For weeks I was sure I was going to die because my heart was beating so fast. I was having constant episodes where everything around me became a blur and I felt like I was going to pass out.
My grasp on reality began to loosen each time I experienced an episode like this and in my own head I began to convince myself that this must be what death or at least insanity felt like. I had no idea what was going on and I was absolutely terrified.
Difficulty going out
My life became one big panic attack, college and social outings became almost impossible and there were periods where I just couldn’t leave my house at all. The worst part was that I just didn’t know what to do.
I didn’t know how to discuss it and I didn’t know how to get better. It took several doctor visits, blood tests and heart scans before I was reassured that physically there was nothing wrong with me. I could not accept that, I felt so physically ill.
Link between physical and mental health
That’s the thing though, people often don’t realise how closely linked ones physical and mental health really are. Each as important as the other and each to be discussed and treated in the same way – with the utmost importance and respect.
Eventually I was diagnosed with a severe panic disorder (which due to lack of mental health education/awareness I hadn’t even known existed), generalised anxiety, depersonalisation/derealisation and as if that wasn’t enough to deal with, later I would also be treated for clinical depression. Truth be told life can have a real warped sense of humour sometimes so yeah, cheers for that one mate!
What I realised
Through my own struggles I have come to realise a few things. Firstly, while there is no doubt we have come a long way in our efforts to overcome the traditionally ignorant attitude of suffering in silence brought on by mental health stigmatisation – there is still a long way to go. People need to learn that there is no shame whatsoever in not feeling OK and we don’t have to always pretend to be either.
Learning to deal with negative emotions
For far too long we have been conditioned to believe that sadness, hopelessness, anxiety etc are negative emotions to be confined to and dealt with during alone time only. That once we leave our house we must bottle up our true feelings, slap on a fake smile and make polite conversation in order not to be judged.
This leads me to my second realisation.
Deep down most humans have good hearts and are beautiful, understanding creatures. However, we must learn to be more open about our own struggles and in turn people will learn to be more open with theirs.
Whilst it is true that some are unfortunately forced to battle with much larger issues than others, I believe it is almost impossible for everyone not to encounter some sort of mental health issues on this crazy roller-coaster journey of life.
Open-minded and honest communication is key and it has helped me so much personally within this last
These last few years of my life have been a massive struggle within my own human psyche and having been at points where I could see no light, I couldn’t be prouder in the huge progress I have made in my journey of coming to terms
with and overcoming my own mental health problems.
Family and friend support
Fully opening up to my family and friends about what I was experiencing was without a doubt the first step on my road to self recovery.
With their support as well as that of online forums and later some great counsellors – in particular a cognitive behaviour therapist who miraculously helped me train my brain to fight against the panic attacks that were destroying me, I have finally gained control of my life again, I can breathe. For the first time in a long time I see brightness, I see hope and I am excited about my future.
With their help, I have set out a new healthy path for myself which includes keeping busy and doing more of the things that make me feel better e.g nature, meditation, yoga ( yes, cliche alert I know but honestly, all you fellow anxious people give it a go, it really helps), writing, walking, swimming, dancing, talking, nutritious food and most importantly being around understanding people.
In contrast, it includes less or none of all the things that were making me feel worse e.g. caffeine, alcohol, drugs, crazy late nights, bad diet, lack of exercise and above all toxic relationships. Of course nothing in life is perfect and my struggle with my mental health is an ongoing battle that I will always carry with me.
However, it is one that with the help of those around me I will continue to fight, unite and conquer until the very end.