A teenager who has been housebound for over five years due to severe chronic anxiety disorder has revealed how social media has played a massive part in her road to recovery.Saffron Scullion from Castlemilk first experienced crippling anxiety in January 2013 and started to struggle with her normal everyday life.
The 18-year-old first started experiencing panic attacks while out and about in public and at school. Her anxiety was put down to her simply being overwhelmed by overcrowded places.
“When it all started I would have to ask my friends to come outside with me in school as I used to get anxious and flustered at class which was difficult as I didn’t really know what was happening to me,” Saffron said.
“In the mornings when I was going to school I would feel a bit unsettled knowing that I had to spend six hours around a lot of people and put on a happy face. I was always really nervous. I hated the idea of being on a bus or somewhere away from home in case something bad happened to me and nobody there was there to save me.
“It was a gradual build-up of fear – but I didn’t want to talk to anyone about it. I began thinking it was normal to be nervous about school and other things I was worrying about at the time.”
Saffron also went into hot and cold sweats whenever she found herself faced in uncomfortable situations and would hide herself in bedrooms and bathrooms locking the door firmly behind her refusing anybody access into the room. To add to Saffron’s troubles, she ended up developing a serious eating disorder.
She continued: “Eventually I developed an eating disorder due to my anxiety. I was eating one night and food got stuck in the back of my throat. I couldn’t breathe. I ran out the room. I couldn’t even talk because I was choking.
“I ran to my mum doing hand gestures to try and tell her I couldn’t breathe and she began thumping my back. She had to force her fingers down my throat and pulled it out. It was one of the scariest nights of my life.”
Despite having these symptoms for many years and having to leave her school, Saffron had only just been diagnosed as having chronic anxiety disorder in August last year.
Saffron said: “All of my symptoms started when I was about 14 but my anxiety reached its peak when I got into 5th year. I was worried because I was almost ready to sit my exams and I think the stress just managed to get the better of me. I was unsure of what was wrong with me which was also very scary for me.
“My anxiety eventually got that that bad that I even started fainting in public and I also even collapsed when I was attending the doctors a few times. I couldn’t bear to think of going outdoors it made me feel ill.
“Everybody kept telling me things would be alright but I knew in my mind that it wouldn’t, it’s easy to say that when you’re not suffering from the same symptoms as me.”
Saffron’s mental health further deteriorated at school which eventually led her to distance herself from her peers, making her feel even more isolated.
Saffron’s mum, June Scullion, who is her sole carer, described how tough things have been for the family since Saffron was diagnosed with her illness.
She said: “Life has been difficult with Saffron. She is a beautiful girl with an amazing heart, so to see her going through so much hurt and strain is causing me serious health issues. I try my best every day to make her happy and to try and put a smile back on her face but most of the time without any success.
“Saffron was once very popular amongst her peer group at school and was always out and about playing and having a laugh with her friends and now she hasn’t even taken one step outside the door in over five years.”
Even though Saffron had these symptoms since her school days, she wasn’t diagnosed with the disorder until around five years later.
“I just don’t think there’s enough help out there for mental illness especially in children,” June added. “My daughter had no treatment in that time and was forced to face the demons in her mind all these years without any valid explanation to what was happening.”
Then Saffron found a lifeline in the most unlikely of places, one that has opened up a new world for her.
Saffron found a new lease of life using Instagram on social media, setting up a fan Instagram page for the star which has now gained well over 100k followers.
The teenager generates all of her own customised images and videos of Kylie and shares them on her social media page where she has had over 1million likes on individual posts.
Even though Saffron struggles to leave the house, Instagram helps her to communicate and is gradually building up her confidence and giving her hope for the future.
Saffron added: “I’ve always used social media from as far back as I can remember but when I got anxiety I stopped using it as much, mainly due to my social awkwardness.
“I got that lonely at one point that I decided to make a fan page for my favourite celebrity and role model Kylie Jenner. I just did it to give myself a bit of a hobby as I was never out of the house.
“I downloaded apps were I could edit videos and pictures and made a Kylie Jenner Instagram page. I uploaded a few pictures on it and left it for a few days and went back to it to see I had a few thousand views on each picture.
“I continued and now it’s spiralled out of control and I now got thousands of shares and over a million likes per video or picture I share.
“This has really boosted my confidence. It’s given me the motivation to want to get better and get over my illness and become a professional photographer eventually.
“It really does show you that social media isn’t all negative after all.”