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My anxiety story: 5 years on

When I first started my blog back in 2013, I wrote a blog post about my mental health journey, which you can read, here. 4 years on and I feel have a different overview and new perspective on my journey and can perhaps add details that I once may have missed...

I have always been a shy child for as long as I can remember. I never wanted to answer questions in class or ever be on stage. I didn't have problems with making friends though. I hated going to clubs, even if I really enjoyed the activity as well as being told off, so I did everything to avoid it - I guess this was all about a fear of failure, even though my parents never brought me up in such a way. 

Now I look back, my mental health problems began when I was around 8 years old, when a really nasty family break-up and extension of such, turned my world upside down. Looking back, my way of controlling the situation even though I was only 8, was through performing rituals every morning and throughout school. I would be in an absolute state if I didn't perform these rituals. I used to have my Mum write notes to me, promising me that everything would be okay, and if she didn't I couldn't walk out of the door. As years went on, I began to slowly manage these impulses to make them less severe, but nevertheless were a part of my school life until I finished my A-levels. 

It was 2012 and GCSE year came around and this is where everything began to flare up again. As a very studious person, GCSEs at that time were my whole life and I would study at every opportunity I had. I thought if I even dropped a single grade or mark, it would be the end of the world, which I know now is not the case. But the pressure I put on myself made me have very small breakdowns and at one point, led to me trying to commit suicide. Needless to say I got through my GCSEs and that Summer was one of the best, but also when I noticed more issues with my mental health. I began to feel sick on a regular basis. In fact, every day at the end of year 11 I began to feel extremely sick every time I was in a school classroom or somewhere in which I was in a closed space. Throughout the Summer this became worse and I started to take paracetamol as somewhat of a safety blanket, even though I rationally knew that it wouldn't change anything. I began to become more anxious too and this was noticeable on results day when I had my second ever severe  panic attack behind the one when I went around town to apply for jobs. I had a real fear of being ill in front of other people, which I still have to a degree today. 

The first year of A-levels commenced in 2013 and I was still feeling sick everyday. I started to think something was physically wrong with me. I just thought it was a prolonged virus. I was so on edge and ready to leave a room within a few seconds. I actually remember  one incident vividly; we were being read the hungry caterpillar story as a metaphor of how our two years of A-levels was hopefully going to plan out, and the feeling of sickness was so intense. 

Everything eventually built up to one day when I was walking to school as usual, but instead this time I stopped at the end of the road and I just couldn't put one foot forward. I went home and my parent phoned my school to say that I was off sick. I tried again the next day where I managed to get into school, but as soon as I got there I had a panic attack and left. As far as I remember, from that day forward I could no longer leave the house. As the weeks went by, I went to the doctors to have blood tests which came back normal, which meant it was all in my head. This was on one of the days, when I just managed to leave the house. There was no virus or illness - I was in the middle of a mental breakdown. As time went on I couldn't answer the phone or door either. I had to cancel my driving lessons, I couldn't attend school or see my friends. My bedroom was my whole life. I tried every day to get to school. My mum would park outside the school gates; that's if I managed to even get out of the house that day and I had a panic attack. every day. Over many months I lost a lot of weight and just lost the will to live. I had to teach myself my A-levels. 

As can be imagined having anxiety that was that severe led to severe depression. My life was a prison and even though I tried with every bone in my body to walk out of the door and get better, I just mentally couldn't do it. People tried to physically force me out of the house and I resisted with all of my weight. I was shouted at and that didn't work either. It was time to realise that I really needed help. I had severe anxiety, depression, health anxiety and some OCD as told by my therapist. I needed help. On a daily basis, hand washing became a ritual as well as avoiding certain foods and drink, I often couldn't get out of bed, eat, leave the house, I often had periods of just losing control and just being utterly lost - it is the only was I can explain it. 

I went to the doctors to ask for help and got advised to counselling services that didn't exist, and yet wasn't even told about the services on the NHS. After doing independent research, I was put on the waiting list for counselling, which was 7 months long. But, I needed immediate help to stay alive. At that point in time I was harming myself and having suicidal attempts fairly regularly and I couldn't go on. My Mum paid for private counselling sessions which were based around hypnotherapy. They helped somewhat but no where near enough. It just didn't click with me. Eventually I got counselling on the NHS to which I saw three different people due to the severity. The CBT I had was immensely helpful, in which my therapist didn't just talk to me in their office, but actually went out into the community with me and challenged me to do things that made me anxious. It worked on a hierarchy, with the tasks that made me least anxious which was getting on a bus, to getting a job. During this time, CBT wasn't enough so after trying everything including diet and exercise, I went to the doctors for medication to which I was prescribed beta blockers, which did next to nothing for me. With continuing self-harm, suicidal attempts and loss of control, my last resort was medication and then if needed, hospitalisation. I eventually got prescribed anti-depressants which I didn't want to take because of my ongoing severe health anxiety, meaning that I worried that taking them would make me ill alongside a phobia of germs, food and drink that I was dealing with too. It took my mum forcing me to take them, to start my medication journey. 4 years later and I am still taking them. It was 6 weeks later and something clicked. I felt happy for the first time in many years. Alongside my medication and CBT I began to tackle the things that really made me anxious and I began to do the things I loved once more; from going to school and driving lessons. I couldn't get to school every day, but more than nothing at all. 

After a year or so, I was discharged from therapy, which was an amazing feeling. I went onto university in which I had a mental health mentor to continue my counselling. Now, after university I see the same counsellor privately. 

Today, I am 22 years old, a first class honours Law graduate who is going through the application process of my dream career. I am driving and living independently in my flat with my partner. I still have my triggers and I still suffer with anxiety and depression, but nothing compared to what it used to be. I haven't written about every single thing in detail and I don't think the real severity can be understood unless one was there to experience it, nor do I feel it appropriate to go into every detail. Nervetheless, I hope this has given you an updated insight!

If anything, I wish this story gives you hope that even in the darkest times, you have the strength to get better. I wouldn't have believed it when I was is in it, but now I am on the other side I know it is possible. 

Best Wishes,


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