Two years ago, in June 2016, I quit my job.
A spiralling case of social anxiety had left me broken, depleted and without hope.
I couldn’t carry on the way I was. It was a case of freelance or benefits.
Actually – benefits weren’t even an option. I couldn’t have dealt with the phone calls and the appointments.
So it was freelance or nothing, really.
Unlike most new freelancers, I wasn’t filled with enthusiasm. There was no grand plan to launch and grow a successful lifestyle business.
I just needed work that I could fit around my illness.
I muddled through for a few months, taking anything I could get from the job boards at Freelancer.com.
But I was lonely, overwhelmed and barely making enough to pay the rent.
Then, around eight months in, Ed Goodman introduced himself to me on LinkedIn.
“I run a supportive Facebook Group for freelancers,” he said, “come join us?”
Joining the Freelance Heroes community was one of the first positive steps I took towards taking my new career – and myself(!) – more seriously.
It helped me develop a slow-growing belief that I could make a real go of things; that freelance writing might not just be a temporary answer to an ongoing problem, but that, actually, I could make a real future out of this. A successful one, even.
I’ve met collaborators, clients, friends and suppliers through the Freelance Heroes Group.
Because of them – the wonderful people that make up the fastest growing freelance community in the UK – I now have a website, a logo, a rate card and a business plan. I’m about to hire an accountant and I have ideas for developing and growing my business.
They were my first freelance family. The first community that made me feel a part of something bigger. The first group of people who gave me hope that my freelance life might be sustainable.
And that’s why I’m devastated that I won’t be attending Freelance Heroes Day on 16th May. (And devastated isn’t an exaggeration. It’s been eating away at me for weeks).
I desperately want to go, you see.
I want to go because I’d love to meet Carly, who I work with regularly and who I learn so much from.
I’d like to sit with Sadie and giggle about how we came mainly for the food.
And it’d be great to meet Annie, who I’m slowly getting to know and whose hard work makes the Freelance Heroes community such a positive place to be.
There’s Ed, too, of course, who invited me into this wonderful community in the first place, and whose support continues to make me feel valued and inspired.
Sadly, though, none of that will happen this year.
Public transport, a new city, big crowds. Interacting with so many new people in one go. A long day with no safe space to retreat into. The unknown. The unexpected. The out-of-my-hands.
It’s all too much for me right now, and I’m so sorry about that.
Anxiety still has me in its grips, and it’s stopping me from doing so many of the things that I wish I could do.
And I’m crying, as I write this, but I don’t want you to feel sorry for me.
They’re not sad tears, you see? I’m angry. I’m so unbelievably angry; I want to kick and scream and shout.
It’s two years since I quit my job because of anxiety, and I’m still suffering.
The thing is, though: I’ve only got myself to be angry with.
I’m not saying it’s my fault that I have anxiety. It’s no one’s fault. It’s an illness.
No matter how familiar it might feel to direct that anger inwards, there’s no truth or value in doing so. It’s not my fault and I don’t deserve it.
And yet, I’m the only one who can get myself out of it.
I’m not better yet because I haven’t done anything to make myself better.
And that’s why I’m so angry.
So what should I do with all that anger? Where do I direct all that negative energy?
I should be using it as rocket fuel to get me out of this mess, shouldn’t I? I should be putting it into exercise and therapy and creating things.
Because this time, finally, I have a future I want to fight for.
I have a job that makes me happy, a business to call my own, and a whole new world of people I want to get to know.
If only I can get better. If only I can leave behind the anxieties that have plagued me for six years.
Six long and lonely years.
But no more.
This time, I’m making a promise.
A promise and a plan:
Next year, I’ll be there. I’ll be there at Freelance Heroes Day to meet you all, and I’ll do it without fear.
Before the week is through, I’m going to get in touch with a therapist and arrange some sessions. For as long as it takes, I’ll work on my fears and my goals as regularly as I’m able to afford. I’ll keep up the exercise and put my energy into creating things.
And by next year, I’ll be over this miserable, wasteful, life-sucking illness for good.
Just you wait and see.
Messages of support, motivational quotes and funny cat videos welcome, as always: