DEALING WITH ANXIETY
At aged 11, my son suffered a breakdown of mental health, and was off school for pretty much 4 years. He has never spoken about what he has been through these last few years openly, but yesterday wrote a blog and presented me with his account, and wanted it shared. He is braver than me. I have put pen to paper many times about our journey together but have yet to be able to re-live those traumatic times. This is just the tip of the iceberg but is an incredible account from a 16-year-old boy, about what it feels to live with general anxiety disorder. I am beyond proud of him for allowing me to share this in the hope that people will understand a little more about mental health. Go Travis!! You are an amazing son, and I’m so proud of the battles you continue to overcome. Please feel free to share and raise awareness - let’s break down the silence #mentalhealthawareness
Dealing with Anxiety
Anxiety is tough, it is annoying, it’s scary and it brings you down and beats you up just when you don’t need it. As a 16-year-old boy, I’ve dealt with anxiety a lot, sometimes being aware of it and sometimes being unaware, whether it’s at school, social events, meeting new people, or, possibly the worst out of the lot, watching and supporting Tottenham, which I have learnt, if you have anxiety is NOT the football team you want to support. Anxiety can come for me in many different forms, whether it is a full-blown panic attack or a tiny worry in the back of my head, it’s always there, even writing this I’m feeling it!
Dealing with anxiety can come in many ways. People suggest slow breathing, facing your fears and walking straight into it, or in my case, completely running away from it and missing 4 years of school! Something which I do not advise. So, let me tell you about how I missed most of my secondary school education.
I was 11 years old and moving to a completely new school, something for which most people, would be a main cause of anxiety, but for me, surprisingly, I was positive (for once). I had all my closest friends moving with me, I was excited to meet new people and was ready to get out of the absolute nightmare I thought primary school was! Little did I know it was about to get a whole lot worse.
I was a goofy, loud, sarcastic, and abnormally tall 11-year-old, all traits of which I still have now, however I added one more quality, dad jokes, yes, I know, I hate it too. My dad however, is extremely proud that he has ruined my humour forever! So, I had just started secondary school, and everything was going well, or so I thought (cue dramatic sound effect) when around 5 months into year 7, I woke up one morning and everything fell apart. I could not get into the car, I could not breathe, I felt like my heart was beating out of my chest, everything anyone had ever told me about how to handle myself in these situations had gone flying out the window, and even the thought of seeing anyone outside of my house made me burst into tears and feel overwhelmed with panic. I did not know how to control myself, I didn’t know what was happening, when was it going to end?
For the next 2 years, I didn’t step into school once. I tried many times, I got to the school and I couldn’t step in, the same thing would happen again each time, that fear, that panic, it was as if there was a brick wall standing in front of me every time I tried. In the 3rd year, I gradually went back to school for very short amounts of time, starting with 10 minutes a day sitting in a room alone, to 1 hour a day with 1 friend. For 3 years of my school life, whether I was there or not, I did no work, I sat at home for the majority of the day, playing play station, watching Netflix and football, sounds great right? Well, for some weird reason, it wasn’t, it was almost as if sitting at home all day doing nothing would fail to motivate me and stimulate my brain, who would’ve thought?
One more thing that made it just that much worse, was that during years 7 and 8, everyone was having bar and bat mitzvahs. For those that don’t know, this is a Jewish celebration for 12- and 13-year-old boys and girls, it involves a ceremony and a huge party, which is the only bit most kids care about. So, whilst everyone was going out every weekend having the time of their lives partying, I was at home, on my own, watching them on social media. Even now, I still struggle to go to bar/bat mitzvah’s and parties.
I consider myself very lucky. I had an extremely supportive family, who wouldn’t scream or get annoyed at me whenever I panicked, I had the best friends anyone could ask for, always looking out for me and supporting me even if they didn’t know why I wasn’t at school. Everyone cared. I still remember one day, which really sums up how amazing my friends and family are. In year 7, when I first started missing school, the thought of telling everyone I had anxiety, gave me even more anxiety, so I opted for the easy way out. I told my friends I was off because I had glandular fever. How my friends thought that I, a weird, awkward, taller than everyone else 11-year-old, contracted what is predominantly known as “the kissing disease” is beyond me, but they did. I mention this because in year 9, when I was 13 years old, I was seeing my friends a lot and slightly happier than I previously had been, so I decided I was sick of hiding, sick of lying to people and just wanted to tell the truth. I wrote a long and detailed message explaining to my friends what was really “wrong with me”. This was a real turning point for me, my friends were incredibly understanding, offered their full support to me and didn’t judge me at all, as well as not taking it too seriously, and treating me the same as they always did and of course, constantly making jokes about it (which I wanted and loved).
That brings us to now, 5 years on, I am at school full time, well as much as Boris is allowing me! I have grown as a person and really understood how to control my anxiety and deal with it. Of course, it’s not been easy. I’ve had some very tough times and have had to fight through them with the help of my family, friends and professionals. I was able to catch up on all my work, which I found extremely stressful and daunting, I am able to be in lessons, be with friends and have had amazing support from the entire school to help me find my way back into being a full-time student. Luckily for me, COVID hitting allowed me to escape the nightmare of GCSE’s, which was somewhat a blessing.
Of course, my anxiety hasn’t completely gone. I still have several moments and panic attacks, but I have managed to control it and deal with it when the time is right, which comes naturally with experience, which is not something you want when it comes to panic attacks, but oh well, I have it now. I know anxiety can be different for everyone and everyone can have it in different ways, it’s just that mine is more serious and should be considered worse than everyone else’s (that’s one of those dad jokes I mentioned earlier.)
In all seriousness, if you are reading this and have dealt or are dealing with anxiety or any form of mental health here is my advice for you, although it is different for everyone and your experience may not be the same or even like mine. It WILL get better. I didn’t believe it when people told me either, but I promise it will. Make sure you talk to people, accept support, and do the things that help YOU! Finally, and most importantly, if you have anxiety, DO NOT SUPPORT TOTTENHAM, it will only make it worse.
Blog / August 21st, 2019
Across the summer term we were delighted to work with the young people of Tow Law Millennium Primary School, in County Durham, on a creative writing and cultural heritage project, supported by the National Heritage Lottery Fund and North East Charity, Building Self-Belief CIO.
Blog / July 18th, 2018
Building self-belief in our young people is an essential element of their education. I recently received a thank you card from a Year 11 student who said “In such a short time period you have been amazing, thank you so much for helping me and being so kind.
Films / December 16th, 2018
We had a brilliant experience working with these young people. We worked with them by building up their confidence by encouraging them to talk. We took them to the theatre, a restaurant and to the high ropes. They all learnt a great deal about each other and themselves.