Eilis’s story

I was always very self-assured and confident when I was younger. I loved meeting new people, doing things out of my comfort zone and public speaking. It wasn’t until I was 13 years old, speaking in front of my English class that I first felt anxious.

My body shut down. I couldn’t speak. My heart was racing, my voice shook and the piece of paper I was holding trembled in my hands. The experience was absolutely terrifying, I had no idea what had happened. I had never been nervous about being in front of a crowd or class before so, why now?

From then, my confidence got lower and lower. There were times when I was unable to even have a mirror in my bedroom as I was so uncomfortable with my appearance and completely avoided looking at myself. My mental health slowly deteriorated, meaning I was unable to answer questions in class or make new friends. I was slowly losing friends, hobbies and all ambition.

At 17, I had enough and decided to go to my GP. I was diagnosed with social anxiety and was then provided with counselling twice a week for a few months. I felt so relieved to know that I wasn’t just exaggerating. I had been told there was a reason why I felt the way I did, and that I was getting better. Over the years I got used to living with anxiety. I still had little episodes of self-esteem issues or panic but overall I had it under control.

In 2018, I was so excited to move to Scotland from Northern Ireland for university. My first few months were difficult, I missed my family and friends, and old routines. Living in a big city was rough for me, I was so used to the old ways and workings of my small home town. My anxiety began to get worse again and I started having panic attacks. I felt unable to make friends, I pushed everyone away and pretended to my family and friends at home that I was out having fun at university. All the while I felt too anxious to even attend half my lectures or meet people.

A week after I first returned home from university I went to the GP. I opened up about my constant low mood, negative thoughts and anxiety. I was prescribed anti-depressants and referred to counselling. Initially, I was very worried about starting medication to help with anxiety, as I had no previous experience with medication and heard negative things about it. Although after a month or two I noticed I felt so much calmer. I felt relaxed with myself and in my body again.

Things have really improved since then. I am now 21, going into my fourth year of university and ended up moving into Glasgow full time with my boyfriend who I met in my second year.

After everything, I am glad I finally reached out for help. Speaking to a GP and a counsellor really helped me understand what was going on in my head. I have mirrors in my bedroom again, I try and meet new people whenever I can, and have got confidence in public speaking again! I am still on anti-depressants and sometimes I do still struggle from my anxiety but overall have found that things have really improved for me and my mental health.

I have one year left of university but I have decided that I would like to work within mental health as I want to help others like me.