May 4, 2017
This content contains explicit and sensitive information that may not be suitable for all ages.
Black? Brown? White? Mixed? Afro-Caribbean? What the fuck was I supposed to be? How was I supposed to act? What was I supposed to be into? My youth was completely consumed with these questions. Looking back, it’s no wonder I developed anxiety! As one of only a tiny handful of non-white people in a rough, working-class neighbourhood, I found myself with a huge identity crisis. Not only did I look different from almost everyone else, I couldn’t identify with the few that I did look like.
What the fuck was I supposed to be?
I experienced racial abuse from a very young age. Mostly mouthy little kids, too young to understand what they were saying but it still hurt. I remember as if it were yesterday, the first time I heard racial abuse from an adult. I was sat at home watching my beloved football team playing live on TV. My team lost but that wasn’t what left me upset. It was the strange noises emitting from sections of the opposition support. The commentator revealed something I never knew existed; “Sickening monkey-chants” being directed at our one black player. That was the first time the world became a frightening place for me. To know that there were people out there who hated me because of the colour of my skin.
As I grew into a teenager, I began to feel different not just outwardly but inwardly. I supposedly didn’t act like a black guy. Where was my confidence, my swagger? Why wasn’t I cool and into hip-hop or RnB? All I did was work hard and stay silent. I didn’t want to attract any trouble. One kid once taunted me with “Do you wish you were white?” As usual, I said nothing. I wanted to be anyone other than who I was. I despised being so shy, so weak, so sensitive, worrying about every minor excruciating detail of my life. Surely I’d grow out of it one day? But I didn’t.
I wanted to be anyone other than who I was.
In fact, as I hit my 20s, it got worse. Much worse. With the added pressures of girls, night-life, university and employment, I turned from a shy, quiet lad into a panicky, reclusive wreck of a man. Drink and drugs were my only solace. I didn’t see myself as being mentally ill. It just wasn’t something that was even in the public conversation 10 years ago. Never mind where I lived; where employment was low and families were respected for being “hard”. Admit you had a problem? You may as well stick a sign on your backside saying “Kick me now, I’m soft as shit!”. So I didn’t go to the doctor. I didn’t even know what was wrong with me. Maybe I just needed to “man up” and “get a grip”? So I did the only thing I could think of; I went to a hypnotherapist.
After just one session, I was a new man. Gone was the anxiety which had held me captive indoors, stopped me making friends, over-thinking every social interaction, ruminating and beating myself up over every “mistake”. I went on to create a fantastic life for myself, doing things I only ever dreamed of before; DJ-ing in front of crowds, teaching English to large classes, hosting and organising my own social events, backpacking around the world by myself. My confidence levels soared literally overnight. But when I returned from my travels, they plummeted back to zero – and far below.
Anxiety was part of who I was.
I was physically assaulted by a psychotic madman. Had seven shades of shit beaten out of me, to be precise. He also knocked every ounce of confidence out of me and I now had chronic physical symptoms too; uncontrollable shaking, adrenaline overload, racing heart. I felt wired 24/7. I didn’t even realise how it was mentally affecting me. At this point, I still didn’t think I’d ever had a mental illness. But I became a total recluse. No job. No friends. I barely left the house some weeks. It wasn’t till the suicidal thoughts came that I knew something was drastically wrong. That’s when I finally went to a doctor. I started to research online and found out about social and generalised anxiety disorder. Along with medication, this gave me great relief. I didn’t feel so alone and was more stable. But it didn’t change my life. It kept me stuck in limbo; lifeless, emotionless. I began to accept my fate. Anxiety was part of who I was.
But I knew that I’d overcome this disorder once. So I made the choice that I wasn’t going to stagnate on anti-anxiety pills. I got off them and a new doctor put me on a CBT course. I soon realised that everything I was learning was exactly what I was doing after hypnotherapy but without even realising. All I needed to do was consciously take action every day to re-wire my thought processes. I needed to think and act positively every day, start facing my fears and work on myself – just as I did unconsciously after hypnosis.
I unconditionally accept who I am.
It took a few months but I soon had my old confidence back. The key to it? I love myself. I unconditionally accept who I am. I’m sensitive and empathetic. I’m not weak. In fact, I’m one of the strongest people I know. Because mere words can’t hurt me anymore. I don’t base my value on what other’s think of me. I’m not a colour or a race. I’m just Tim. An outgoing, outspoken, anxiety-free man.