That happy place, the familiar sights, smells, feelings. That’s where I am my most content. - at home, surrounded by little boy Sam, my partner Eric, my animals, my favourite cup, my spot on the couch, my routines, my bubble, my nirvana.
Beyond the gate of the yard is where things get tricky, a lot of the times I don’t enjoy leaving my little bubble that are cultivated with things that myself and Eric love. My bubble is safe. It's my sanctuary. I have everything I need and want right here. And lets be honest, it's also where I can control my surroundings to a certain extent.
Society tells us we are not normal or functioning adults unless we enjoy interacting with people. "Unsociable" is a word that is often used to describe me when I fail to attend yet another family function or friend's party. But social gatherings like this often send a pre-panic attack note to my brain to prepare to freak the fuck out and blow things up in my head the way I usually do. It’s not just crowds of people at big events that evoke these feelings, sometimes it can be a trip to Tesco, a meal at a new restaurant or even taking a call from someone I don’t know - all of these have potential to send my brain into shutdown mode.
Social anxiety is not a thing that just came to me in adulthood. looking back, as a child I would happily sit for hours on my own, content playing with my Sylvanian Families or looking for kittens in the yard. I was always content on my own and never needed the interaction of other kids. Although I did play with other kids, given the choice I would happily play alone. I always felt like I connected with animals far more than people and in some ways, I still feel like that.
I don’t need to recharge and take a break from my animals, people on the other hand are a different kettle of fish for me.
Outwardly, I’m quite good at hiding these feelings and covering up my need to stay in my bubble. I have always been a social being and spent years of my life going to nightclubs 3 or 4 nights a week - don't tell my mammy! I went to colleges - probably a few too many. I took part in team sports, sang at most family functions and lived with many different room mates over the years.
On the surface, one would think I was a rather social being.
I did all the social things that is expected of any “successful adult”, but most of the time I was making myself do it. I thought I was the only one who didn’t find it easy to deal with all of this social interaction. But I was wrong. It was only in my college years that I found out I was not alone in these feelings. There was more of us out there.
You become so good at hiding the social anxiety no one would even think that you were rattling at the prospects of going into a new filling station to buy fuel because you didn’t know where the check out was.
Although I enjoyed and loved the company of others in school and throughout my life, I always felt a need to recharge after a busy day of engaging with lots of people. My head would feel full of thoughts. My brain depleted of energy. For me the anxiety just kind of spills over like a drink, unless I have time alone to recharge.
I would feel more exhausted talking to people than I would after mucking out 15 stables. I kid you not.
Anxiety can manifest in a lot of ways and in my case, it's social anxiety. While I love meeting and interacting with people, it causes an unknown fear within me and an urgent feeling of panic. New places, new journeys, the unknown - it scares me. It always has and to some extent, it probably always will. Maybe it's why I relate to horses so much!
I feel like I am wired with a flight mechanism in my body just like the horses.
Some days I am just not able to interact with people sufficiently and the thoughts of it can be quite overwhelming at times. Pushing myself outside my comfort zone is a hard thing to do, with some days harder than others.
But, why should we push past our own barriers and go outside our comfort zones?
I’ll tell you why I do it - Some of the most wonderful people I have met, yet to meet and experiences I have had, came from pushing myself outside my comfort zone.
My most memorable and cherished memories stemmed from me being extremely anxious and to be honest, shitting myself internally about something before it even started. But I do try to push myself out of my comfort zone.
Some days it works and I feel amazing afterwards. Other days I crumble under the pressure and admit defeat, crawling back into my own nirvana to try again the next day.
That is how I grow, how I evolve and how I deal with my anxiety too (perhaps not the correct way to deal with it because I am no expert, I assure you.)
Anxiety and mental health are not static - they are like waves in the ocean. Sometimes it's peaceful and lamenting. Other times it hits like a tsunami with very little warning. How you respond to it is key. For me, I take time away to decompress, surround myself with my boy, my animals and the rest of my comfort blankets and they refuel me to go again.
Anxiety comes in all shapes / forms, and the ones who seem like they have got their shit together, can often be the ones who are crumbling quietly in the comfort of their own home. I had this written before the Hay Campaign started but didn’t feel like I should publish it. But seeing countless people take a step outside THEIR comfort zone and flourish throughout the campaign and is exactly what I am doing by publishing this. Pushing myself outside my comfort zone.
Mental health and the daily struggles of mental health do not just come to my door - so many people have been touched by it on either a personal level or perhaps a family member or friend has. Basically, what I am trying to say is that, although someone may look as though they have their shit together, they may also need someone to check in on them and ask the most important question... #HayHowAreYa ?