Tuesday, 27 March 2018

Anxiety and my fear of growing older

As is the case with most children and teenagers, I was previously fixated upon the idea of growing older, being able to do exactly as I pleased and have the freedom of an independent women *insert sassy lady emoji*. It wasn't until I was approaching my 18th birthday that I suddenly felt an overwhelming surge of panic at the prospect of finally reaching the 'adult' status I had longed for, and instead of happiness, I felt worry. Worry that I wasn't ready to leave behind the responsibility free years of my youth. Worry that I didn't know which direction I wanted my life to take me in, and ultimately, worry that my life was passing me by far quicker than I was comfortable with. Since my 18th birthday (now 2 and a half years ago) these feelings have only intensified, as the weeks seem to flash by quicker than ever before, and we're already almost 4 months into 2018 when Christmas felt like yesterday?! I know I'm not alone in feeling that time seems to be stuck on the fast forward setting right now, but I can't help but feel isolated in my thoughts nonetheless, as I panic that my life will speed so quickly by that I'll barely have chance to stop and take in the view. I've wanted to get my thoughts down on a page about this for a while now, however have always struggled with knowing where to start. Here's hoping this is the right place:

As with a lot of my worrying, I'm definitely aware that in the most part this stems from suffering with anxiety and the trials and tribulations that come along with this. Having said that, I'm also more than aware that social media has absolutely played its part in my constant fear of FOMO, and it is perhaps the combination of these two factors that have intensified my worries over recent years. Suffering with social anxiety is one of the most isolating yet suffocating experiences imaginable, and it's almost impossible to put into words the effect this can have on ones life and how challenging it can be to overcome it. Some of the main symptoms include dreading everyday activities such as meeting strangers, speaking on the phone, worrying about social events or fear of criticism and low self esteem. As well as a fear of meeting new people, I've also found my anxiety has manifested itself in even the most seemingly comfortable of social situations with those that I'm in fact close to, and as a result have missed out on countless parties, dinners, nights out and birthdays as result. I think this is likely where my fear of growing old begins, as the result of me saying no to so many things over the years has left me seeing my life begin to pass me by. Now I know what you may now be thinking- at the age of 20, I sound like a bit of a drama queen to be thinking that my life is over before its even really begun, and I think this is the point at which social media steps in to intensify my worries (god damn you Instagram). Despite being aware that most people share their best lives on the internet, rarely giving mention to their stresses, struggling relationships or financial worries, it's often difficult to remember this when tapping through Instagram stories on a Friday or Saturday night and seeing countless 'cheers' boomerangs, gals in their glad rags and pizza pamper sleepovers with a flawless looking girl gang. What I'm trying to say is, social media allows you to be thrust into someone else's live, feeling envious of the socialising and fun that appears to be had, without any wider context. It's of course very easy to take social media at face value (something I'm actively trying to battle) and I do think it often elevates my concerns of missing out on a life that I so desperately want, as a result of these irrational anxieties. 

I think another of my fears when it comes to time passing me by is rooted in the fact that adulthood is full of far more worry and stress than I envisaged as a child- oh how my parents were right when they told me not to wish away my younger years! This is a fact of life I'm sure that almost everyone experiences, but I can't help shake the worries that do indeed come along with that funny old thing known as ~adulting~. Most of the time it feels like a complete stab in the dark, and maybe that's okay, but as a 20 year old trying to navigate living in London, with one year left of my degree, the sinking realisation that I'm no longer a teenager is slowly but surely hitting me. There's something totally nostalgic about the idea of youth, and I suppose this is partly why I'm so afraid of it passing me by without a chance to do everything and anything I've dreamed of until this point. Films often portray this coming of age time as the most magical and care-free experience of our lives, and whilst my secondary school years were filled with a few house parties here and there, they certainly weren't the skinny dipping, festival filled, outdoor adventures comparing with the likes of Clueless or Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging (Robbie I <3 you). Of course the world of film and bright lights miss out the hormonal teen changes, pimples that just won't go away and awkward first kisses, but all the same there's a sense of glamourising that comes along with being young that I feel puts a lot of pressure on the anxious gals like me to live a life that I'll look back on in my old age and be content with. This is of course the ultimate aim in life- to live with no regrets. But if you suffer with social anxiety- or any health problem for that matter- you'll be more than aware that taking those leaps of faith aren't often so simple. 

I've rambled on for quite a while now, and honestly, it feels so therapeutic to have got these thoughts out in the open. Money, anxiety and circumstance hold me back far often than I've liked to admit until this point, but I'm making it my mission during my last student summer (starting at the end of May) to live my Best Life and take every opportunity and social event that comes my way. I'm tired of looking back and wishing I had done more, so however many panic attacks I need to push through, or however many times I see my bank account dwindling, I'm going to try my upmost to push myself out of my comfort zone and see what incredible memories I can create. Who's with me?! 

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