What if: 2 tiny words that cause me fear, anxiety and depression

Ciara, a Time to Change blogger"What if" are two tiny words, two tiny words that on their own don’t hold that much meaning. But, what if I told you that those two words have dominated my life for the best part of ten years? What if you knew how those words control me, cause me to struggle, to fear, to feel anxious and in the end depressed?

"What if" surrounds my thoughts and feelings on a daily basis...what if I have a panic attack? (of which I have had hundreds) What if I collapse in front of everyone? What if I am sick? What if people see? What if my friends find out that I feel like this? What if...what if...what if?

The past ten years have been a constant battle between what is real and what is not. Having suffered from anxiety, phobia, panic attacks and thus depression it has been rather testing at times.

there have been periods in my life where I have struggled to travel, to drive, to eat, to sleep

Between the age of 17 to 27 there have been periods in my life where I have struggled to travel, to drive, to eat, to sleep, to do many of the ‘normal’ things that make up everyday life. And that by simply doing those ‘normal’ things you feel hot, sweaty, shaky, short of breath, scared to death and as if you might pass out. In the end you are left feeling tired, exhausted, useless and as if you are failing at every aspect of life. Not every year of my life has been a constant struggle but there certainly has been some years that have been far, far harder than others.

The anxiety at times is crippling, paralysing even. Telling people about it has been half the battle, perhaps more. How do you tell people when you are sat in a social situation that you feel as if you can’t breathe, and want to run for the door? How do you tell friends that you don’t want to go on holiday because your anxiety is so bad you won’t be able to get on the plane? How do you wake up everyday with a positive outlook when you know that the same feelings will take hold and pull you down? How do you acknowledge to yourself that the only thing holding you back from living the life you want is you?

it fast became easier to shy away from things and hide away

As an incredibly sociable person, who loves being around people, it fast became easier to shy away from things and hide away. Sadly all that does is isolate you from the people you love and care for. It also makes you feel like a failure, makes you feel miserable and ultimately depressed.

What in some ways is far harder than the actual fear and anxiety itself is the thought of people judging you, commenting and thinking you are simply mad. I appreciate that unless you have suffered from anxiety and depression it is a hard thing to sympathise with. However, it seems to me that there are more and more people suffering today than ever before and not just suffering but doing so quietly.

there is a constant need to act as if everything is OK

For those of us who struggle with our mental health there is a constant need to act as if everything is OK, that all is fine and that you are in control, even to our own doctors and counsellors. Putting up a facade appears to make life easier, yet all it does is enclose you in your anxious state, leaving you feeling alone and quite frankly, miserable.

Which leads me to the question...what if people understood? What if people were more aware of anxiety, depression and mental health? What if there were people who listened? What if when we tell we break the spell? What if we could help each other? What if people could talk openly about it and not feel scared that they would be judged?

When I am in the company of people who know, who understand, I feel calmer,

When I am in the company of people who know, who understand, I feel calmer, more relaxed and less of a need to be totally in control. Having seen numerous counsellors, therapists, hypnotherapists and clinical psychiatrists there is one common theme that they all tell you, what if everything was OK, what if the world wasn’t such a scary place? What if you could be honest to those around you?

For the first time ever I am doing things my way, with a different attitude, exercise, a fantastic self-help book and the support of those around me. Taking each day as it comes and looking forward to the next. My own personal therapy if you like! It won’t be easy but it will be a damn sight better than where I have been...

So, my final question to you is what if, together, we could change the perception of mental health?

In a world with so much change isn’t it time this did to?

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Comments

anxiety

She took the words right out of my mouth , couldn't of worded this better myself , im also a victim of anxiety/panic depression , i live in fear each day , having suffered with panic and anxiety from as young as i can remember then when i was 13 i was diagnosed with agoraphobia , i have been mostly housebound since then i am now 20 years old , love reading thing's like this as it makes me feel not alone , so thank you and good luck on you're journey!!! x

Reply to Leanne Re Anxiety

Hi Leanne, I'm so sorry to hear you're having such a bad time with anxiety. Its a terrible thing when you feel so frightened day after day and it makes you feel so tired but at the same time, you can't sleep. Sleeping is the only escape from it but as soon as you open your eyes it's there staring you in the face again. I really do sympathise with you as 3 years ago I was very unwell with depression and anxiety. I lost 2 stone as I couldn't eat and found it difficult to even sip water. I went through hell and felt terrified for months on end. Eventually though with the right medication I began to slowly recover but the thing that helped me most was CBT. I still use it now to challenge negative and worrying thoughts and it really helped me. Don't give up hope of getting better, it can and does happen, use all the support you can get. Try not to feel lonely, other people like me are thinking about you and wishing you well again.

Anxiety

Sorry for the very late reply !!! But thank you so much :-) this means a lot to me as most people just tell you to 'get on and do it' kind of thing , glad to know recovery can happen , thank you :)

What if... (in my own words)

What if... What if... I panic What if... I can't talk What if...I can't remember names What if...I curl up into a ball What if...I scream or cry What if...they think I'm mad What if...they laugh at me Or I get lost and no-one understands So many what ifs - my mind can't cope every breath is filled with anxiety my mind racing ahead - forming pictures, Thinking of each worst-case scenario Covering every possibility except one. What if...I cope.

What If....

I too have lived with fear, anxiety, depression,and terror all my life..( I am 58 yrs old next week) It has been a huge struggle to live as normal as possible... I found Spirituality( not religion)...DEEP breathing...SLOW breathing...Mantras...Spiritual healing...all helpful... however, a few weeks ago I was confronted with something I had done in the past and became a HUGE VICTIM to all of the above..my health has suffered severely ... Today, I am feeling much better ..thanks to my friends who rallied round me and put a LOT of their love and energy into helping me think straight...calm down ..and hand over to Spirit what ever I cannot manage myself. I do hope this share helps someone else... Blessings to all... xxx <3

My autobiography

If it wasn't for the fact there was a photograph of the author of this blog post, I would swear that someone had jumped into my head, taken the past 10 years of my life, written it down and passed it off as their own work. Thanks so much for writing this! I identified with so much of it. And you know what, if I met you in a social gathering or passed you in the street, I would most probably think "Lucky [insert expletive of choice], she's got it all. She's young, intelligent, attractive. Probably out all the time enjoying herself and going wherever she wants, whenever she wants while I'm stuck at home thinking what fun she's probably having!". I feel less alone having read this. Thank you.

This is a great post. I have

This is a great post. I have suffered from panic and anxiety for years and it is great to know you're not alone in what we go through, we're not mad. Those two words "What if" also rule my everyday life. I too feel a lot calmer and less like i need to be in control when i'm with people who know about my problems. Keep taking each day as it comes, and hopefully one day we will all say 'so what' instead of 'what if' x

What if...

This is exactly how I used to feel. I pushed myself so hard at 17 in my Alevels, at work and had bad relationship stress, I broke down and started to have panic attacks. Gradually over seven years I lost my friends because of excuses I would give not to go out. I had difficulty leaving the house because of all the 'what if' thoughts. Mine was mostly health related (what if I'm sick? what if I faint?) I tried a number of therapies for years and eventually found that gradual exposure therapy and finding the right medication worked best for me.

Thank you

It's comforting to be able to read a story about anxiety and how there is a light at the end of the tunnel. I have suffered from anxiety, panic attacks, agoraphobia and depression for nearly six years. It is only recently that I have started taking steps to get help and starting to tell people around me about how I'm feeling. It hasn't been easy and at times I have faced huge challenges in trying to explain to people how I feel. Unless you have really been there and experienced anxiety you can never begin to understand how someone with anxiety feels. I've been told that I 'just need to get on with it' and to 'stop worrying' which, for someone who has never had anxiety, is a horrible thing to say!! If only I could stop worrying!! Thank you for writing this blog, it brings comfort to me that over time things will start to get easier and I can start to live the life I dream of.

Stigma

Great blog. I have had anxiety and depression on and off all my life. For the last year I have had a crippling episode and am struggling to find medication that works and I can tolerate. I have managed to keep it from my work colleagues for this long because I know some of them won't understand and it could damage my career. Even today it is still seen as a weakness or a character flaw or an intolerance towards stress. I expect these people who judge us unfairly are ignorant to the fact that great people such as Charles Darwin and Winston Churchill suffered anxiety, panic attacks and depression. Ben

Anxiety

Wow - thank you so much for sharing this. If only my work colleagues (management and HR included) could understand my mental health journey in the way you tell it life would be so much more bearable. They don't understand and they say they don't need to. Thank you for sharing your perception - and giving others hope.

That could have been written

That could have been written for me. I find it so hard to explain the fear I live in every day. The isolated and lonely life. I have been ill now for over 10 years and have lost everything, relationships, my job, my home, my life. But I have not lost the fight!!! Thanks to the Charities and people who have help me over the last 10 years and the help I receive now. The help, I need now more than ever. Thanks to Ciara and everyone, who are sharing there experiences and good luck to all on their special journey's!!!!

Wonderful blog post...

I could have written this article myself, almost all of it applies to me right down to being 27 and having suffered with anxiety/panic attacks for 10 plus years. It brings me great comfort to read things like this and know that I am not alone, firstly in suffering and secondly in highlighting. Thank you for sharing :-)

Thank you so much for posting

Thank you so much for posting this blog! I know full well that I am not the only person suffering from anxiety and depression, but at times it can feel that way. How reassuring it is to read that there is someone else out there suffering with the exact same thoughts as me! I too have also been sufffering for 10 years and have allowed my anxiety to rule my life, dominating my decisions and confidence. It is so frustrating not being able to explain to people exactly how I am feeling, and why, and I will admit that at times I feel it is easier to not say anything and try and cope with it on my own. But why should I? Just because I don't have something visibly wrong with me, like a broken leg, or arm, doesn't mean I'm not ill and suffering! I have always been very honest about my anxiety and panic attacks, explaining to people when they ask about them, and I don't mind people knowing. What I do mind is being judged, and I'm not saying that everyone will judge, but like it says above, it is very hard to understand mental health problems if you haven't experienced them personally. Thank you for being brave enough to share your story publicly to help fight the discrimination against mental health.

Twins!

Ciara - it's as if I'm reading something I actually wrote! We are having an identical experience! You have literally described so many of the things I'm struggling with at the moment, and I so relate to the 'the only thing holding me back is myself' line. Argh! I'm 28 and struggling to make sense of anxiety, panic, and the resulting depression, and finding it hard to watch as the aspects of my personality I'm most proud of (gregariousness, fun, bravery, spontaneity etc) slip away into a maelstrom of fear and anxiety and worry. But we'll climb back, bit by bit! And those bits of us never really go away, they're just being overcome by something bigger at the moment. Come to my blog and we can share notes! www.ohvivresavie.blogspot.com V x

The bits that don't go away

I think you've made a really important point which can be eye-opening for people feeling overwhelmed.... That you, all of us, yes you reading this, are healthy at your core, your true self knows who it is and what it needs. The work, on your own, with support of family or friends, in counselling or wherever, is to strip away the layers of crud that build up through any ordinary life, so that you can again see, hear and feel your true self and allow it to just be. You are not the panic attack, the depression, the addict, or any other label or diagnosis. You are fine as you are, you don't need to be anyone different....you simply need to learn how best to look after yourself, to unlearn habits which are unhelpful and destructive to you and to replace them with loving acts of kindness towards yourself. I recently read and can recommend 'Love yourself like your life depends on it (because it does)' by Kamal Ravikant.

Anxiety

Ella, thanks for posting. I have only just stumbled on the blog/site after searching for self-help methods for anxiety/depression. I am 56 and up until a year ago have never had anxiety problems, then after several brief failed relationships where I had fallen in love too easily and then let down, it has left it's mental scars. I did have depression around 5 years ago but until now it's not come back again. I am currently into a 5 month relationship with someone I think a lot about but I have started going into quiet, simply fed up moods and even started to be really insecure thinking she will meet someone else and leave me. I have never had jealous tendencies before but at the mention of another guy or even when there's a fit looking shirtless guy on tv I find myself questioning her. I know it's going to drive her away eventually so need to get back to how I used to be. The anxiety used to only start when we had heavy words and fall outs, but now it's kicking in for no reason and makes me feel very sick and depressed. I feel I cannot talk to her for fear of her walking away thinking I have severe mental problems. I'm starting to worry that I really am progressing quickly this way and how I might end up. I've not been to my Doctors yet, but having herbal calming tablets which dont seem to be helping very much. I hope someone out there can help or advise me, I'm thinking of trying yoga or meditation but not sure if this will work. Steve

anxiety

I totally understand everything that ciara is saying. After having anxiety issues for over ten years this sums up the feelings I go through, some years are better than others but even when I am in a good place, there is always the 'what if' at the back of my mind. If I am goin on day out with family/friends there is still the thought of 'what if I have a panic attack' 'what if I can't cope'. It still holds me back in everyday life. I have come along way from being agoraphobic, but still have days that are a struggle. The worst part is that people don't understand. I am trying to b more open and this campaign is a step in the right direction, but there are some that judge harshly and don't understand this is a medical condition. Thankyou Ciara for this well written piece

Yoga practice

I to have suffered from panic/anxiety and depression. a daily practice of yoga has changed me.

Vulnerability

I think what you're talking about is the courage to be vulnerable v. attempting to control everything. I have found some of the sanest and most helpful research and writings to come from Brene Brown....serval books and TED talks (Google). Wherever you are on the spectrum of anxiety to calm, everyone can relate to the problem and feelings, some like yours are obviously way more intense and disabling at times. Wishing you the courage and support to let go a bit at a time whenever you're able, to experiment in degrees that feel ok for you and to notice the results and hopefully be encouraged by them.

anxiety and depression

reading ciaras story is like reading my own i started to have panic attacks when i was 25 it went on to become agrophobia and depression i am now 51 and in that time i have bought two kids up on my own. over the years i have seen lots of counsellers and read lots of self help books the only thing that helped me was myself i manage to go out everyday for a walk and if i don,t go out one day then the day after is like starting all over again,i never even told my family for years and still some of my friends don,t know u get used to making up excuses for not going anywhere i look at other people and think to myself it would be lovely to be normal and to be able to do normal things like go on holiday or just go window shopping everything is so hard to do and there have been times i have just wanted to give up but i haven,t so i must be strong and ciara good luck with everything.x

What if...

My own 'what ifs', relating to family and work, have held me down too. Sometimes I feel as if I am walking on eggshells, trying to please everybody.

Self-help book

Hi Ciara, Thanks for doing such an amazing blog. It is like reading my own autobiography, yet reassuring to know that I am not the only one! Could you tell me which self help book you have/are using? Thanks so much in advance :-)

Book

Hi Laura, Thank you for your comment. Here is the link to the book. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Mindfulness-practical-guide-finding-frantic/dp/074995308X Try it, but take your time with it. I am slowly working my way through it and gradually feeling the benefits. Good luck. And as this website shows, we are not alone in this. C x

This is me too!

If I had seen you in the street Ciara, I too would have said "look at her, lucky girl, she's got it all, bet she doesn't have mental health problems like me!" I have been having depression + anxiety on/off for the past 13 years. Some years have been wonderful, others very tough. I am 30 and at times I have barely been able to do things like go to the supermarket to return an unwanted item, catch a train or leave the house! I am wondering if I am not developing a little bit of agoraphobia for good measure as well as I seem unable to go to restaurants/pubs at the moment without an incredible urge to drive back home as soon as possible....! Medication, meditation, selected friends and family and CBT have helped me greatly. My mum suffers from an anxiety disorder so I can talk to her about it too. You're not alone, if all the people with mental health problems decided to "speak out", we'd be surprised by their numbers!!!

Brilliant!

Thank you for writing this post, I think you have written it so well, and I hope you don't mind, but I have put a link to it from my own blog. I think it sums up depression and anxiety so well.

Anxiety "What if"

The "What if" with me is not the worry about an attack, but a worry about certain things that might come about in my working life or issues about the care of my elderley mother. I came off antidepressants about 18 months ago and started getting anxiety attacks in April. The first ones were very frightening, my heart was racing and my arms were pulsating and I had trouble breathing. I went to my doctor who gave me diazapan and sent me for counselling and a CBT course. I was taught breathing excercises to do when I have an attack. My attacks are not so bad now, I only need diazapam about once a week. I am trying to put into action all that I have learnt on CBT but it is not easy

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