“Streaming honestly saved my life,” Beth Soulsby, 23, credits the live streaming site Twitch for changing her life while struggling with agoraphobia. She spoke exclusively about her mental health and how the internet allowed a needed release.
The County Durham streamer has been suffering from panic attacks since she was a teenager, experiencing her first panic attack at thirteen during a science class.
“I started feeling like I was going to faint, or have a heart attack, or die. The feelings were so unfamiliar,” Beth said. Before she could explain what she was experiencing, her teacher sent her out.
The anxiety over the possibility of having another panic attack was causing her to have even more anxiety. She was overwhelmed with unease and emotion but couldn’t explain why. So, Beth tried to hide them.
However, when her anxiety was beginning to take over her school life, she had to tell her parents. Originally, they took her to the doctors, thinking it must be a physical, rather than a mental illess.
“I don’t think my parents liked the idea of something being wrong with their child mentally,” Beth said, blaming the stigma of mental illness for clouding their judgment.
Apart from handing her a leaflet on panic attacks, the doctors weren’t much help either.
Finding herself frozen time and time again, Beth’s mental health started to massively impact her education. Her grades and attendance were dropping, and her college had labelled her a “useless student” so she dropped out before they could kick her out.
Not only did agoraphobia affect her education, but it also affected her everyday life. She was unable to leave the house unaccompanied, meaning she couldn’t do simple things like go to the shops or hold down a job.
“It was when I started to get panic attacks outside of school, that I developed agoraphobia. I was terrified of any location that I’d had a panic attack at before […] when I was 18, I remember freezing at my front door, not being able to go out. It’s like there was an invisible wall stopping me. Agoraphobia developed a lot more from there.”
It was also hard for her to reach out for help, Beth explained:
“Unfortunately, my parents were usually working, and it was hard to get the support as I didn’t have any friends that knew much about my illness either.”
Being cut off from the world left Beth incredibly depressed. She turned to the internet as an escape. Here, she met her boyfriend, who today is her main source of support.
They moved in together in County Durham in 2018, which was a big step for her. While she still needed to be accompanied to go outside, Beth was on her path to independence.
Now having bills to pay, Beth tried to hold down a job. However, with the added anxieties of working in retail and being forced to leave her house, her agoraphobia increasingly worsened. In order to save her mental health, she had to sacrifice her job.
Now being left home alone all day as her boyfriend went to work, Beth craved a purpose. She needed something to do to provide a distraction from her anxieties. One night, after watching a friend livestream, Beth considered a new option.
“I thought I can do that because at the moment I’m just sat at home not doing much because I have agoraphobia and I can’t go outside, and I can’t interact with people. I was super lonely, didn’t have anything to do so I was like ‘this could be a good hobby to have.’”
Now dubbed as ‘Beth Souls’ online, she began regularly streaming herself playing an array of video games onto Twitch in January 2018.
Beth expressed a sense of loneliness when speaking of her life before livestreams. She proudly explained, when asked about her fan base, that:
“I’ve just built up this little community where people, want to talk to me, they want to hear about my day and it’s just nice to have a little community.”
Since her first stream, her community has grown gradually. Beginning with only two viewers to now over 3,700 followers.
Beth beams when talking about the community she’s built, and it was beyond clear that she puts just as much back into them as they do her. She constantly tries to deviate from the standard viewer-creator divide typically found on the site, treating her viewers more like her friends.
“Streaming honestly saved my life during that time and continues to, as it gives me a reason to get up every day, and gives me people that care about me, and want to see me do well,”
Though the now Durham-based streamer still suffers from agoraphobia, she said streaming makes it manageable.
Two years on from her first time on Twitch, Beth’s now livestreaming full time with daily streams that last up to five hours each.
As a proud member of the LGBTQ+ community, Beth selected Mermaids UK, a transgender youth charity, for her first charity event on Twitch in October 2020. While she admitted she was initially worried she’d raise nothing, she took the plunge with a month-long event taking donations from viewers and donating all of her advertisement revenue for the month. Overall, Beth and her fans raised over £1000.
What started off as a hobby is now a full-time job for Beth, who’s Twitch channel has grown from strength to strength.
“You see these streamers who are making millions of dollars […] if you’re doing it for money maybe you should reconsider because you’re gonna have a really bad time. Have fun, do it to make friends, it’s definitely really rewarding if you do it for the right reasons.”
She tries not to look too far into the future as the platform isn’t always so forgiving, but for right now, she wants to keep growing her community and hopes to use Twitch to fully financially support herself one day.
While the struggles of agoraphobia still take up a large part of Beth’s every day, streaming has been life-changing. It has given her an outlet, a purpose and connected her to the world at a time she felt most alone.
“I’m trying to finally seek professional help in 2021 since the pandemic put a dampener on my plans [to seek help] but until then, streaming and my community have been amazingly helpful.”
If you want to hear more from Beth, she streams live onto Twitch every Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday at 15:00 GMT and every Wednesday at 11:00 GMT.
For more details, check out the links below.