In hindsight I don’t remember not being anxious. As a child I was the kind of person who would jump out of their skin if anyone dared to approach me.
When I was in secondary school I struggled to make friends and I think this was the point at which the anxiety truly set in, often at night I would suffer with crippling panic attacks which would take over my whole body. I didn’t know what they were or where they came from at the time so typically I would just weather them out, hoping that whatever thought had triggered them would soon disappear from my mind and the tremors and tight chestedness would pass. In my final year of GCSE studies it reached a peak and I probably missed about two or three months of school. My parents would take me to the GP but it was never considered that maybe the ongoing stomach pains, the feelings of tension and palpitations were anything other than physical.
As I got older and more confident these feelings subsided for a while. In some ways it seemed that being independent was in many ways just what the doctor ordered. I made it through Uni and started my first job.
Then things kicked off again. I was on a fixed term contract and when I was given my noticed the panic attacks started again. They would take over my body as before making me fearful of sleep and hating my own company. I entered into a new relationship and found a new job but the feelings continued. As I became more and more happy in my personal life I became lower and lower in my professional life. This conflict made me feel as if I was constantly fighting a battle that no one but me knew about.
Then my Uncle who I was extremely close to passed away and the panic attacks resumed but worse than ever before. I found myself struggling to break them, additionally whilst I knew my trigger this seemed to serve only to increase the intensity. As they continued to intensify I decided to do some research and see what I could do about it. I looked up panic attacks and learnt strategies to control them, however whilst this controlled the panic I found myself struggling more and more with anxiety.
I remember the day of diagnosis clearly as finally hearing that I was not going insane was one of the greatest feeling ever.
Finally at the age of 22 (12 years after these feelings commenced) I sought medical advice. My doctor diagnosed me with anxiety and depression putting me on to Prozac. I remember the day of diagnosis clearly as finally hearing that I was not going insane was one of the greatest feeling ever. Additionally being told that there was something I could do about it (although medical) was a relief. Unfortunately I had a reaction to the initial tablets with them making me feel worse rather than better. However, a return to the doctor and a change of tablets meant that I was finally starting to feel human again. I was starting to feel like me again.
Unfortunately two things happened at the moment which served to up end me
1. I told my Mum of my health issues - instead of supporting me she urged e to give up the tablets telling me that it was an imaginary illness and additionally that I was going to become addicted to my medication.
2. Following a period of sickness I disclosed my mental health issues to the headteacher of the school where I was working - she like my mother told me to give up my pills. She advised me that if I wanted to continue in their employment this would be necessary as it was not the done thing for their staff to be on long term medication.
Unfortunately I listened to both of them…
It took me a number of years from this point (and a new relationship) to realise that having anxiety and depression was nothing for me to be ashamed of. My partner and true friends would often say to me - “if you have a headache you take a pain killer, so if you have depression it is only right that you take anti depressants). When my (now) wife and I moved to South Wales we were further helped by our GP who I remain incredibly grateful to. My GP recognised my dislike of medication and as a result would offer me alternative strategies to help me build up my emotional resilience and strengthen me. She taught me that some times it was important to remember the little things. She encouraged me to connect with the people who are important to me and who I want to be around. She suggested I take greater awareness of my surroundings encouraging me to take photographs (looking at life through a lens really helps) - http://drhtoldmeto.tumblr.com. She encouraged me not to wallow in self pity and instead to get out of the house recognising that this would help exhaust me physically as well as mentally. She talked with me re the importance of eating appropriately supporting me when I attended my local WeightWatchers group. She suggested I log this in a journal so that I could get to recognise my triggers and what did and didn’t work for me. Finally she helped work with me to find strategies to get me taking my medication on a regular basis (at the back of my mind the pills were still evil).
I feel a lot more stable than I have for a long time at the moment. I am in a more stressful job than I have held at any other time in my life and instead of shying away from it I relish the challenges it presents. I continue to take photos and blog on a regular basis. I have learnt a lot about what works for me. Whilst I continue to dislike taking medication I recognise that it is necessary if I am to thrive.
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