Friday, 12 December 2014

my anxiety story

*This post mentions vomiting quite a bit, so if you are sensitive to that sort of thing, feel free to skip this!*

Mental illness is a huge topic these days, as it should be. So many people are affected by it at least once in their lives, whether that's stress from work, anxiety over exams, prenatal depression, or something more permanent. Mental illness is a very important topic to me as it strikes very close to home, what with my family having hereditary problems with it including myself. I talk about it very openly because I want to detach the stigma that comes with it.

I have suffered from mental illness probably since I was a young child, I just didn't recognise it. In hindsight, I realise around the ages of seven to ten my feelings weren't that of a mentally healthy child - I had constant irrational fears of death and eternity that made me lock myself into rooms and cry until my mother would come find me and tell me it's alright, amongst other things. When I moved interstate this depression lifted, but the anxiety began as I was being bullied and I was going through puberty, making me not want to go to school and finding any excuse to stay home "sick". This bullying stopped at the end of the year, which helped my anxiety, but I still faced huge body image issues and became very self-conscious - I had small boobs, big calves, a horrible haircut, and a pimply face. Make up and push-up bras became my best friends for a few years, and mirrors my enemy. It wasn't as bad as some people have it, it was just the typical teenage thing, but it was still, frankly, crap. In year eight my depression came back and I suffered from days where I would just cry for no reason, or feel overwhelmingly tired, or just plain down in the most simple of terms.

However, this year has been the worst year when it comes to mental illness. Last Christmas I fell ill with food poisoning and spent the whole night throwing up. That's usually just an unfortunate event, and for me it was, but I absolutely hate vomiting. I was still okay after this, and brushed it off as annoying but not to be helped. A couple of months later, it happened again. This time, I was quite shaken, and my confidence began to fail. I was worried sick (literally) that I would throw up again. My fears came true when just two weeks later I threw up, again. That was when I really began to develop anxiety. I wouldn't be able to go out, I felt terrified when I had to perform for a class play, I called up sick to half my shifts, and I avoided eating certain/most foods. On my birthday, my boyfriend took me out to the cinemas and not even a quarter into the movie I had my first major panic attack. I'd had some previously but hadn't recognised them - in fact, one time I was at work and had to leave 45 minutes into my shift because I thought I had to go to the hospital, a common thought whilst having a panic attack. This attack was terrible, though, I was crying hysterically, felt like I couldn't breathe, and was sitting on the side of the road at nine o'clock during a bitter winter ready to throw up on the street. That was when I knew I had to get help.

After getting a referral from the GP, I visited a psychologist who dealt mainly with adolescents and young adults. I cannot tell you how much she has helped me with my anxiety. When I first did a test for anxiety, the results said that I had extremely severe anxiety, but I now only have a mild diagnosis. We found out that I have a type of anxiety known as panic disorder, which explained why I suffered from panic attacks so often, and that helped understand how to treat me both therapeutically and medicinally.

Because of anxiety, I had lost quite a fair bit of weight, I woke up in the middle of the night to throw up because I was so anxious about the next day, I was sick very often, and could never go out. With the help of cognitive therapy, graded exposure, and medication, this has stopped - my appetite has come back, I'm able to go out for meals, and I'm getting less and less sick.

I wanted to share my story with you because I find it so important that people are properly informed about mental illness, and how badly it affects people. And to those who are suffering from it, there is always help, no matter how much it doesn't feel it. In the worst part of my anxiety, I thought I would have to live like that forever, which was the worst feeling in the world. I had no idea how anyone or anything would be able to make me better, but here I am today. I still have the occasional bad day, or panic attack, but they're manageable. It really is important to educate yourself about this topic because of the amount of sufferers. In Australia, one in five people will experience a mental illness each year, and out of those only 35% used a health service and 29% consulted a GP. You can find more statistics at Mindframe.

I hope this post helped in any way. I'm very open to discussion so feel free to leave a comment or question below.

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