July 1, 2017

Blogger Carl writes about anxiety and depression, and why you should be in your mate's corner

I am 34 years old, and I have battled depression and anxiety for about 18/19 years. I have spent long periods in depression, and experienced periods where I have felt OK. However, in the last 12 months or so depression, anxiety and panic disorder took over my life. I struggled to focus on anything thing for any period of time, from work to going to the gym, or even just a shopping trip. I had a constant feeling of panic, or hopelessness, like I was living in fear of something, but I didn't know what.

After a painful life event, due to my illness, I eventually came to the conclusion that I needed to take control, and not let depression and anxiety rule me anymore. I've always been against medication but having started taking antidepressants, I now firmly believe that medication is vital for me, for now anyway. However, I decided that I wanted to do more than take tablets to prevent any further bouts, and so I did a great deal of research on self regulation and care, general well being, mindfulness, and neuroscience. I also attended talking therapy. I was pretty cynical about some of these methods and theories initially.

However, after a lot of reading and therapy I have managed to alter the way I think and how my mind works, and I cannot believe it's taken me all these years to realise to get better I needed to change the way I thought. In the past few years I've changed environments, homes, jobs etc because I thought these were a factor in my depression/anxiety, when the change I needed to make was in my head. I've also discovered yoga and other ways to bring me mental comfort. I don't think I've ever felt so focused, and not filled with a desperate sense of hopelessness, and absolute despair.

I used alcohol a great deal of the time as a way to mask my anxiety especially, and cope with whatever was on mind but all this did was pull me further down. I now only drink alcohol occasionally, to celebrate, toast or to enjoy a drink with dinner, or friends, instead of using it as a mechanism to deal with my anxieties.

I lost the man I love because of my depression and anxiety, but I am determined that they will not take over my life again. I don't believe every day will be a breeze but I can confidently say that I don't want to ever feel like I did when I was at my lowest, with what felt like the weight of the world on my shoulders. The feeling of hopelessness, and constant panic has been replaced with feeling calm, content and able to focus on the now.

During my research and reading I discovered lots of people who suffer different mental health issues don't talk about it much, if at all, but when people do share stories they then realise they aren't alone, and others are experiencing the same.

Having battled depression and anxiety for such a long time I have really struggled in the past to open up and share with others what I was going through for fear of people's (negative) reactions.

However, now that I’ve started to talk openly to people about my struggles, it's something I wished I had done sooner. I cannot emphasis enough how important it is for anyone suffering with ill mental health to talk to others. But, yet more importantly, for anyone who thinks they know someone who is struggling with their mental health, be an ear, listen, and help them understand that they are not alone, and that once they start talking they will feel better that they've opened up to someone.

A huge turning point for me was actually realising that I wanted to get better and make changes, and be in control of my life again. So far those I have spoken to have been nothing but thankful that I have told them about my past struggles, and few have gone on to tell me they have suffered in the past, and know what it's like. I am eternally grateful for these reactions, as I know full well that many do not receive such kindness when they do open up. If more people are understanding and empathetic about mental health problems, we’ll all be better off!

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Too many people are made to feel ashamed. By sharing your story, you can help spread knowledge and perspective about mental illness that could change the way people think about it.