I have just been writing a small article for the Mental Health Foundation for Mental Health Awareness Week 2014 sharing my experience of anxiety. I thought it might be useful to share my story here too to help you get to know me better.
Before university, I had found my voice and was incredibly bubbly, outgoing and friendly always up or a laugh and to try something new. This all changed for me following a small fall down two steps which caused a knee injury. What does this have to do with mental health and anxiety, you may ask? Well, more than you could even imagine!
My knee injury was the start of a downward spiral for me. My mobility had been hindered greatly, I could only walk short distances and was in an immense amount of pain at all times. I began feeling depressed about the accident and how I wasn’t able to do the things that I previously had, I began to place blame on anyone and anything that I could – how could this have happened to me. This negative feeling began to manifest into anxiety too. Panic attacks every time the phone rang, just in case it was work, and hiding when the phone or doorbell made a sound. I became a shell of my previous self.
Not being able to understand why I was feeling how I was and in a place where both the past was bad and the future terrifying, I became housebound and unable to live a normal life – relying on my boyfriend to take me out as he could protect me. My so-called friends abandoned me and I felt more alone and out of control each day, to the point that I cut my long hair off with frustration and an overwhelming feeling that by doing so would remove the feelings and turn me into a different person. As I am sure you can predict, it didn’t change me.
I realised that something had to be done and confided in my tutor by handing her my diary to read. She was immensely supportive and helped me to get an appointment with the university counselor. I had the most heart-breaking session with the counselor, with tears rolling down my face she stated that she would refuse to see me again unless I was on medication. I was distraught! I had chosen this option as a preventative method and I was getting nowhere! My first and only session had left me feeling more deflated and useless than I had done before.
Determined that I would find an alternative route, I visited a GP, who happened to be as holistic as I am! He made a few suggestions and told me to monitor how I was feeling. I returned home and began searching the internet for solutions, options, alternative therapies and communities. I was in luck, I found an abundance of information and like-minded people. I began practicing mindfulness meditation on a daily basis and started to come to terms with what had happened and that I wasn’t to blame, neither were the people I worked with and that the friends that had abandoned me were just worthless to me!
I was starting to feel like I was able to take control of my feelings. I began venturing outside – even if it did take a difficult 45 minutes to actually get out of the door and found that the world outside wasn’t quite as frightening as I thought. I would slowly increase my walks to the corner shops and actually tool longer to return as I was chatting to the people I met.
Slowly but surely, over three years of mindfulness, I rediscovered myself and realised I was strong enough to manage and understand the feelings I was having and how to address them in my meditations. I even managed to get a job, which was something that hadn’t even entered into my mind during the dark times. (although, I did have the goal to get an additional cat, which I am sure gave me a driving force!)
On reflection, the negative forces that appeared to be coming to me while I was in this space of mental anguish, it was the negative forces from within me that were holding me back. I was feeding the negative thoughts with memories of the past and projections of the future. By finding mindfulness I was able to understand my present situation and to find the greatness within myself.
I still practice mindfulness everyday and am eternally grateful to the people I met online that cheered me on and supported me along my journey.
If you are feeling the forces of anxiety and depression, please don’t feel that you need to battle through it alone! There are so many people out there online, in person and from wonderful organisations that can help you!
Sharing your story and feelings can feel like a weight has been lifted and is often the first important step on your journey to recovery.
ETA: Oh and if you were wondering about my knee…I had years of surgery and physio, alternative therapies, which made some or little difference. However, I made huge leaps and bounds when I boosted my confidence using NLP (Neuro-linguistic Programming) and I walked without the aid of a crutch or walking stick just over 2 years ago after having relied on them for over 10! Although I still have pain, I have managed to control it without medication through mindfulness and meditation and am now fully active and a keen hill walker and hiker again!