April 15, 2013

Photo of a sunriseI guess I can say that I’ve always had anxiety. From an early age I worried about everything. I hated being late to events and would sometimes get ready hours in advance in anticipation. My anxiety wasn't really a problem to begin with - just a part of me until I reached puberty.

The anxiety became worse when I started High School and we moved house into the country. Before we moved I used to walk to High School with my best friend. Now, after moving, my mum would drive me and my brother in.

My brother was in 6th form and was never really bothered about getting to school on time, so I was very often late. This just created unwanted attention and my anxiety began to get worse. As I reached puberty I discovered a really horrible side effect of anxiety and a massive taboo - especially for girls - excessive sweating.

The worse the anxiety became the worse the sweating became

It became uncontrollable and I began to get bullied, and the worse the bullying became, the worse the anxiety became and the worse the anxiety became, the worse the sweating became - which just meant more bullying.

Even my closest friends joined in on a daily basis - sticking notes to my back, spraying me with body spray and all the while laughing. I felt so alone. People thought I didn't know what was happening - they would shout “buy deodorant!!” but all the while I was thinking “I shower twice a day - I get through a can of deodorant a week!”

I felt so ashamed and felt I couldn't talk to anyone

This problem continued all the way through high school. Not once did I feel I could talk to anyone about it because I was made to feel so ashamed of myself. I was disgusting, dirty, unwashed. All I needed was some help – someone to tell me I was going to be ok and that I wasn’t alone. But I felt I couldn’t approach anyone about it, not even the doctor.

The only hope I had to hold onto was as I got older - things would change, the anxiety would go away. The sweating would stop. I wouldn't get bullied anymore. And if it didn't, someone would actually ask me if I was ok. They would ask “Why is this happening and how can I help you?”

I was too afraid to talk about my anxiety

Unfortunately – the anxiety didn’t go away. I didn’t know what was happening to me – but again, I was just too afraid to speak to anyone about it. It got so bad that it began to rule my life. It determined what I wore and what I did with my friends socially. I wouldn’t mind going out in the evenings but any activity lasting all day away from home was an absolute no no. So I felt I was missing out, and again, my friends taunted me for it.

I finally plucked up the courage to get a job picking mushrooms near where I lived. I worked in a rather hot environment where the work was very physical. It took about a week before I could hear people commenting – things like “what’s that smell?” A couple of the girls there started ignoring me and talking over me every time I spoke, as if to say “you’re disgusting, we don’t want anything to do with you” But rather than going to the manager and telling them I was being bullied, I just handed my notice in and left.

And so it continued, through every job I’ve had, I have struggled with discrimination and had no choice but to leave and go somewhere else in the hope that one day, I will work somewhere with people who just accept me for who I am. I feel there is never anyone to turn to mainly because people don’t understand mental illness and the side effects of it.

Talking sooner would have helped by my husband is my rock

I truly believe that if I had been able to talk about it sooner, it would have helped me enormously. I’ve been married for 3 years now and my husband has been my rock. I tell him everything, about my anxiety, depression and even my sweating. He is very understanding and is always there for me when I need him.

What helps the most is when I come home from work and he gives me 10 minutes to just let out all the anger and anxiety from the day. Then he makes me mentally close the door on the day, and open the door to the evening, which is ‘our happy time’. Without his support I really don’t know what I would do or where I would be today. He accepts my mental illness for what it is and I just hope one day, people will be more accepting of mental illness and it won’t be a taboo anymore.

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