The Mile Long Bookshelf chats Instagram, anxiety and all things books

This is how anxiety impacts her life

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The likes of Zayn Malik, Zoella and Cara Delevingne have spoken out about suffering from anxiety and the way in which it impacts their lives, and now book blogger Amber has teamed up with Instagram's #MyStoryUK campaign to share her story, too.

Hey Amber, what's the connection between books and Instagram for you?

It helps because especially when I first developed my anxiety, I wasn't really able to go out but I could still socialise just online. I could still reach people that way. That was really helpful.

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Has Instagram helped your anxiety?

I feel a bit more confident. There's still a lot that I can't do but knowing that, for example, if I go to an event that I will then have something to blog about, to put on Instagram, that gives me a little bit of the motivation. Instagram has definitely helped my confidence.

Before Instagram, was your anxiety worse?

It was definitely worse, but I still had a blog and other social media so I could reach out that way. I saw this amazing community on Instagram around books with the hashtag #bookstogram being full of amazing pictures. I really wanted to be part of that community, too, so I started posting pictures of books and here we are!

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How does anxiety make you feel?

It makes me feel isolated. I can't do a lot of things I used to be able to do. I was so outgoing, I was out with friends more than I was home. But now, even going to a friend's house is hard. On the one hand, I'm optimistic, but on the other, I'm not. With anxiety, I worry about everything. I first realised I had anxiety in December 2012, but I've always been an anxious person. That's when it started to impact my entire life. I'm 17 now.

I've had counselling, CBT,  advanced hypnotherapy, exposure therapy, literally everything. Exposure therapy especially was especially really good. It's basically about taking baby steps and gradually being able to do bigger things. When I first started suffering from anxiety, literally stepping outside my front door would make me have a panic attack. But after doing that a few times it got easier, then I progressed to working down my street, then going a little bit further each time. There's still a lot I can't do, and I don't know if I'll ever be able to do them. But the other day I went to the Instagram launch party and 3 years ago there was no way I could have done that.

Do you think Zoella and big YouTubers speaking about their anxiety is a way to help others?

Definitely, when I watched Zoella's video on anxiety especially I tried to watch it once and I couldn't because I was worried it would trigger me, but eventually I got the courage to watch it and it's definitely really helpful to see someone so successful who also suffers with anxiety and yet there's still doing so well in their career. I think that can not only help to give hope to people with anxiety and that there's still a life that they can have. Also, if someone's watching it and they're struggling but they don't realise anxiety is a thing, it might make them realise and they can get help.

Do you think Instagram can cause anxiety, too?

I think all social media can contribute to anxiety because you're constantly on show and it's impossible to switch off. But I also think it's been really helpful for me because when I couldn't leave the house at all, I was still online talking to people. I think a lot of people use social media and Instagram specifically to find support, and there are lots of people on there willing to help with that. I just have to caption an image saying I'm having a bad day - I don't even have to go into detail - and I'll get comments from so many people trying to cheer me up so I think that's definitely a plus. 

Sometimes I'll feel really anxious and I'll still do my online things and sometimes I'll take a break. It depends what's going on. My advice? I would say to please talk about it and don't stop until you find someone willing to understand and support you. There's no shame in getting professional help - it's there for a reason. Take baby steps, push yourself but not too hard. Be kind to yourself. Getting professional help is really important, don't be afraid if you need it.

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Was it a scary journey for you opening up for the first time?

I first opened up about my anxiety on my blog, which was before I got Instagram I think. But on Instagram there are so many people on there opening up about their own story, that it just fits in. Also the people that follow me are mostly very nice and supportive so I wasn't too worried about it really.

What does your anxiety feel like?

Butterflies in my stomach 24/7, even about things normal people wouldn't be worried about. I get a lot of physical symptoms. My hands will shake, I'll have shortness of breath, I might feel sick. But constantly and all the time.

Can you tell me a bit about Instagram's campaign?

#MyStoryUK is about women on Instagram who are using the platform for good and to challenge stereotypes. My part in that is showing how important books can be and how reading the right one can change your life. I also want to show it's OK to have a stereotypically geeky hobby and that it's OK to be public about it and to be enthusiastic about it. Someone actually commented on my blog the other day and said thanks to what I do online, she realised reading was cool. And that's really all I wanted to achieve. Instagram definitely plays a part in that. It's such a visual platform, I'm able to reach a different audience than I can with long posts on my blog, for example.

Do people you know in real life follow you on Instagram and know your blog?

Yeah, I didn't really tell anyone offline about my blog, Instagram and Twitter but they just randomly find it. I don't really mind, it can be a bit strange, I just try not to think about it.  It's kind of helpful because i haven't really had to tell anyone face to face - I haven't had to tell people offline about my anxiety because they just know from my online presence, it makes it easier for me. 

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