September 6, 2012

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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