The Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey (2016) has revealed that 3 out of 100 people in the UK suffer from depression. Furthermore, 6 out of 100 people in the UK suffer from anxiety and 8 out of 100 people in the UK suffer from both.
Sadly, I’m part of this statistic. I’ve suffered from anxiety most of my life and I’ve been dealing with depression on and off for almost a decade.
MY ANXIETY STORY
Personally, I believe that we all suffer from different levels of anxiety. I think it’s human nature to be anxious about certain things. I mean, we all get slightly worried about sitting an exam or having a job interview. However, certain experiences in life can increase the levels of anxiety. Loss of someone. Failure. Traumatic events. Change.
Those who have low levels of anxiety can lead a normal life, but those who have high levels of anxiety struggle a lot. People who suffer from anxiety are not just worried about normal things like money and relationships. People with high levels of anxiety worry about the smallest things and they overthink EVERYTHING.
For example, I constantly worry that people are talking about me. Whenever I see someone laughing, I think it’s because they’re laughing about me. Not only that, but I often worry about things I’ve said or done in the past. Then I will spend the whole day thinking what I could’ve said and what I should’ve done and how it would’ve made my life different now. In reality, it doesn’t fu*king matter! Chances are no one even remembers. Yet, knowing this, I cannot stop my mind from doing it and that’s the sad part of having anxiety.
To top things off, whenever my body experiences something that’s not really normal, let’s say a nosebleed, I’ll start thinking I have some sort of illness and begin googling symptoms. Whenever I get on a tube, I worry if someone’s carrying a bomb. Whenever I’m home alone, I worry if someone’s going to break in and kill me. Hopefully you get the idea. This kind of mind-set is so unhealthy and so draining.
WHAT CAUSED MY ANXIETY?
Throughout my life I’ve gone through various situations that have affected the state of my mental health and increased my anxiety levels. However, I’ll start right at the beginning.
When I was about 10 years old, I had my first panic attack. I was staying over at my aunties place. However, my auntie and her husband decided to go out that night. I remember watching the TV until I fell asleep and the next thing I remember is being woken up from extremely loud banging on the door, in the middle of the night.
My body froze. I couldn’t move at all. My heart was pounding and it felt like I was going to vomit my organs out. My mind was racing at the speed of light and I wanted to hide and call my auntie, but I couldn’t physically move. I honestly thought I was going to die. About 5 minutes passed before I managed to pick up the phone and call my auntie. Turns out it was my auntie and her husband banging on the door as they had lost their keys. It’s kind of a funny story if you think about it, but I will never forget the horrific feeling I felt that night.
It completely changed me. Since that day I struggle to stay alone in my own home. I always worry that someone is going to break in and kill me. Whenever I am home alone, even for a few hours, every little noise makes me check every room, every corner and every cupboard in the house to see that nobody is in the house with me. Sometimes I feel like I’m crazy!
When I was 15, I was walking home around 9pm after a day out with my friends. It was still light outside as it was summer. The shortest way for me to get home was through this alley way which was in-between a park and some houses. I’ve walked this way tons of times so I never doubted the safety of this route.
Before I walked into this alley way I noticed a strange man behind me, but I didn’t think much of it. Once, I reached the alley way I stopped to change my shoes (because 15-year-old me thought it was cool to wear high heels) and the same man walked past me. Then once I started walking, he slowed down and started checking his shoe as if it had a rock in it or something which I found strange, but I just kept walking. Then literally 30 seconds later he grabbed me from behind. Naturally I started screaming and luckily for me there was a woman walking nearby, so once the guy noticed her, he ran off. I ran home as fast as I could. Honestly, I had never run so fast in my life.
This made me extremely scared to leave my home. To this day I cannot go outside my house alone without jumping and screaming when someone walks too close behind me. It freaks people out so much.
Now, do you notice my problem? I don’t feel safe alone in my own home and I don’t feel safe outside it either. I do feel safe when I’m with people, but not always. I often cancel plans as I cannot stop worrying about my safety. I cannot get in a taxi on my own. I cannot walk in the dark on my own. It is extremely exhausting and it makes me miserable, because I miss out on life so much due to this.
WHAT CAUSED MY DEPRESSION?
I first experienced depression when I moved to the UK at the age of 13. I had no friends. I couldn’t speak English. I didn’t fit in. It was very mild though. I just suffered from low moods. I didn’t feel like talking to my family. I didn’t feel like going anywhere anymore. I got irritated easily. Once I made some friends, I became myself again.
However, since then I’ve also experienced severe depression. Almost 2 years ago I was at a stage in my life where I couldn’t leave my bed for months. I couldn’t get myself to do basic things like brushing my teeth or my hair, let alone anything else. I had no interest in doing anything. I just felt sad all the time for no reason. I failed my second year of University. I almost ruined my marriage. I wanted to kill myself. I was a mess. Till this day I have no idea what caused it.
WHERE I AM NOW?
I couldn’t admit to anyone that I had a problem for the longest time, because I couldn’t even admit it to myself. I kept blaming failed friendships and relationships, low moods and my loss of identity on being a teenager. However, once I began an ‘adult life’ where I moved out of my parents house and got married, I realised that it was still going on. I finally admitted to myself that I’m not okay. It was actually through my husband’s patience and constant reminders that I’m not being myself which made me realise it. Once I admitted it to myself, I was able to seek help. I decided to go to my GP and I was prescribed Fluoxetine and referred to a therapist.
At first, I was very sceptical about taking pills. I’m the type of person, who doesn’t like to take medication for anything unless it’s the last resort. However, I did feel like I really need help, because I was becoming self-destructive. Very quickly after I began taking Fluoxetine, I felt so much better. It has helped to decrease my negative thoughts to a minimum and I no longer act like a crazy person. I don’t check my cupboards to see if someone is hiding in them anymore and I can actually go out to the shops without feeling like I will die. I’m not 100% mentally healthy, but I definitely now see a light at the end of the tunnel and I feel like one day I will actually be okay.
I’m planning to post more about anxiety and depression from now on as I feel like it’s such an important topic to talk about. I feel like a lot of people don’t even realise that they are suffering as they confuse mental health issues with something else (e.g. I thought I was just being a teenager).
Also, if you have any tips on how to deal with anxiety and depression, please leave them down below to help others reading this post.