few years. I remember frequently listening to that song, and couple of other songs from that album, when I was 16 and severely depressed, wondering what the state of my life would be like when I was 23, and wondering if I would even still be alive then. It was a negative song for me back then; a forecast of a bleak future, in which things would be even worse than they were when I was in high school, and in which I would still be just as incapacitated by anxiety, still be suicidal, still be self-injuring, still have no friends, and still have no chance of being in a relationship or holding down a job. I didn’t think I’d ever have any semblance of a social life, and I definitely didn’t think that I’d ever be able to travel to a different continent all by myself. Like the song lyrics say, I thought I’d be alone and lonely forever, trapped in a vortex of depression, and with suicide being an eventuality. I never imagined that things would be so different to how they were back then.

Now, at the age of 23, listening to that song reminds me how far I’ve come and how much better life is now than during my breakdown at the age of 17. It’s like night and day. This is the longest period of me feeling good about how my life is going since my last year of primary school. I do still have days where I feel as if I’m starting to sink into (mild) depression again, and I start to really worry about the future. I worry because I know just how bad things can get, and how easily everything could fall apart again. If you have ever experienced a mental health condition that has greatly reduced your quality of life, you’ll know that fear of relapse all too well. I fear my anxiety worsening again, and losing the progress I have made. I fear another episode of severe depression most of all. I’m not sure I could get through that again. However, things have certainly been snowballing in a positive direction over these last few years. I’m hopeful that if I can keep challenging myself and using what I’ve learned, this progress and positivity will continue. Even if things do start to slide backwards, I’ve gotten better over the years at recognising when this is happening, and taking steps to address it. If I’ve recovered from depression and greatly reduced my anxiety in social situations before, it stands to reason that I can do it again if life throws me a curveball.

I haven’t had suicidal thoughts since before I left university, and it’s been much longer since I seriously thought about self-injury. While my anxiety does still impact upon just about every area of my life, I can do A LOT more now than I could a few years ago. On a day-to-day basis, my anxiety is certainly a lot more manageable. Without meaning to sound overdramatic, I’m so glad that I didn’t end my life 5 years ago. I would have missed out on so many happy/ positive experiences. I have been very lucky, and I’m grateful every day, for every little thing (for example, yesterday I was able to start a conversation with a colleague that I don’t normally talk to). I will never take the SA-related stuff for granted. Life isn’t perfect, but I have a job (where I’m gradually getting better and better at talking to colleagues and customers), some more travelling planned, a boyfriend, FRIENDS (we aren’t close and I don’t see them very often but have been seeing more of one of my friends in recent months), and I have a social life. All of that is huge!  I also had great birthday this year (I normally don’t really look forward to my birthday as in the past, it served as a painful reminder of how far behind everyone else I am and how socially isolated I was/ still am to an extent). I felt loved by the people in my life, and was spoilt rotten!

I only hope that I can help to raise awareness of social anxiety disorder, and help other people who are in the situation I was in at my lowest point, or worse. My heart truly goes out to you all, because I know how painful and isolating a condition this really, and how life-destroying it can be. I really wish there was more I could do, though I am encouraged by the number of people who have commented on my blog or emailed me to say that my blog has helped them to feel less alone, understood, and/ or more positive about the future. I’ve had a couple of people email me with requests for interviews before, but have been too anxious to go ahead with anything so far. I’m also torn between doing something like that to raise awareness/ educate people, and losing the relative anonymity that I currently enjoy on this blog. I like my privacy, and I’m not sure that I would want my family to read this blog. Though perhaps in future, once I’ve reduced my anxiety even further, I will be ready for that sort of thing.

EDIT: I’m sorry if this post sounds really melodramatic and/ or self-pitying at parts. I just try to write as honestly and openly as possible about my experiences. Please also bear with my terrible writing, as I’m still trying to re-learn how to write blog posts after not blogging regularly (or writing at all) in so long. (My brain having turned into mince as the result of a brainless job is not helping – I swear my vocabulary and intelligence are decreasing by the day). I’m going to make an effort to try and write a new blog post at least once a week for the foreseeable future.

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