Introversion is not anti-social.
I suffer from major anxiety. I can have good days - I feel great about life, love myself and everything is good. Oh, happy days! On the other hand, I can have my not so good days. When this happens, it's usually pretty bad. There will be times when if I'm not working, I can go without talking to anyone for days, and if I'm working, it gets manic-panic attacks included.
I don't know how or why anxiety happened. I've told myself over and over, people go through all sorts in life, and yes I've had some tough times that did affect my confidence, but I've also had just as many, if not more, rewarding and happy times. So why does it happen??
I've worked in the fashion industry for 15 years now. And thinking back to it I was probably my most carefree around 10 years ago. I used to talk...so much. I could jump into a conversation and not care what others thought of me because I wasn't looking to impress anyone, I was just being me. But as I got older, I started holding back. I wouldn't always participate in the usual family banter or conversation that was being held at the dinner table (I've grown up in a family that like to sit and have good chat over, and after dinner). Don't get me wrong - it's not that I suddenly wanted to impress at all. If anything I didn't understand what was happening to me. Why had I turned into this unhappy person? And it made me feel awful - given that my parents even asked me and attempted on numerous occasions to cheer me up.
That's when the anxiety kicked in - around three years ago it got to its worst. I went through this rough patch of self-hatred, and I wouldn't talk about it to anyone. There were days when I went to work and maybe even have a great week - I'd be busy with clients and styling or we would have events with investment bankers or Sotheby's and so forth. It would all be champagne and fun, fashion, lots of talking and networking...like a stage, and I could switch it on and off so easily. It all passed so fast, a week or two (or a month if it was fashion week) of long hours and events which I loved, and then suddenly it was quiet. And there I was, hating myself again.
All these questions would run through my mind...and the problem is, I'm a massive thinker. I think about things for far too long. As a little girl, my grandparents would often tell me to stop thinking so much. I know that my mood can change without any given warning within a second. Maybe it's a Gemini thing but I've come to terms with it and so have my family who at times find it amusing. I would still think, though, why do I get soooo low at times. And it was at those times that I would start to hate myself. It wasn't a hatred for the exterior - although that has come into play a few times. It was more a hatred for myself - my life, my achievements and setbacks, my thought process and when we would sit and have those family discussions and suddenly my ability to talk would just disappear. I would think about speaking up and my words would just get stuck-I feel like I'm being swallowed into a black hole when it happens. All of these thoughts would spiral into anxiety which in turn would get me thinking about EVERYTHING else.
Also why and how am I such an outspoken being at work, looking like I'm full of confidence, and then the COMPLETE opposite when I'm home or with my family?! Why was I so confident and self-assured and how do I suddenly become this scared girl fighting with myself internally?! And why do I feel like such a massive failure?! What is going on?!!!!
It's in the last three years that I've gone through some serious highs and lows but my biggest lesson has been in the last year since I moved to Dubai. I've been living on my own and although I've made some great friends, met a lot of new people from all over the world and had fun, I've learnt a lot about myself.
It's given me time to face my anxiety head on. I've learnt that when I feel anxious, the best way for me to deal with it is to focus on my breathing and write. Write down whatever I'm feeling. Trust me I never thought I would be a woman who would need to do what so many magazines suggest, but it's the best thing. I get it all onto paper-whatever is bothering me, whatever I'm thinking. Then I turn the page, and I draw. Specifically, fashion illustrations are what I do most - If I was back in London I'd be Oil painting too. I'll also focus on fashion - styling or blogging.
Not only have I learnt to best deal with it, but I've come to peace with the fact that I don't always speak up (this happens to be one thing that really bothers me and brings on the anxiety). It's not that I don't have an opinion, sometimes the subject can be something that I know I'm not well-versed in. And I've come to understand that actually, silence is golden. You can be so in-tune with listening and learning that you don't have the words to add anything. So you do just that, you listen and learn.
Many think that you can come off as rude when you're silent. I've had a fair few think that of me and I'm cool with it. I know I can look like a bitch and on many occasions have been told to smile by passers-by, which by the way doesn't make me smile, it brings a slightly more thrown-off/not so attractive expression and I'm working on changing that, but I'm so content with facing my anxiety and I realize it's not a bad thing to be introverted at times.
I'll now sit in peace knowing I'm enjoying the conversation or discussion between others and learning from it whilst finding it entertaining. Of course, there will always be the moments where you can't help but think someone is talking shit. At which point I just switch off. Having this time to sit and face the music (trust me it wasn't easy) is helping me overcome something that can be so unhealthy - for the mind, body and soul.
Now that I'm at this place mentally, I feel empowered and confident in who I am. I still have my insecurities (who doesn't?!) but I feel like anxiety is no longer controlling my life. No, it hasn't completely disappeared...but it’s no longer in the lead. And I intend for it to stay that way. I've also learnt that introversion is not anti-social.