In the first instalment from our new guest columnist, Marc Davis takes us back to the 1990s where his experiences with anxiety began.
Let me take you right back to the 90s where my upbringing was pretty standard.
I was raised in a loving home, I had a lot of friends both on the estate I grew up on but also at the primary school I attended. I was a relatively bright kid but I also liked to clown around with my friends. We loved winding up the older kids on the estate and running off in a bid to lose them, fully aware of the dead legs we would be subject to if the older lads managed to catch up with us but it was a thrill we sought from time to time – dead legs weren’t really that bad, were they?
Life was good back then, I certainly miss the carefree days. I also played a lot of football with the lads of all age groups on the estate as that was something we all had in common, we all dreamed of slipping on the England shirt in a World Cup final. There was very little recognition of mental health issues back in those days, it was a rarity to hear of anybody with such problems. I sympathise with anybody that did have them back then, life must have been tough as 30 years on it is still relatively stigmatised.
Outside of my friendship group I was quite a shy kid. I struggled to make new friends at times and often felt awkward in social situations I wasn’t experienced in, which spilled into secondary school where I became a lot more awkward. This made me susceptible to bullying. They say school years are the best years of your life but I strongly disagree. For anybody that gets picked on I’m sure, like myself, they couldn’t wait to see the back of school.
I was bullied for the first couple of years in secondary school and for the latter years I felt isolated at times because it felt as though nobody liked me. This would make me feel low because I always thought I was a likeable person but these people chose not to like me, it was a big change from primary school where we all got on pretty well. I’d often skip school and go down to my friend’s house to avoid that awkward feeling of being in a room full of people who made you feel like you didn’t exist at times.
Secondary school really was a tough place but you couldn’t show weakness as that invited more unwanted attention from bullies, so all those emotions had to be bottled up at all times. The final school bell would go at 3.20 and I’d be back on the school bus with my friends, surrounded by the security I didn’t get during school hours, knowing I was going home and didn’t have to deal with school again until the following morning.
Having taken some time to reflect on my school years, it seems to me like I was experiencing the early signs of anxiety and the idea that nobody liked me could quite possibly have been the start of the decline in my mental health. At the time, I was unaware of what mental health really was. Being consumed by all of these thoughts and feelings became a catalyst for bad behaviour, I became rebellious. I started to disrespect my peers, I spent the last couple of years of school on daily report and was often put into isolation.
I started smoking cigarettes and dabbling with cannabis, which gave me my first experience with panic attacks. The cannabis triggered something inside of me that I really did not like, an encounter with depersonalisation that I will never forget. I felt a rush, a prickly tingling surge through my whole body and nothing seemed to feel real. For the following few days, I was suffering the same sort of episodes but they didn’t last as long. These are the same symptoms I suffer with to this day along with intrusive thoughts but they come along a bit further down the line in my story.
Due to the lack of knowledge of the issues I was facing, I just assumed that I was changing as a person and accepted that the misbehaviour was a part of me until one day my mum made a comment that pushed me to reinvent myself:
“Everyone used to say what a nice boy you were but now you’re just an a**hole,” she said. That hit me deep in the feels but my mum was right, it was time for a change!
My awkwardness in social situations remained a burden throughout my late teens and early 20’s and from there I started to feel insecure, I always felt like I wasn’t good enough but what even is good enough? It was such a confusing time because I had a lot of friends but felt like I had no one. I was jumping from relationship to relationship seeking fulfilment in empty pleasures. I told women I loved them when I felt nothing and I pushed them away when I knew they were good for me.
I feel as though this was the evolution of my bad behaviour, which became turbulent once I’d had a drink of alcohol. I could be a very happy drunk, overly affectionate maybe but then a switch could flip and I’d become very abusive verbally, not that it’s acceptable, it’s just as disgusting as physical abuse. It was very rare that I gave it the verbals but on occasion I did and that resulted in a breakdown of friendships as well as relationships and I also had a fair few (thoroughly deserved) punches to the face.
As I approached my mid 20s I grew in confidence, the insecurities were still there but on a smaller scale, my social life blossomed and with that my self-esteem grew massively, I was like a flower in bloom, things started to seem a lot better. I loved the party lifestyle with my friends and as my confidence grew, so did my popularity, I felt like I finally managed to ‘fit in’ but it just wasn’t enough, I still sought approval from people I barely knew and to this day I still don’t know the route cause of this but I found it consuming me again as if I was back at school. It’s almost as if, subconsciously I had to prove to myself that I was that likeable guy all along.
With a trail of destruction behind me, those patterns of behaviours finally subsided when I met my current partner Heidi. Where yet again I had to reinvent myself, only this time it was for good. I had just come out of a toxic relationship (on both parts) when I met Heidi so I was sceptical at first but I was intrigued by her from the moment I met her. We met on my mate’s stag do in Bournemouth, she was the most beautiful woman I’d ever laid eyes on and she still is. We started talking and really hit it off, I have always felt fairly relaxed around her. She brings a calming influence to my life for sure.
Four years later we are still going strong. Our twins were born in February which brings a lot of joy to both of our lives as well as different anxieties to what I may have faced in my previous years. My boys give me a sense of purpose, a real reason for living but neither them nor my partner could help me through what I had endured over Christmas of 2020, this was a battle I had to face alone, a battle I had no choice but to win…
The contents of this article are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of a doctor or mental health expert if you have concerns about your wellbeing.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and do not necessarily represent the official policy, position or opinion of Stroud Times.