March 12, 2014

kateWhat's wrong with me? The most reoccurring question of my life so far. From an early age I always felt different and isolated. As early as primary school I can remember the daunting feeling I would get when asked a question in class. I would turn bright red and have thoughts running through my head saying "everyone will laugh" and "you look so stupid".

This continued into secondary school and friends and family just thought I was shy and quiet but I knew deep down it was more. I felt like a freak with these constant voices telling me everyone was talking about me and laughing at me so I started skipping school.

I felt alone and negative and never mentioned it to anyone

At 15 I suffered my first full blown panic attack and was taken to the doctors and told I had anxiety. I didn't ask much about it - I just wanted to curl up. I was referred to CAMHS and had a few therapy sessions and took the medication I was given. My parents did not understand mental health very well so we never really discussed it, I just carried on feeling alone and negative and never mentioning it to anyone.

There were always thoughts eating away at me about other people's opinions

I tried to go to college when I left school, but it just got worse. There were always thoughts eating away at me about other people's opinions. It was around this time the physical symptoms started, I would get a pain in my shoulder and obsess over it. I was sure I was dying; every single little itch or scratch was a deadly illness in my head. I was at the doctors every week asking for blood tests convinced there was some physical illness and that it couldn't all be in my head.

I suffered a severe breakdown

It wasn't until I was 19 that I got the repercussions of burying all my thoughts and feelings and suffered a severe breakdown. I couldn't leave the house as it seemed to trigger things off more. I hardly slept or ate; I just sat and tried to make sense of the many irrational thoughts spiraling out of control. I couldn't even speak and at some points I would just stammer and shake. I'd scream for help a lot saying I didn't want to die.

I was diagnosed with health anxiety and panic disorder

A team of mental health nurses were called to my house and I was taken to a Psychiatrist who diagnosed me with health anxiety and a panic disorder. I was then visited every day for the next month and explained to fully what anxiety was and how it causes physical and mental issues. I felt for the first time in my life that I fully understood what was wrong with me and I didn't feel so alone. I remember the nurse telling me that she sees so many people daily suffering with what I suffer with and that made me better knowing I wasn't alone. This is when I opened up to my family and I got a lot of support, I still felt really low but for once I could see the light.

It was the hardest time of my life but two years down the line after a lot of medication, therapy and opening up to people and not being ashamed or embarrassed, I am now 21 and feel leaps and bounds ahead of what I was. I still have bad days but knowing how to handle them and knowing I can talk to people gets me through those times and I am so proud of how far I have come and I am so grateful to everyone who helped me.

I just wish I'd asked for help sooner

I truly believe that learning about your mental health issues and discussing them is the best thing anyone can do and opens so many doors and opportunities to improve your mental health. I'm not ashamed of my illness now as it makes me appreciate all the little things in life, I just wish I’d asked for help sooner and not suffered alone.

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