Anxiety & Depression | My story

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I actually can't believe that this blog is now 1 years old! So HAPPY BIRTHDAY I guess.
I thought it would only be right to make a post related to this blog which I created to write down my progress whilst living with anxiety, I thought in this post I should discuss my anxiety which is long overdue now. 

Before I start I just want to say this post is pretty long one and I really appreciate you for even clicking onto this page, it was quite hard to write.

For people who don't really understand what anxiety is I'll try and explain it:
Most people who have that feeling of nervousness when they're in stressful situations such as taking an exam, doing a driving test or going for an interview which would be classed as normal, but for other people this feeling of worry is very hard to switch off and it can continue for an uncomfortable length of time to the point where it becomes a huge obstacle which gets in the way of life. You begin to develop this fear of mostly minor things which people normally don't have trouble overcoming and this can lead to panic attacks and sometimes agoraphobia where you can't even face the world because you fear that they're will be no escape or that people will be judging you.

What does anxiety feel like? Well in my case anxiety feels like having a ticking time bomb in my body which could just go off at any time. I discovered that I have a panic disorder where I have recurring panic attacks which could happen at any time for no particular reason. 

When did my anxiety begin?
The past few years feel like a blur but I think it became clearer in 2012, which felt like a disastrous year. At first I didn't really have anxiety and I felt more depressed at this time. I was going into my last year of sixth form and I just felt really down, I hated myself especially the way I looked, I hated that I had no confidence and I felt so stupid. I remember looking at old photos of myself with my mum, one particular photo which sticks in my head was a holiday picture of me posing in a bikini on the beach smiling from ear to ear and looking so happy and confident. I felt like crying when I looked at that photo because I couldn't remember a time when I felt that happy, I remember my mum saying something along the lines of 'we can get through this and get you back to that stage again.' As time went on I started to feel numb and worthless and I would spend most of my days and nights crying after faking a smile in front of my friends the whole day. Some days I just couldn't keep it together and I would just go to the toilets in school to cry. I let it get so far that I actually wished that I wasn't alive and the cracks started to show in front of my friends and family, they would ask me what's wrong and I just could't tell them, I'd usually shrug it off with 'I'm just tired' or 'nothing' but I wasn't convincing anyone.
This feeling was starting to take a toll on my social and school life, I wasn't enjoying the things I used to do anymore and I wasn't trying as hard at school. In my last year of Sixth Form I didn't go in as much because I thought what's the point so instead I would just stay in bed while my mum rang in sick for me. Some of my friends started to worry about me because I wasn't the same person before. When I did go in I would sit with my friends and not join in their conversations and couldn't wait for the day to end.

There Is Hope. . .
One morning before class I came into school and I felt like a balloon filled with water which was ready to burst. I was at my locker and two of my friends were talking to me and I just cried in front of them, this was probably the turning point in my life and when my friends realised there was a problem. I felt so fragile and I think I ended up going home early that day. I thought I have to tell my mum which ended up in me crying A LOT! At first I don't think she really understood it at first but I know she wanted to do the best she could to help me, so we tried going down different avenues. She had heard of CAMHS which stands for Children and Adult Mental Health Services however I was over the age limit for this service so they recommended adult services for me. I visited my GP, told him my symptoms and he told me straight away that my symptoms matched depression and anxiety. He told me about therapy and medication but he recommend to start with therapy first.
I was added to a 3 month waiting list to start an online Cognitive Behavioural Therapy course called Beating the Blues. To be honest I didn't find this helpful at all but I finished the course.

Back to Square One. . .
After completing the course my depression had improved a little bit and I started to feel happier but my anxiety was getting worse, this developed into a cycle. I went to see my GP again but I got a different one this time, I told him how I felt and he wasn't really helpful as he just prescribed me SSRI's so easily (I can't remember which one though, sorry) it felt like he just wanted to get rid of me. My mum definitely wasn't happy with this and it actually made her cry, I'll never forget that moment because it actually broke my heart to see her sad and I felt like it was all my fault that I was so weak. I took one pill and believe me I definitely felt the side effects of nausea and feeling tired so I stopped, I didn't want to be dependant on medication.
I decided I wasn't giving up so I booked another appointment with another GP and he referred me to see a therapist where we would have one-to-one CBT.
I was on another waiting list, in the mean time I saw my school counsellor once a week which helped a little. This was due to the communication between my Mum and my form tutor who also brought the attention to some of my teachers, some of them actually told me they didn't even realise that I was so stressed and wasn't coping which just goes to show how well people can hide behind this mask and fool everyone around them. My teachers would regularly check on me to see if I was coping and I also got support from my friends.

Starting Therapy. . .
I finally got a date for starting therapy some time last year. Once a week I saw my therapist and I began to fill in a diary where I wrote down how I felt, what I did that day and I rate my feelings out of 10. My therapist really praised me for doing this as it would help me notice a pattern. Each session I had to fill out a questionnaire to assess and monitor my level of anxiety and depression, I definitely had my ups and downs every week but he assured me that this was normal. He also gave me homework which involved learning coping skills and applying them to my daily life, sometimes it worked for me and sometimes it didn't but I was always determined to try again and not let it get me down, I always thought in my mind 'tomorrow is a new day'.
When my Cognitive Behavioural Therapy came to an end, I wouldn't say I was completely cured I still had my anxiety but I was happier because I had achieved so much in life such as passing my A-levels, being accepted into university, decided to take a gap year, got a job and even gained the courage to leave that job for another one which made me a lot happier. I would definitely say it has given me more control over my life.

A happy ending?
After a year onwards I am still struggling with anxiety and do still have moments of depression which springs on me out of nowhere but when I do I look back and think I've got through it before I can do it again. My life isn't fantastic and I've learnt that I will probably never completely get rid of these feelings, I still get panic attacks at work, uni or even when I'm own my own at home and it is mentally and physically draining but I am determined to fight it. To be honest I don't really like my uni course that much and I end up panicking about what the future holds for me but I want to give second year a chance and maybe my love for psychology will return, who knows? In the end it might be all worth while.

What have I learnt?
From these past few years I realised that talking and opening up can do all sorts of wonderful things, bottling everything up just made things worse for me and it just isn't healthy. Talking also helps because the people around you funnily enough are not mind readers and don't always know how you're feeling by just looking at you. I learnt that not every one will be there for you, I probably lost one friend after telling them although it helped me notice that she wasn't a real friend anyway. It helped me to gain friends who I can be open with about it and it doesn't seem to bother them, in fact I've met so many people who I work with that have social anxiety disorders or suffer from depression and I didn't even realise. I've also realised that personal space is very important and a bit of time to myself is needed to recharge my emotional batteries regularly. The final lesson is that not everyone fully understands the effect this can have on you personally even though they may say they feel exactly the same or they went through it too, every one has a different experience and you can't compare which I find my mum tends to do a lot but I guess people just need to be educated on this sort of stuff and awareness needs to be raised.

In the meantime I've been reading these books which I would recommend.

For self discovery and personal growth: Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers

For moments of anxiety and stress: Control Stress by Paul McKenna

This animation is really good and I can definitely relate to it.

Even the film 'Frozen' always tugs on my heart strings as I can see the anxiety and depression which Elsa goes through.
But both helped me realise that things do get better and you have to overcome it yourself!
I know this was really long and I was considering making this post into two parts, I can totally understand if this was too long to read but I just felt the need to write this all out. If you have any questions related to this please ask me, I'm always here to listen.
Thank you for reading
x x x
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