HOW THE INTERNET SAVED MY ANXIETY

I’ve spent months trying to find the right words to write down for this post, I originally wrote the bulk of it before going back and tweaking it right now, over a year ago. Truth is, writing about anxiety makes me very anxious; how ironic. Anxious about what people will think, if they feel the same way or if nobody will even read it and the worry for such a long amount of time will have been for nothing. I have so much on my mind that I want to share about living on the internet when you live with anxiety but I have never felt as though I had enough strength to put it down on paper, or screen (as you’re reading this). Finally, after allowing this post to sit in my drafts for over 12 months – I’m taking the plunge and doing something out of my comfort zone by publishing it. Today, right now: is the right time.

Anxiety: Who are you? What are you? Why does it affect me?
“Anxiety is a type of fear usually associated with the thought of a threat or something going wrong in the future, but can also arise from something happening right now.” – Mental Health Foundation

The above describes what I deal with every day, I worry about every-day life. Preparing for the worst in EVERY situation, even taking the bins out to the front of the house ready for collection comes with a lot of preparation, what if I see somebody I know? What if a car beeps at me? What if. A task for millions of people out there that will probably never ever have to prepare for, not even allowing it to cross your mind other than to put your slippers on and walk outside with the dustbin – for me, and many others something that seems so simplistic is a big deal. Some days I don’t think twice about doing such a “small thing”, other days its the last thing I could possibly dream of doing. It doesn’t only affect you, and I in this way. It affects people in thousands of different situations.

If you have never experienced anxiety or spent time around somebody that does then you may not understand just how much it can change your every day life compared to somebody that doesn’t live with it. It fills you with worry, nervousness, fear, stress and panic; some of these sound like normal feelings to go through during tough situations but as somebody that feels like anxiety is following me around 24/7 these feelings can all come in one by just going into a shop, or a big one for me – going round to my neighbours to pick up a missed parcel that they’ve kindly taken in.

INTERNET & ANXIETY
I found the internet when I was suffering with anxiety. I was off school for around a year due to a number of other situations, but anxiety is what stopped me from going back. I could have ‘braved’ it and allowed myself to go through it but I just couldn’t. I had no idea at the time what these feelings were, what was happening to me? Making plans with my friends felt like hard work and as a young teenager it made me feel so distanced from the world. That’s when I logged onto my computer and truly found the side of the internet that saved me. I found YouTube, as well as that I found blogs. I read blog posts about products I may never even purchase and watched into peoples lives online that I would never meet, but for some reason I found some comfort from it.

Spending such a long time on this side of the internet has taught me a lot of things; alongside that I’ve also witnessed a lot of things. The most important reason why I found that I had these feelings building up inside of me to write a post like this was because I wanted to speak about “people of the internet” and “anxiety”… I’ve never ever read such judgemental comments before, than when another YouTuber or Blogger speaks up and writes about anxiety online for the first time. “You’re just another YouTuber or Blogger with anxiety!”. I already know what you’re thinking too about the mean comments, “just because Zoella has it!” is one I’ve seen far more than you should expect but this is where my post came together.

WHAT IF, people on the internet found YouTube & Blogging because of their anxiety?

Sure, there’s also thousands of people out there sharing their life on the internet that don’t suffer from anxiety; but I’ve met a lot of friends through what I do who do deal with it in some kind of way; I personally found the internet when I had little to no friends leading to no social life and had many days to pass by whilst waiting to go back to school. I looked forward to waking up and logging online; I found much more comfort doing this than possibly preparing to go outside because of all the things that built up in my head with it, taking me back to all of the “what if?” questions. Although this hasn’t changed, I have learnt how to deal with it more; I do still have to plan everything I do with detail before actually doing it to make sure I’m prepared for anything that could possibly happen – most of the time I even create every bad situation that could potentially happen and work out how I’d deal with it, just to make sure I’m as ready as possible.

I turned to the internet because I was and still am living with a n x i e t y.

It made me believe that perhaps all these people sharing tweets, posts and videos online speaking about their experience or bad day with anxiety is because we all found comfort online at a time we needed it the most. Reading blogs and watching people on YouTube was never a ‘normal’ thing to the people around me as a teenager, its only recently became a much more accepted community because brands and individuals trust Bloggers and YouTuber’s opinions over random internet reviews or the sales representatives at a department store counters opinion and thats why so many more people now watch into other peoples lives on YouTube and read their opinions on their blog too and find it more normal.

It’s always been a safe place for me, logging in to YouTube daily to watch the latest videos in my subscription box, typing in my favourite blogger’s URL to read their latest post – that has been a part of my daily ‘social life‘ for a long time, even more so now that I blog myself and have met so many incredible friends through it. Hours and hours flew by when I was sat at the computer in the corner of my parent’s living room as a teenager, it literally saved me from more than you could begin to imagine.

If you are one of the people that initially think or even comment on Blogger or YouTubers content stating that ‘you’re just another person saying you have anxiety, just because Zoella has it’ – you should stop, think and realise that maybe people turn to the internet BECAUSE they have anxiety. Even though its such a big thing to post a video or a blog post online, that creator isn’t actually stood in front of 100 or even 1000 people talking about whatever topic they are writing or speaking about online. Sat on your laptop or picking up your phone to watch a video may not seem sociable to many people but it is an easy way to socialise online when you are like me and thousands of other people.

I’ve met some of my closest friends online, either through mutual friends on Facebook, or through blogging. Some might think it’s odd and that its not real life, but to some people, especially those suffering with anxiety who HAS already found the internet, and not just Facebook – by internet, I mean the supportive side, the side you turn to every free moment you have. For me thats catching up on blog posts and on videos and now writing myself too – for you, it may be playing a video game, or watching a football match; we all deal with things and turn for comfort in our way.

I got to a point in my life on social media where I share day-to-day things, feelings and experiences (mostly on Twitter) that I was worried if I wrote something about feeling anxious or addressing the topic as it is, people would eye roll and think “another one!”. Why should I feel afraid to talk about my real life? Of course anxiety sometimes makes me afraid but if this is me, there should be no sugarcoating. I’ll never allow the thoughts or opinion of somebody else refrain me from sharing my raw feelings about everything we go through and you should do the same. After all, it could help somebody feeling the same way.

A REMINDER
A reminder, that next time somebody announces that they suffer from anxiety to not judge them. They’re not stating they have anxiety because it is cool, or because the biggest blogger and YouTuber in the UK suffers from it. It’s because large influencers/bloggers/YouTuber’s have helped thousands of people realise exactly what it is and how to identify it and also help it. It doesn’t result in fixing your anxiety but it does help you recognise it, I didn’t know for years what I was feeling or going through until I was roughly 16 – without the internet, I never would have been able to give myself this happy little place to turn to when I’m feeling a little bit alone or anxious.

“Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about, be kind. Always.”

That’s about it for today folks. I just wanted to get a little bit off my chest. The internet can become a heated place when certain things aren’t discussed.

If you’ve experienced any of this I’d love to hear your stories in the comments below.

Lots of Love, Debra-Bow xxx

Useful links:
NHS & ANXIETY
MIND.ORG & ANXIETY
ANXIETY UK

If you think you’re suffering from anxiety, please speak to somebody or contact the relevant people for help. Releasing the pressure by speaking how you are feeling to at least one person could help you a lot, especially if it is affecting your day-to-day life.

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