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Growing into me

Today, I can stand up and say with confidence that I’m ‘a bit of a self-confessed oddball’. But, just over ten years ago, things were not so clear to me. I didn’t know much about anxiety and I definitely had not found a real way to express myself. I didn’t know who I was or what I wanted.

From the ages of thirteen through to sixteen, I was very lost. The things that I enjoyed were far from popular. Reading, comic books and cartoons were certainly not the considered norm. I was surrounded by football, pop music and burgeoning relationships. I felt lonely and isolated, not being fully aware that I had a mental health issue that impacted the way I was socialising compared to other teenagers at the time.

For some people, not ‘fitting in’ with a crowd can be dealt with by pretending to be someone else or sharing similar interests, but with the anxiety I felt, I couldn’t achieve this. Instigating conversation is something I still don’t find easy, and I have gratefully been able to come to terms with this, but back then I felt like a freak. An outsider. It came as no surprise that people would label me as rude or non-conformist but I didn’t feel like it could be helped. Instead of mixing with my peers, I remained alone in my bubble choosing to fill my time by scratching my creative itch; writing, drawing or just generally escaping inside my own imagination. I was more comfortable in my own head than amongst crowds of people. It became a difficult road comprised of loneliness and depression. But one thing I did not anticipate was that this shy, reclusive individual was slowly growing into himself. When school ended, I decided not to continue my studies at the current sixth form, preferring a new environment at a local college. A clean slate.

With all that I’d been through, I now had a very different head on my shoulders. I may not have improved greatly in conversing with others, but I had become very confident in my creative abilities and who I am as a person. I knew my own mind. Surprisingly, at the age of seventeen, that was a very desirable trait. Gone was the clicky nature of school, replaced by a need in everyone to be an individual.  Luckily I was most comfortable when being ‘individual’. The fact that I struggled socially didn’t really seem to matter anymore. People were much more understanding of eccentricities, which for me meant I felt safe enough to creep ‘out of my shell’.

I have found that the older I get, the more understanding I find in those around me. Now, I’m still not great at instigating conversation or small talk, in fact they are things I dread the most, but staying true to what I love and am passionate about has made me happier than I’ve ever been. I now have friends, am engaged and get to create and do what I love every day. None of this would be possible today if I had forced myself to ‘fit in’, betraying myself in the process.

Time changes people, it shapes them and I think only by being the best version of yourself, trusting that version of yourself, can you truly take the first step in overcoming anxiety. In fact, in writing this post I may have found something that I actually need to thank my anxiety for… making me, me.

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