My Anxiety & Me

My Anxiety & Me

From the outside, I am confident, I have a great job, great family and friends, but underneath is a very different story altogether. My name is Darragh and for the past 20 years I have been tackling the crippling effects of anxiety.

I was a pretty shy kid, but always happy-go-lucky. I was full of energy, but always a little different to everyone else. I remember my first wave of anxiety, sitting at the top of the class, the teacher said I must never play rounders’ with the girls again, that I was sissy and go play with the boys. All eyes were on me, judging and laughing, I never felt so alone. At age 10, I just wanted the floor to swallow me up.

This was only the start of it.

The Bullying

When I started secondary school, those differences to the other kids were magnified, highlighted and ridiculed. It began small mocking how I spoke, laughing at my interests and my appearance.

But then I started to hear the word gay, queer, puff… I couldn’t fight back, I said nothing, how could I? They were right! I was gay, I did dislike football, I was spotty, I was awkward. I agreed with what they were saying, so how could I possibly fight back? I lost my voice, my strength, my courage.

When I went on to college, my peers no longer bullied me, instead I did. My own thoughts more cutting than anything I heard in the school yard. I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror. I hid my face when out in public. It lead to persistent panic attacks. I hated socializing in pubs and when I did, I used alcohol to numb that internal voice, the negativity, the anxiety – however fleeting the silence.

My turning point

One day in my early 20’s, when visiting home, my mum turned to me and asked “are you okay?” I had reached my limit, my heart couldn’t take it any longer and something had to give. I just broke down in front of her. I wept and wept, I opened up, told mum everything. She put her arms around me, rang a GP and brought me straight to him.

The thing is, I didn’t know I was suffering from anxiety, extreme low self-worth and depression. I put all my focus on fixing the outside, my appearance, unable to cope with the internal turmoil. But I got the help I needed. I spoke to a therapist and he helped me retrain my mind with CBT.

The ceiling was lifted, my confidence grew, I came out, no one disowned me, slowly I started to heal inside and start accepting myself, flaws and all. This took years and to be honest I am still healing.

Now

My anxiety is not as severe as it was before, but it’s still there. For me it is the judgment. I make the assumption people are thinking negatively of me, but I have learned to manage these thoughts. I can breathe, let the thoughts flow in and out, not giving anxiety the power.

Something that works for me when managing these feelings is meditation. I have incorporated into my daily life and I haven’t looked back. It has helped me heal the pain, become more comfortable in my own skin, to accept and love myself.

The only advice I can give anyone who is suffering from anxiety, depression, low self-worth, suicidal thoughts is to please reach out and tell someone how you are feeling. You are not alone. Asking for help is not a weakness, but such an unbelievable act of courage.

- Darragh O'Boyle

 

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