Guest Post: Anxiety Within Social Media

Saturday, 6 August 2016

My first ‘proper’ anxiety attack occurred a few months after my Mum was diagnosed with breast cancer. The thought that those closest to me were no longer these ‘immortal’ beings that I put on pedestals, but simply just people that were no stronger than I was, and just a susceptible to disappearing from this life, broke my heart. I remember sitting on my bed, unable to breathe, crying and feeling like the room was closing in on me. I’d struggled with my breathing from around the very day my Mum was diagnosed but had passed it off as physical health problems and after multiple tests at the doctors with no ‘cure’ or diagnosis, it all started to fall into place. 

After a few other major personal events - that I don’t feel comfortable voicing on the internet as I’m very aware how public things are on here (will touch on this later!) - I had a complete break down and decided to seek counselling. I didn’t want to go to the doctors and be put on the first drug they could throw at me, I wanted to learn how to cope with it and how to deal with it in my everyday life.

Counselling helped me hugely – I was given breathing techniques, ways to visualise barriers between me and the negativity around me, and most importantly I was taught how to change the way I talk to myself in my head. My eyes were opened to using words like ‘could’ instead of ‘should’ – giving myself an option instead of an expectation. I cannot express how much this little tip helped change my entire mind set towards myself and the pressures I put on myself. Although I don’t believe counselling works for everyone (you have to be very open to it!), I do believe it teaches you to learn to voice your fears and I’ve learnt it’s not scary to talk about what’s going on in my head, (although I do still struggle to believe people want to listen to me, but this is part of my anxiety that I’ve learnt to accept will probably never fully diminish). 

Jumping forward – I definitely still have days and weeks just as bad as they were 6 years ago, but nowhere near as frequently, and when these phases do occur, I know what to expect and how to deal with them. I know what my triggers are and I know how to avoid putting my mind and body into situations that will worsen my mental state. I’ve been prescribed beta blockers by the doctors to stop the physical symptoms of anxiety attacks for my job on particularly bad days (I can’t afford to have shaky hands and heart palpitations when I’m tattooing people!) and it’s somewhat of a safety blanket to know they’re there when I really can’t seem to cope. 

A main trigger for me is, in fact, my line of work. Working as self-employed, I fell into the habit of not allocating myself ‘work’ hours and ‘me’ hours. I found myself replying to emails, messages and catching up on drawings all hours of the day, all days of the week. I found myself taking on work I didn’t feel I could do the best job of simply because I felt like I had to – both to earn a living, and to please other people. I struggled to say no and I struggled to disconnect myself from social media. Social media is the main source for all my work, and although it is an absolute blessing to live in a day and age where the world is so accessible and it’s possible to further yourself through such a huge platform, it’s also a major anxiety trigger. 

I’m still struggling with social media and the fact it’s so hard to get real ‘peace and quiet’ from the world now, I still find myself putting my phone down and walking away from it and I still make sure I have a regular day or two away from social media. I now keep the majority of my work and personal life separate, even down to declining clients friend requests on Facebook simply to feel like I don’t have to constantly be filtering my life. 

I’m now into my third year of tattooing and I’ve learnt a lot about the things that trigger my anxiety, and I’ve learnt that every so often it’s okay to say no. It’s okay to put yourself first and it’s okay if saying no is also for the other person’s benefit. I’ve learnt that, you’re the one who’s going to live with yourself till the end of your life and thinking ‘what if something bad happens’ all the time is never going to further yourself or put you in a better position than the one you’re in currently. What if something good happens? I know it sounds so, so cheesy, but honestly just replacing even one negative thought in your day to a positive one is a step in the right direction. 

From my own personal experiences with anxiety I’ve learnt that, yes, it will always be part of my life and I will always have bad days, but there will be good days too. I will have times where I feel low, where I feel unattractive, untalented, like I’m not good enough. I will talk to myself negatively and then kick myself for it later. I will book too much work in at the shop and regret it later when I’m surrounded by a pile of drawings that I’ll panic about getting done on time. However, there will also be the days where my mind set is positive, where I love every aspect of my job, where I’m so, so grateful for all the wonderful people it’s allowed me to meet. There will be days where I utilise social media to its fullest potential and I’m grateful that I live in this time, where I can build a successful career through imagery and writing online that could one day allow me to travel the world. 

If anxiety has taught me anything, it’s that everyone has a touch of it. Everyone struggles with something whether they openly admit it to you or they choose to deal with it on their own. Just keep telling yourself that life really is what you make it! So, so cliché, I know, but it’s true – only you have the power to see the positive in every situation, no matter how small that positive is, there will be one there worth searching for, believe me.

Written by Georgina Hawkes 

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