Life events in my early twenties triggered the first onslaught of panic attacks and anxiety. And no, anxiety and panic attacks are not just (an) over reaction to nervousness. They can be severely debilitating, capturing your mind and body in their iron strongholds, until you start to feel your body and mind being paralysed by fear. At that point, you feel like you can do nothing, achieve nothing and are completely useless. Then it all passes and you feel normal again. If you don’t recognise the signs and don’t know how to manage them and to make it worse, if you blame yourself, then the frequency of the cycle increases — anxiety (A) panic (P) and then normal. This is what happened with me. After several years of living with this/fighting with seemingly myself, it lead to depression (D). Of course these are words that we all recognise now, but back then, I didn’t know.
By my mid-thirties, with a very busy life – young children, work, social calendar etc. – AP&D started manifesting physically as well; exhaustion, falling ill constantly, muscular spasms on one side of my face. By my late thirties I knew I needed medical help and I did seek it, but for the physical symptoms, not understanding the root cause was mental illness.
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The year 2013-2014 was life-changing – I had a complete breakdown, which I recognised by the inability or lack of desire to do anything other than sleep and my annoyance and anger which would bubble up rather quickly and mostly at my beautiful little boys. I decided enough was enough and that I needed a break (not sure even then what it was I needed a break from). So I decided to tell my family that I was going to take a year off to study because of course, anything else would have been seen as strange and I would be judged for being less than what I should be. (Well, this was how I saw it anyway.)
We moved back home in 2015 and I sought comfort in my mother’s home, and sought specialist help for the physical illnesses. One thing led to another and I was soon diagnosed with anxiety and depression, and was prescribed drugs to calm my muscles and nerves and drugs to make me happier (I suppose).
Happy to report that after 3 years of being on prescription drugs, having constantly dealt with the yo yo nature of what the drugs did to me both mentally and physically – happy, sad, angry, using food and sleep as my best friends; I have now been completely drug free for the last 16 days.
I have been to hell and back a few times these last few days but still managed to remain fully functional and love my children like only I can.
I am very, very proud of myself. And I am very, very grateful for the handful of friends and family who have supported me- you know who you are. I am also very grateful for a Whatsapp group of school friends who make me laugh with their goofiness and antics. God bless you guys. And I am also very grateful to have met strong, independent women like Lotty Roberts, Nicole Wijngaarden and Christine Hyndman who have shown so much courage, positivity and honesty throughout their own journeys, inspiring me to publish this here.
I know and appreciate that I must always maintain a good working relationship with A&D through diet, exercise and me time. I have access to methods and tools and know how to use them to manage A&D. And I feel confident that they and I will live in peace going forward because I have been to the deepest, darkest corners of my mind and I have found my way back with a song of praise in my heart and a smile on my face.
Thank you for reading and feel free to share the message.
P.S: I am a project manager in the FS domain; I work full time; I am a wife and a mother to two beautiful boys and two doggie children. If I can find my way back from hell, so can you. That is my message. Onwards and upwards!
Views expressed are personal. Reproduced with permission;
Anonymous prefaced this post with:
1 )Help with creating more awareness amongst my family and friends: Coming especially from a culture that still lives in denial and largely a sense of arrogance that mental illness is confined to a select number of individuals who were never really going to be functional in a society, family or work environment…Mental illness is still seen as something that a person is either born with, i.e., cursed from the start, or something someone brings on themselves because they are extremely selfish and do not care for other people , i.e., your own fault.
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