I have anxiety, it sucks, but here’s some things I’ve learned

Staff Writer

18 year old Nic is a jock at Sea FM on the Central Coast and is the National Content Manager for Project U, a music and pop culture site he co-founded. He also works at 2Day FM.

Nic has written a very powerful and honest blog after reading Adam Boland's piece in The Hoopla earlier this week.

He shares his story below :-


Adam Boland is the Director Of Morning Television at Network Ten, in charge of the brilliant but poorly rating Wake Up and Studio 10 programs that air each morning and have copped a lot of unfair criticism. Adam’s got a history of bi-polar and other mental health issues that took their toll once again the day his first show of Wake Up went to air. He went on indefinite mental health leave and continued to cop criticism for his shows and his health-induced inaction on enhancing them. He wrote a brilliant piece for The Hoopla the other day about his issues with anxiety and depression over the last few weeks and I felt pretty inspired, as another media person, to maybe try and have a chat about the same sort of thing. I hope this doesn’t come across as a cry for help, or attention seeking or anything, part of what I try and do is be as honest as possible with you all, whether it’s about the music I like and don’t like cough passenger cough mumford cough, to more serious shit. I just want to tell you what’s happened and maybe if there’s people out there who are feeling in this weird state, I can get you guys to consider whether something might be up. Let’s give it a go anyway.

I’ve always been a little bit awkward and ‘different’ in social circles. I mean I’m a tiny framed, flamboyant white boy who wears old people’s prints and loud Dad shirts, so that’s sort of a given, but until about twelve months ago, that awkwardness was manageable and I suppose a bit of a ‘character quirk’. #personalbrandingm8

Briefly going back – I had my first ‘serious’ breakup with a girl who meant a lot to me in May 2012, which happened bloody fast and truly threw me. I began to look at the entire world differently, presumed everyone hated me, dressed differently, changed my hair (thank the lord!), listened to very different music and grew into a new group of people I truly call friends. I know it’s all part of ‘growing up’… but it was an extensive ‘ordeal’ which I suppose is still lingering a little, but the end of 2012 probably marked the end of it as I began a fantastic new relationship with someone else, which ended a few weeks ago.

Some of the emotions that kicked in after that breakup stayed around though – the shyness, the nervousness being around new people or people that didn’t like me, and a presumption that new people I encountered wouldn’t like me. The place this was worst was at school, which seemed a bit ridiculous really. But there were just so many people that I didn’t fit in with. I had a very small circle of friends for the last few years as the majority, I presumed, didn’t like me.

I was probably right though.

I saw a counsellor after that breakup who deduced from what I’d told him that I had ‘two worlds’ going on for me. My personal and social circles, which included my friends, family and school, and my ‘work’ circle – which included social media, my personality on the radio, the relatively impressive success I’d had so far and my aspirations for the future. They were absolute polarities from each other – my friendship circle so small, disjointed and awkward, with my career being massive, positive and fitting together quite well.

If you know me you’ll know all I’ve wanted since I was twelve is the chance to work in radio. It all started doing a 5 minute phone segment on Radio Five O Plus (yes, the oldies station) on ‘the life of a twelve year old’. Then, I joined CoastFM at fourteen, was a part of three different shows, exec producing and anchoring two, and then I joined SeaFM at sixteen to do a bit of paneling and maybe go on air. That on air stuff didn’t go far for a while because of my disbelief in myself, at the same time as I was sending some demos to a competitor. I almost jumped. I told SeaFM, and that’s how negotiations started for me not only move up the ranks at Sea, but to join our big sister, 2DayFM – the biggest radio station in Australia. DREAM. COME. TRUE. I’d hit the jackpot in my career, but the ‘two worlds’ thing left my social circle and confidence in social scenarios slipping even further.

I was the youngest person on air at 2DayFM – having all my inductions before my eighteenth birthday and starting on air a month later. I’d also been given a big boost in opportunities at SeaFM and work was coming through thick and fast. No longer was I just doing music shifts, I was also heading into work at 9:30pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays to do a development show, which quickly turned into a fill-in breakfast show. I couldn’t have been happier.

As well as doing weekends on 2DayFM, they’d offered me the chance to trial a show in unison with Twitter Music. They let me come up with everything from the concept to the name, the imaging and social media. It was a dream, having my own show, all done by me, on the biggest station in the country at 18? It was running through my head whilst I tried to pack for a week of living in a Sydney hotel. The brain-dialog went something along these lines:

This isn’t happening is it?
Oh, shit, it’s happening!
Oh no, it’s happening.
It was a dream but now it’s happening.
I’m not ready.
I haven’t even finished the imaging.
I’m not ready.
I’m a scrawny little kid who sounds like an idiot on air.
I’m not ready.
They can’t trust me, and there’s so many people that deserve this more than me.
I’m not ready.

By this point I was on the floor, tearing up and breathing heavily. I had so many unanswered emails, so much left scribbled disjointedly on my pad and so many thoughts floating around, occasionally heading towards the clear but literally ‘popping’ and releasing panic as soon as I tried to get them in some sort of order.

Somehow, the two circles had started to merge, Venn Diagram style.

I managed to pick myself up and drag myself to my bed and put my head deep into my pillow and cry my eyes out. To be honest, the majority of the next hour or so is a total blur of panic, sadness, fear and nerves before I managed to pick up my phone and call the BeyondBlue support line. I’ve never rung one of these before but I was just so embarrassed by the fact I’m a complete wreck over something that should be one of my most exciting days to call any of my family or friends. I had never felt more genuinely alone and guilty that everyone else was out enjoying their day, being productive and contributing to the world through their work or at school, whilst I’m lying on my bed crying. The support line helped so much, the simple things like breathing exercises and a bit of simple counselling helped me to slowly come out of the attack and sit up again. I’d definitely advise giving them a ring particularly if you’re stuck with no one to talk to in the middle of the night.

After I’d been calmed down enough to get on a bus, the attack didn’t completely go away for the day. I was still crying on the bus, sobbing on the train and scared, so so so fucking scared, walking up to the hotel. I didn’t want to annoy anyone at my own workplace by simply being there. I felt like a hindrance, always. I texted my boss to make sure – to the minute – that it was okay to come upstairs. I tried to hold a straight face but I had to explain to him how the day had gone so far and the tears flowed. (This happened again twice in a week). We considered postponing the show, but I think that would have made me feel like even more of a loser. Crushing everyone’s expectations and belief in me would have floored me, so I just went ahead with it. To his credit, my boss at the time, DB, was so insanely helpful and understanding of my position and put my needs above all else at all times. You need people like that around in every aspect of what you do when you’re going through something like this – your social circle, your family, your work and anything else you’re involved in, you need a confidante that can help you out of these dramas.

The week, despite not starting work til 5pm each night, was so incredibly taxing on me that I slept nearly the whole weekend. I was waking up at 10am each day, spend another two hours in bed, get up feeling drowsy and generally shithouse, and slowly get myself out of the hotel room I so desperately wanted to lock myself in for life. I’d avoid people, work, and my own mind as much as possible. At the weekend, Mum noticed something was wrong and I told her everything that had happened and I immediately got booked in for an appointment with my GP, who I’ve known for probably ten years now. I feel really comfortable talking to him and within half an hour I’d been diagnosed with Generalised Anxiety Disorder and Social Phobia. He prescribed me some pills and sent me to a psychologist. I felt very weird taking tablets for my mind – if you know me, you know I’m a control freak – so sending some of that control to the tablets didn’t feel right. But I knew I had to give everything a shot. I was at a stage of my career where anxiety and illness CANNOT keep me down, because I’m poised to make a significant impact on my industry if I continue with my trajectory at it’s current pace. For the first few days the tablet completely de-humanised me, entirely flattening the valleys of depression I’d get in and the near-manic euphoria I’d experience on the other end of the spectrum. My moods were a straight line but for as long as I can remember, every time I walked into school or work, I’d get a buzzing tightness in my chest, my windpipe would block, my eyes would water and I’d be incredibly awkward  to be around. That all completely went. I felt a drug-induced confidence and I felt as if any awkward conversation I got myself into, the Cymbalta would get me through it.

I’ve been on it for five months now and whilst it’s nowhere near as potent as it was originally, I can definitely say it makes my life a whole lot easier. Medication works for me. I don’t think there should be any shame in that because different things work for different people. I can still rely on Cymbalta to make my ability to converse and socialize a lot easier, I don’t seize up when I get nervous – and I hardly even get nervous. Except around cute people. But who doesn’t?!

Basically what I’m trying to get across is that if you are starting to think your ‘social awkwardness’ could be something else – and it’s uncontrollable – I really urge you to see if you can get it controlled before it gets to the panic attack level. Because they SUCK. The best thing you can do is talk about it, with someone you know or someone you don’t. Don’t feel guilty about doing it because I know I’m not the only person who gets off on helping other people out.

And also don’t hang around with people who don’t like you all that much, it makes it a helluvalot harder. Stick to the people who you like and who like you, believe in yourself, see someone about it, listen to good, soul-filling music, drink lots of tea, eat good stuff, try and be sociable, get out of bed and move around – even if it’s just to the loungeroom – and don’t let anxiety take over your life entirely. Because it’s shit, but you’re not.

I hope this helped one person and I hope we can all start talking about this stuff more. I think transparency is the only way to get rid of the stigma surrounding mental health.


Nic's blog can be found here.

For support and information call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or www.beyondblue.org.au

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