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Anxiety: Melissa’s story

Melissa, a Brook volunteer from Manchester, shares her story of living with anxiety.

Content Warning

This page has discussion of mental illness, including depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts.

At 17, after all these years of learning to cope with anxiety, I still don’t know why it started – and that’s fine. All that matters is that I do have anxiety and all I can do is continue to learn new ways in which I can live and cope with it. Of course, I’m still finding new things that scare me everyday, but I’m also finding new techniques and ways in order to cope with these things because I am entitled to live my life how I want to and anxiety is not going to stop me. 

When it all started

Anxiety decided to sneak into my life when I was around 14 and I was going through that time when everything in life is like an itch you can’t scratch and it’s all generally quite sh*t. Puberty .

I was basically this concoction of hormones, hair, opinions, braces, spots, body odor, period pains, hate, love, lust and a new ingredient – excruciating anxiety. The world was just coming into light and I had all these things I wanted to do and say, but anxiety was the tape over my mouth and it had my hands and legs tied. 

Anxiety at school

School was a no go (literally) as I came to despise it and most people there because I was so completely terrified of setting foot in there in case I had a panic attack.

I really felt that school didn’t help me as they didn’t know how to deal with me and I don’t think they particularly wanted to.

I ended up in a room with a few other students whenever I was there because I wouldn’t go to any lessons. I pretty much did my own thing in this room because no one watched me at all and when I think back to it, this was not a good thing. Although I did write particularly sassy poems about them when they were about 2 feet away from me. (Craziest thing I’ve ever done obviously).

It came to the point where I was terrified of the room too and I just couldn’t cope with school or the thought of it. Depression surfaced because I was so unhappy with life and I would try anything to get out of going to school. My mum would have to walk me to school if I went in and I would cry all the way there and when I was there too. I would show up hours late and in the end I don’t think they cared anyway.

I’m really glad I had my mum there to support me everyday as I might not be writing this right now and I can only imagine how horrible it is to be in this predicament when seeing your child distressed.

In my personal experience, my school didn’t have the best resources to deal with mental health and help young people, which is funny considering people usually start struggling around this time. I am in no way saying that all schools are like this. This is purely my experience.

Leaving school

I left school having done some GCSE’s (I left all of my own options) and I got some results that were not bad at all considering. I was happy, but they still didn’t mean anything to me as education has never fueled me. Although I’m proud of myself for getting through school and finishing my GCSE’s, I am even more proud of myself for realising that actually, I could learn to cope with anxiety. That’s my best achievement from school.

I attended college soon after school and started some A Levels, but I knew I had jumped from an educational environment that had affected me so much it nearly affected whether I wanted to live or not, to another educational environment where I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to be there. The problem was, I hadn’t stopped to ask myself, “Is this what you really want? Does this make you happy?” before I planted myself in this place. After 5 weeks of being at college, I was unhappy again. I decided that I was unhappy because this just wasn’t what made me happy at all.

So, I took a chance and left college to do something that made me happy. Something that made me truly happy. 

I had started to write a book about coping with mental health in January 2014 and kept on leaving it and leaving it, so when I left college I told myself that I was going to finish it. I was going to finish this book and be proud. 

In December 2015, 1 month after leaving college, I sank into a deep pit of depression as I couldn’t find a job and I was at home 24/7. I didn’t want to go out or see anyone at all. One night it got so bad, that I thought things might be better if I was dead. Luckily, something in my head stopped me and I took myself from this situation and sat with a family member so I wasn’t alone. 

When you’re feeling suicidal, even sitting in someone’s presence can be majorly helpful as you’re not alone with your thoughts.

I worked through this depression by talking about it with family over the next few months, so I never had to feel like that again. I am thankful for the decision I made. More thankful than anyone will ever know. I pulled myself from these thoughts and proved that I can cope. I am thankful.

Doing what makes me happy

In February 2016, life had completely changed. I had a job where I met some lovely people, I still had the proof that I could cope and most of all, I had the proof that things can change. You never know how you’re going to feel in the next 5 minutes, hour, day, month or year so please don’t give up. Don’t ever give up. Things have to change. Feelings pass. It DOES get better.

In June 2016, I published my very first book! Something I thought I would never be able to do. I did it and now I don’t have to do anything productive for at least 10 years. I’m very proud of myself even though it still hasn’t sunk in properly, but I’m glad I can give others who may be suffering or feeling alone a piece of what I was going through (and still do) and hopefully even help one person who feels they’re alone in how they’re feeling.

The biggest lesson I’ve learnt is that I can’t tell the future.

No matter how much I think or worry about something, I will never know how I will feel in the next hour.

You can go from feeling done with everything to feeling like stuff might actually be okay within the space of 10 minutes. This life is all yours. It can be amazing. It will be amazing. Things do get better.

Please don’t give up. I’m eternally glad that I didn’t.

Melissa is a writer and volunteer at Brook, and her work explores mental health. You can buy her book, COPE, here, and read her blog here. You can follow Melissa on twitter here.

It’s OK not to be OK

Approximately 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year (NHS England, 2020).

If you are worried about your mental health, or about someone else’s, there are lots of places that can offer you help and support. You don’t have to be diagnosed, you don’t even have to know exactly what’s wrong. Whenever you are ready to talk to someone, you can.


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