Hello Anxiety, My Old Friend by Lucy

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Achieving your goals despite the monster in your head

So I want to start by saying in the last couple of years I have been extremely fortunate with a combination of hard work, luck and just plain lunacy (who moves to China with no Mandarin!?) to have travelled and seen a lot of the world. However I would be lying if I said these trips were easy for me because of my anxiety.

Some of my friends know I suffer from anxiety, others may have no idea but I think it’s frankly ridiculous that people are expected to just not talk about the hurricane in their minds. Especially when what originally triggered it was completely out of my control – my dad dying.

How does my anxiety affect me? 

Average scenario of when it hits me, I will set the scene: I’m sitting with close friends laughing talking about everything and anything (most likely me quoting the Simpsons), everything is great and …..ANXIETY appears. Excellent.

My brain goes into overdrive, my thoughts go running through my mind, I hear a ringing sound in my ears, my heart rate quickens, my mouth grows dry and I struggle to breathe, I grip onto something hard in the hopes of keeping myself present. Traditionally I am hungover and tired, but much like that ex that always seems to know when you’re feeling weak, it can catch me off guard.

The first real hurdle I had with my anxiety and travelling was moving to Hong Kong to study at Hong Kong University for a term. What sets off my anxiety? You might be wondering. Well, often nothing, but some sure fire ways to send me to anxiety town are:

  • Hangovers
  • Lack of sleep
  • Heat
  • Constant loud noise
  • Crowded spaces
  • Being on a 12 hour flight and trying not to panic is frankly an oxymoron.

If a you’re thinking that all of those things sound like a term abroad in HK in a oner to you then you would be right. I remember one night on a 7/11 crawl talking to my friends and them asking me what sets off my anxiety, explaining, and them looking confusedly at me like – isn’t that just your everyday life here!? What kind of masochist are you?

How have I tackled it? – In truth, I haven’t but I win as many fights these days as I lose. But I have to consider short-term, and long-term rewards. Will going out tonight drinking far too much and spending far too much be worth the crippling anxiety and depression tomorrow? 9/10 times: DEAR GOD NO. Will saving the money and booking a flight be better a use of my money? For me, yes, because I know this is one of my passions and drives in life.

Some of my biggest achievements for me are on a day-to-day basis, getting up and keeping going – the small  wins that we all need to survive. On a bigger, or more obvious scale I can look back and be seriously proud to have studied abroad at the top university in Asia, to have achieved my 2:1 in Politics, to throw myself well and truly into the deep end in China and come out with a Mandarin qualification, to have lived in the Netherlands for 3 months leaving with lifelong friends and to have travelled around the West Bank.

This list is not to congratulate myself; it is to show that there are battles that can be won. Are there battles that I lose? Dear God yes, too many to list. I get through it by taking my medication (the stigma around medication can absolutely fuck off), kickboxing, laughing, sleeping and being surrounded by friends and family that love me, and wine – must not forget wine.

Lucy – 1 Anxiety – 999,999.



Pictures  courtesy of Lucy Small and Veronica Dearly.

Lucy Small is a politics graduate of Newcastle University and The University of Hong Kong living in Edinburgh (in the process of applying for a Masters at Science Po in Paris– fingers crossed). In her spare time she enjoys kickboxing, being overly sarcastic, drinking wine and planning her next travel destination. She is passionate about refugee rights and mental health, which has lead to her being involved in projects with these issues in Scotland and abroad. Find her on Instagram @loosmall.

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