It is usual to feel upset from time to time, and it is completely normal to have days when we just feel angry, or down, or lost. A lot of the time, all our sorrows require are a coffee date with a friend or a night in watching our favourite movie, while eating our favourite takeaway, to be fixed or hindered. However there can come times when it has been bottled up for so long, or it has been acquired as a constant day-to-day feeling, that we have to find some form of help – in somebody trained and experienced to deal with such feelings.
Throughout secondary school I was never an overly happy and upbeat person, and soon sent myself into isolation. Although I had a supportive and constant friendship group, I found it easier to wander off alone with headphones stuck in my ears, eliminating everything else from around me; only focusing on the way I felt and walking in circles around the main school block, the playground and the canteen. I would take the same route everyday, occasionally stopping to rest on a picnic bench in the remote corner of the playground – out of everybody else’s way.
Not only did this continue until the end of my secondary school years, but then going to sixth form I’d follow a similar routine – except I now had the opportunity to walk to places much further afield. With the ability to walk in and out of my college whenever I wanted and having the entirety of the city of Cambridge at my disposal, I took time off lessons, time before and after college, and also my daily lunch break and free periods to stick my head phones in, and walk somewhere… anywhere… in an attempt to escape large groups of people, conversation, pretending to be happy in front of everyone when in fact I wasn’t always happy and my disinterest in particular subjects.
I had a good excuse, being a photography student enabled me to say ‘I’m going to take photos in town’ or ‘I’m walking to an abandoned building to take some photos’. Another good excuse in my first year was having a boyfriend in a nearby sixth form: if asked where I was off to, saying ‘I’m going to meet my boyfriend’ meant nobody else would join me, and I guess I’d be lying because I’d just venture off alone to a park or an open green space.
I wasn’t always aware of my urge to want to be alone so much of the time. I guess it started with bereavement of my Great Auntie 5 years ago; and then came into even more use when dealing with the break-up with my boyfriend. it soon became something I turned to, to escape any situation where I felt discomforted, anxious, sad, or angry; and then it just became routine. My headphones would always be in my ears, whether I was to be walking between lessons, to or from the bus stop, or down the road to the shop. It became natural to see me with headphones in, and with bad weather conditions when I didn’t want to be outside, I’d sit with my friends in college at lunch but my headphones would still be blocking my ears and I would be sat in the corner not really wanting to converse.
Looking back now some people may think I was rude, or not very friendly. What’s weird is that, I never lost any of my friendships, those friendships have some of the strongest bonds and those friends I spent time with were and always will be my best friends. I think my friends just accepted the way I was (of course, it wasn’t that I became completely mute). I still spent time with them outside of college, I still socialised, there was no reason at all to be blocking any of them out at any point – it was more about my own personal thoughts and feelings and finding it easier to isolate my emotions from everybody else’s.
The problem with this reaction to any situation was that, in the long-run, it diminished my confidence, I lost motivation and reason to socialise at times, I kept everything to myself and my feelings would get on top of me and mount to a point where they would just erupt. My anxiety spiralled out of control. It got so bad that for a while I did see a counsellor in college, and that was the only person I have ever opened up to about particular things. The counselling was relief – I’d hold everything in and block out everything until I got into that one small room, and I’d open up. It felt relieving to walk out of the room with my shoulders less weighted, and although my headphones would be straight back in my ears, I gradually regained my happier self. It was as though my bereavement from my Great Auntie’s death had finally been brought to the surface, and I no longer had to hide it away within me.
Now that I am at university and writing this blog post in my room, I am happy to have found the confidence to actually speak about this topic – because for years, people close to me may never have really known why I behaved in this way expressed. On my holiday in summer I was simply chatting to one of my best friends and in the tangent of conversation, this topic came up, and this particular friend said to me that all our close friends found it horrible to watch the way I behaved, and that they watched me close off to everything. As soon as I received some help and rid of particular aspects of life that were getting me down, I suddenly opened up. The headphones came out, I spent more time with my friends in college, I regained confidence and it was as though my shoulders were lifted. And that’s the way I am now.
Although there are times when I shut myself away, whether it be locking myself in my room at university, putting my headphones on (I now have sound reducing beats – so it is a whole new level), or simply not wanting to be in conversation, it isn’t as permanent and instead it is in equal measure with a regular lifestyle, and I am so happy to be able to say this.
I’ve realised that it is a combination of factors that have given me the courage to put myself out there a little more, to remove the headphones from my ears and reduce the number of times I wander off alone. I think that the most important factors for me have been:
Counselling – this was the biggest step and probably the most significant factor in releasing everything from inside of me and learning to be more open with myself and with others (hence the ability to write and post blog posts like this online).
Understanding – understanding that it is okay to feel millions of emotions, but also understanding that it will never only be me feeling that way and there are people around who want to help.
Please feel free to leave a comment, I hope that either this gives people a little more courage to speak out or that it can somehow relate to how anybody else has ever felt.