My Experience With Anxiety and Depression
The reason I have started this blog is to hopefully help and be there for those who are going through a hard time. I hope by sharing my experience with anxiety and depression can offer some comfort and support to people experiencing similar feelings, and encourage them to talk about how they are feeling and get the help they need.
In July 2016, I was having a lot of anxiety and feeling pretty overwhelmed by a lot of things. I look back now and realise, that anxiety, combined with years of being an anxious person and having periods of self-doubt and low self-esteem, had bottled up to the point where I couldn’t handle it. When the anxiety was at its worst, I started to experience strange feelings of unreality. Everything seemed different and unfamiliar. I felt like I was in a dream and felt very detached from my surroundings. I was terrified and thought I was losing my mind. I had no idea what was happening to me, and as family and friends were just as confused as I was, I felt incredibly overwhelmed and scared. I had difficulty understanding the simplest of things, I couldn't hold a conversation and couldn't focus on anything. I was confused and I repeatedly kept telling my family that I just felt different and they could definitely see how terrified I was.
As soon as I began to experience these feelings along with feeling lethargic and not interested in anything, I went to the doctor. I was panicking so much and couldn’t stop crying and worrying about what was going on. I filled out one of those depression questionnaires that asks questions like ‘In the past week, have you been more anxious, nervous or stressed than normal?’ I scored high on the scale but wasn’t diagnosed with anything. The doctor wanted to get some blood tests done, one of them checking my iron levels. The results came back showing they were extremely low, where I then had to get an iron infusion the next day. I was relieved and thought ‘Great! This must be why I feel so out of it', but two weeks passed and I felt the same. I went back to the doctor, did the same questionnaire and got diagnosed with depression. I just didn’t understand. I thought ‘how could be depressed?’ The doctor didn't give me any explanation as to why I was feeling so spaced out. I got sent home with antidepressants and waited for them to take effect.
As you do, I went to 'doctor google' to look up my symptoms of the strange, spacey feelings I was experiencing. I came across a disorder called 'depersonalisation/derealisation' (dp/dr). From what I read, it is caused by ongoing stress and anxiety, where the mind just gets so tired, it reaches overload and in order to protect itself, it shuts down. I continued to look into it as the description of it matched nearly exactly how I was feeling 24/7. I found forums full with people who have had the disorder for years and didn't know what to do, or how to deal with it. This made me believe (or want to believe) that I didn't have this disorder, as I felt completly overwhelmed and didn't want to end up like those on the forums. Knowing this, I put it to the side and was adamant I didn't have dp/dr. I felt like it had to be more than anxiety and thoughts. I just didn't want to consider that this was what I had.
Months and months passed, seeing a psychiatrist and a psychologist regularly with no explanation to why I felt so out if and detached from reality, ignoring the fact that it could be dp/dr. I developed the belief that it was just a symptom of anxiety and depression, but the worry and stress about why I felt the way I did didn’t stop.
During this time I was looking for things that could be wrong with my body. I didn’t want to believe that I had a mental illness. I was embarrassed and felt alone as no one could relate to how I was feeling. I just wanted to hide away in the safety of my home, not wanting to be around others. I realised the lack of knowledge is really what the stigma around mental illness is, and as not all my friends and family knew a lot about it, and nothing at all about dp/dr, I could feel them tip toeing around me, trying their best to understand. I am so lucky that they were all so supportive and didn't judge me in any way. If we all had some basic knowledge about mental illnesses and how to support others who are suffering, it would relieve so much stress and shame people feel when they are struggling. Also for dp/dr, some knowledge about it would save so much time and suffering, as its not a condition you hear about. I don't feel embarrassed at all now and you shouldn't either if you are having a hard time with your mental health. We are all human and have feelings that you shouldn't be ashamed to feel or show.
While I was searching for things that could be wrong with my body, I had a few blood tests done, saw a naturopath and changed my diet. I even went Paleo for a month! That's how desperate I got haha! The test results came back, showing everything was in normal range. I was kind of disappointed, because I just wanted an explanation for what I was experiencing, but at the same time, this helped me come to terms with what was going on, and to face the reality that it was all caused by my anxiety.
Shortly after getting those blood test results back, I began looking into dp/dr again and if people had come out the other side of it. Out of many things I read online, I remember coming across a organisation called "Black dog on a lead', that was founded by two men. One of the co-founders had written a post about his experience with anxiety and depression. He also experienced dp/dr and got through it. This gave me so much relief and hope. He briefly explained in the post how he recovered, but I wanted to contact him to find out more things that had helped him. He recommended a book by Paul David called 'At Last A Life'. I can't even begin to explain how helpful this book has been for me. It's written so well by the author who had anxiety and dp/dr for over 10 years. His advice is simple and makes so much sense. To sum up what he suggests to do if you are experiencing dp/dr or anxiety, is to understand what it is, accept the feeling and let it be. He advises to just do nothing, and to stop searching for a miracle cure, as it will take time to pass. He advises to live along beside it, doing as much normal things as possible. As Paul defines dp/dr as a 'tired mind' that has just burnt out, it needs a break, so by adding more stress and anxiety to it, worrying about it is only going to make it worse. I felt a massive weight lifted off my shoulders after reading the book. I knew it was going to be hard and may take a while for it to pass, but I had so much hope and just knew I would get through this.
This brings us to the present. It has now been a few months since I read that book and began to really delve into healing myself and dealing with deeper issues that are causing my anxiety. I have fully accepted what has/is happening and living with little fear and stress. I'm doing more things and not caring so much about the dp/dr. I'm becoming happier by the day and slowly building back my confidence and self-esteem. I don't know when the dp/dr will go away, but I'm letting that go and allowing as much time as my body and mind needs to recover. I've learnt so much about how to look after myself and how important it is. I will definitely share many things that I have learnt and helped me throughout this time, but for now I'll wrap this up and leave you with this quote.
"Accept what is, let go of what was and have faith in what will be". Sonia Ricotti
Also, check out "Black dog on a lead' on facebook. They are doing amazing stuff to raise awareness about mental illness and reducing the stigma around it.
Paul David's Book - At Last A Life - http://www.anxietynomore.co.uk/the_book.html
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