As many of you who regularly read my blog should know, I have anxiety. Since I found out I have anxiety, I always thought I had only had it since I was about fifteen or sixteen, however the other day I was thinking about my childhood and realised that I have actually been living with anxiety for a lot longer than I previously thought.
I definitely think that I have always lived with anxiety but I just cannot completely remember any of the particularly anxious times that I have had. I think that because at the time any time I did feel anxious, I just thought it was nerves or that I was ill because the words 'anxious' and 'anxiety' were not heard of during my childhood. In fact, I do not think I heard either of those words until I was a teenager. This is why I thought today would be a good chance for me to share the story of the first time I can remember feeling anxious and having an anxiety attack (although I did not know that was what it was at the time), so if you have any children you can pick up on any anxious behaviours they might be displaying and know that this is what that is and not something else.
I was a child who grew up in the noughties and for any of you who can remember, in 2007 the UK was faced with a lot of really bad flooding over that summer. I can remember on the last day of school that summer before we broke up for the summer holidays, there was quite heavy rain and really bad flooding where I lived and I was on the bus heading home and there was this one bit of road where the water had run off the field and onto the road and my bus struggled to get through it. I think it was from this moment, and this is probably going to sound completely ridiculous to you, that I developed a fear of the rain.
I then remember later that year at around November we had a bit more heavy rain one day, which is quite typical for an autumn day in England. I was sat in the classroom and my seat was right next to the window. I can remember looking out of the window and I could see that in some places the playground was becoming slightly flooded. I then remember thinking back to what had happened that summer and I really started to panic. I can remember feeling like my stomach was turning into a knot, I began to feel really sick and I felt that my breathing was becoming a little heavier. I did know that there was definitely something wrong with me, however I just thought it was a physical thing and that I had a stomach bug, obviously not realising that it was a mental thing (at that point I do not think I had heard the word 'mental' and I had certainly never heard 'mental health', only 'physical health').
I went to my teacher and mentioned the fact that I was feeling sick, so she sent me to the office and they told me that as I did not look that ill that I should go back to class and said that if I began to feel worse I should go back to speak to them and they would ring my mum to get her to come and pick me up. I went back to class and the feelings I had felt persisted and as it continued to rain I felt that I was getting worse and worse. Around an hour later (maybe more, maybe less) I told my teacher that I was feeling worse so I went back to the office and they decided that I should go home.
I spent the rest of that day and the next day off school and then I went back for one day and then had the day after that off as that morning I felt exactly as I had a few days earlier. Later that day I began to feel better and once my younger brother had been picked up from nursery we were running around the house and it was from then that I was accused of skiving off school and my Mum even put me in the car and started driving me to school to get me to explain to the headteacher why I had been skiving (even though I clearly had not been), only we got halfway there and she decided that as school was due to end quite soon there was no point so she turned around and we went home.
As a seven year old and feeling that way but not being sure on why I was feeling like that or what it was, it was quite difficult as I felt that those feelings were unique to me and that no one would understand how I was feeling. I thought that if I told someone how I was feeling, they would tell me I was being ridiculous and that I was making the whole thing up. I am glad now that I know what those feelings are and that I am not the only one who feels like this.
I do think that more awareness needs to be made on the fact that children also suffer from mental illness and that it is important that we listen to children on how they are feeling so we can spot the fact that they may have anxiety so that we can give them the help that they need. More people need to realise that children's feelings are valid and just because they are young does not mean that they do not have any mental illnesses.
Times have changed and just because things were done and viewed one way, even just a few years ago, does not mean that is how we do and view things now.
Love Beth xx