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I struggled to ask for help but now I'm determined to build my strength

An anonymous blogger describes how social anxiety has impacted her life and why we need more research to understand who is at risk of mental illness.

I have lived with social anxiety my entire life. 

Even back in nursery, I remember feeling scared to join in with other children’s games.   

My shyness continued at school. I’d get a racing heart and sweaty palms whenever I would have to speak up in class. There would be days when the only thing I’d say was calling out to answer the register.   

The anxiety followed me through college and into university where I first experienced panic attacks and depression.

My family have been amazing about my mental health and I found being away from them particularly hard.

They’ve been my rock, but at times, even they have become frustrated. I had to cancel my work experience placements because I was too scared to go in and I think they struggled to understand how I could do well academically, yet be so petrified of work. But for me, studying was my escape, my way out of social interaction.

I’ve tried counselling and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) to tackle my anxiety, and they have helped to an extent, however, it was very much dependant on how well I gelled with the therapist. In some counselling sessions, I felt I was taking a step backward. I also find it hard to get over the feeling of shame and ask for help, sometimes I find it’s easier to put on a front and appear as if I have everything is in control.

Running and exercise have been helpful to me, pulling me out of hopelessness for periods of time, but it’s not a long-term solution.

However, things are improving gradually. I’m trying to push myself to do things I find intimidating, like trying out new hobbies and classes – it’s difficult – but I’m slowly building my strength and confidence. 

Recently, I started a support group which has led me to meet some great people and boosted my self-worth and confidence. Overcoming challenges gives me a huge sense of reward. 

Although I worry about the impact anxiety could have on my career, I hope one day I’ll get a job where my colleagues are understanding about mental health. I want to be part of the movement tackling stigma.

Having experienced my problems from such a young age, I can really see the value in investing in research into young people, if we knew which signs to look out for in children then we could develop more effective ways to help?

Teachers and parents need the research to see which young people are at risk of developing mental health problems, then we could get people the support they need, earlier.

We’re funding Dr Valeria Mondelli at Kings College London to understand the factors that put young people at risk of depression.

The blogger has asked to remain anonymous and the photo is of a model to protect their identity. 

Last updated: 22 January 2018

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