Anxiety is something which so many people suffer from in today’s society. I’ve suffered from anxiety for a number of years – and yes, sometimes it’s easier to manage but some days it’s next to impossible. My earliest memory of having anxiety is around about Year 9 at school, so I would’ve been 14 years old. I was paranoid and sensitive, something as little as the wrong look could’ve easily ruined my day. I vividly remember being terrified to go to Geography lessons because of 1 person in the class who I felt so anxious around- I felt timid and I just froze around him, my heart racing and my palms sweating. I’d always keep my head down, and I wouldn’t line up with the rest of the class – I’d be down the corridor making sure everyone had gone in before I even thought of going in – I didn’t want to be noticed. I couldn’t continue – in Year 10 I sought help. I went to my Head of Year and explained everything, and it felt good. My seat in the class was changed and I was put around people who I was good friends with, and this slowly started to get better. An organisation also came in every Thursday afternoon and we’d have a group anxiety counselling session, which I’d say I benefitted from since I wasn’t the only one who suffered. Midway through Year 11, my confidence blossomed, I was proud and confident at school, I focussed and I achieved exceptional results, and to this day I’d say it was my proudest achievement – anxiety didn’t beat me.
But it doesn’t just stop. Unfortunately, there isn’t a button to turn off the anxiety symptoms. Anxiety is a thing which many of us may have to deal with for the rest of our lives- and that’s ok. Even now to this day, I struggle with anxiety; however the important thing is how I manage it and how I approach my daily life. Personally, I don’t like change. When I’m thrown into a new situation, my automatic response is to panic. For example, I am currently in Year 13 and so this is my final year at school, and in all honesty, I don’t want to leave. I’m scared for university – will I make friends? Will I like the course? Will I cope? What if I don’t get along with my flatmates? These are just some questions spinning in my head. This time last year, I wasn’t going to apply to university, but what we must remember is that we cannot let anxiety beat us. You have to thrive, prosper, and use your potential and don’t let anything get in your way. I’m glad I saw sense, and having sent my application off three weeks ago from writing this, I am proud to say I have already been offered places at 2 leading UK universities. This is just an example of how your hard work is recognised.
One incident which concerned me recently was in the summer holidays of Year 12. I have family in another city, and one of them had a baby, and of course we were invited to see the baby. I was told about this approximately 3 weeks before we were going – and every single day it’s all I thought about- who will I talk to when I’m there? Will I feel awkward? What if people don’t include me? What if people judge me? Unfortunately, things were so bad that it lead to me not going in the end, and I was at home in my comfort zone. Now I say to myself – what’s the worst thing that could’ve happened? They’re just humans, like me – so what’s the big deal? That’s what I was told by my parents anyway – and this is something which needs to be highlighted in our community : anxiety exists and we need to recognise it. My family’s immediate response to when I told them about my anxiety was that I had become ‘pagal’. The best translation is ‘mentally crazy’, and in their mind, it could lead to me being sectioned. But anxiety isn’t that at all – with the right help and support, it doesn’t have to be that. That’s why more recently I got in touch with a GP, and contacted the IAPT self-referral service, and am currently undergoing CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy). I have weekly 60 minute sessions, and the aim is essentially to change the cognitions of my mind – to change my thought processes and to become confident within myself. Having attended 3 sessions so far, I feel the intensity of the therapy, but I’m proud of how far I’ve came. I recognised the problem, and I’m trying to deal with it: I spoke out. If you take one thing from reading this, take this: it’s ok to not be ok, and speaking about your problems will help – it gets better and I can guarantee it. During my lowest times, it’s sometimes felt like I’m the only one feeling like this, and that nobody can help, but that’s not true. Regardless of what your family say, the Punjabi community and wider South-Asian community has a long way to come with regards to mental health, and I am proud to make a contribution to the cause. Mental health is real, and it needs addressing, and even now in my family, some people don’t recognise mental health and more precisely, anxiety, as an issue, partially because there is no direct translation into Punjabi. Through organisations like Sikhforgiveness, as a community we can come together and tackle the problems we face, and collectively find solutions. You are not alone, regardless of your gender, colour, caste, creed or religion. We are one.