Brez: My journey through the mental health system
Looking back now, I would actually say my anxiety was present from the age of about seven - I went through some pretty traumatic times for a youngster. But, the official diagnosis wasn’t until my adult years when the anxiety became quite aggressive and uncontrollable.
I’ve done a lot of research over the years into anxiety and its friend depression; whilst they can hit you separately, they seem to go hand in hand, like dealing a double blow.
I will never forget my first anxiety/panic attack. It was a few days after my nan had passed and I was just sat in her living room watching the TV (I lived with my Nan). I got up off the sofa to change the channel on the TV when, all of a sudden, I went very dizzy.
My vision went black and blue like I was on a really fast roller coaster. My heart was thumping out of my chest and I dropped to my knees.
It only lasted for about 10-15 seconds, but it felt like a lot longer than that. All I remember thinking is that I was dying. It took me a while to calm down enough, to stand up and move back to the sofa. Once I was sat down, as you can imagine, my mind started racing. I’m having a heart attack, or maybe I have a brain tumour. All the ‘normal’ things that anxiety makes you feel - all, of course, untrue.
What I have found over the years with anxiety is that new symptoms present themselves all the time, just to twist the knife in even more. Once you accept one symptom as anxiety, another symptom presents itself for you to worry about.
It was about two years into my anxiety that I finally caved in and started taking anxiety medication and antidepressants. Back then, I really didn’t want to take anything. I’d heard so many horror stories and didn’t want to depend on medication, but my life at that time was hard. I lost my job, friendships and relationships all because of anxiety and I had to do something.
Between the medication and some self-help techniques that I learned, I had a period of about five or six years where my life seemed to get back on track. I found a great job and was starting to feel a bit ‘normal’ again.
Then, it came back with a vengeance about 12 months ago, after having my dog put to sleep. A few people have commented about how ridiculous that sounds, but anxiety is usually triggered by a big event or trauma in your life - and that dog was a big part of my life for many years, so it was like losing a family member! Maybe only dog lovers will understand the pain that it causes.
So, how am I today? Well, I’m doing quite well, actually. I took the plunge and decided to pay for private counselling. I’d waited for my GP to refer me - I’d waited 13 years, so I knew it wasn’t going to happen.
I have been off my medication for about three months now and feel like I’m doing much better. I still have ups and downs, but don’t we all? It’s nice not to feel numb, but to feel something - even the bad things are nice to feel again.
Anxiety and depression are both hard battles to face but, with the right help, you can pull yourself out of it. I’m certainly not clear of it yet, but I am starting to feel much better these days. So, if you have just been diagnosed or if you feel like there’s no light at the end of the tunnel, trust me, there is. I have been there and had those thoughts.
If someone told me 10 years ago I would have a great job and be writing a fairly successful blog, I would not have believed them but, yet, here I am.