In this post I will be talking about my experience with anxiety, depression and coming out to my family.
As I will be talking about my experience with anxiety and depression, this post could be triggering for some people.
Continue reading or view the video below.
I have always been a naturally anxious person, though I was only diagnosed recently in November 2020.
MY FIRST EXPERIENCE ANXIETY AND DEPRESSION
As a kid I was very shy and had separation anxiety. I didn’t want to go to school, I wanted to stay home with Mum. It was so bad at one point I would sleep on the floor in my parents’ room most nights.
I was officially diagnosed with anxiety and depression in November 2020 and have spent close to 30 years living with something I thought was, well normal. I didn’t know any different.
My journey up until now has been tumultuous. I only came out as gay to my family when I was 28. I spent a long time pretending to be someone that I wasn’t born to be.
I’m often asked why it took so long to come out, and the truth is I was scared how my family and my friends would react.
As it would turn out, it wasn’t nearly as eventful as I thought it was going to be. My parents were happy that I was finally happy with myself. I was on my way to living my true self.
WORK WAS ALWAYS A STRUGGLE
I worked at a Sky News in Australia for several years as a Technical Director, eventually being promoted to a Studio Controller. Essentially, I would set up cameras, live crosses with guests and reporters across the country with the likes of CNN and Sky News and made sure everything worked before it went to air and directed live news coverage.
Not to toot my own trumpet, but I was very good at my job. I absolutely loved the people I worked with. It is a very stressful environment working in news.
I am a very technical and logically thinking person which sometimes works against me. I tend to overthink, and when I do it leads to worry which fuels my anxiety. It is a vicious cycle.
Working in a news environment was not good for my mental health. The stories we put to air was confronting enough, now imagine what we would see before we let it go to air.
I couldn’t take it anymore, my anxiety from not only the stress of the job, but the content I would be exposed to all too frequently was so overwhelming that I had to resign.
That is when I decided I needed to see a psychologist.
WHY I DECIDED TO BLOG ABOUT MY EXPERIENCE WITH ANXIETY AND DEPRESSION
One of the main suggestions when I started seeing a psychologist was to keep a journal. That is how the idea for my blog started. Whenever I felt anxious, I would focus my attention on my blog.
It started more as a personal project to keep my mind occupied from the worry, but on the other hand I wanted to create a safe space for people like me that have health related anxiety. A resource they could go to and see that they weren’t alone. A safe space with information that wouldn’t be as scary or triggering as many other blogs out there that I found myself on.
I would stumble upon pages during my moments of intense anxiety, fearing the worst possible outcome. Any little bump, bruise, ache or pain I googled. Whatever side effect was listed on the information leaflet for whatever medication I was taking, I would feel.
My Doctor would later inform me that what I was likely experiencing was the nocebo effect, which is essentially feeling the negative reactions associated with a medication.
My anxiety spiralled so far out of control that I began to experience panic attacks. The first was quite terrifying as I had never endured one before. It lasted for around 9 hours, I even presented at the hospital because I thought I was having a heart attack.
Instead, the on-call psychiatrist told me I would not need long term medication and that it was likely to settle. He sent me home and instructed I take 4mg of Valium to help me sleep.
Based on his advice, I didn’t seek treatment. He was a Psychiatrist, it was short term he told me, and it would go away, right?
MY EXPERIENCE WITH ANXIETY AND DEPRESSION SPIRALED OUT OF CONTROL
As you may have already guessed, he was wrong. My anxiety and depression got so much worse.
I would find out that my dog had bacterial meningitis, my Auntie’s cancer had returned. Everything seemed to snowball, and every day seemed to get worse and worse.
I was irritable and angry some days, overly fatigued the next. Every day was the same but somehow different. It’s a very difficult feeling to convey.
I was triggered easily by almost anything. Reading a book that mentioned a disease, watching a medical drama, pretty much anything to do with getting sick would make me feel ill.
I felt all the symptoms usually associated with anxiety, nausea, loss of appetite, constant worry and fear, disassociation, difficulty breathing and fast heart rate.
I was so scared of losing control.
If you have ever had a panic attack, I am sure you would agree that they can be frightening and draining.
If you do happen to have a panic attack, call a friend or family member to be with you as you come down as that is when depression is likely to set in.
ALMOST DAILY DOCTOR VISITS
As my experience with anxiety and depression got worse, It wasn’t long until I started seeing my Doctor on an almost daily basis. I would go in for all kinds of reasons in distress until one day he prescribed me Valium. The tiniest dose of 2mg to take when needed.
I was hesitant at first to take it, for the medication he prescribed previously seemed to have triggered my symptoms.
I also started to see a psychologist at this point and began working on Cognitive Behavioural therapy. Training my brain to learn not to worry as much by focusing and challenging my unhelpful thoughts with neutral and positive thoughts instead.
I did my best to push through my moments of anxiety with breathing exercises and other tools my psychologist recommended, but I ended up having around 3 panic attacks in the space of a month.
It was no longer worry that was a problem, my body was reacting to anxiety in a way I couldn’t mentally control.
Enough was enough.
I STARTED SEEING A PSYCHIATRIST
I called Lifeline, which is an Australian based 24-hour mental health crisis line several times in a complete state of panic. My body was shaking almost constantly, and the cycle of negative thoughts tumbled around in my mind like a broken washing machine.
It was hard to find a psychiatrist that had availability. With Covid still lurking, most were fully booked or had long waiting times.
When I did finally find one, I got in to see him fast and it was the best decision I have ever made. He makes me feel so safe, like I am in the hands of someone who really cares about my wellbeing. Not that my regular Doctor didn’t have my best interest at heart, it was just good to finally hear a specialist say, you are not crazy and what I was experiencing was extremely common.
He started me on small doses of new medications and slowly worked up my doses as to not feel too much of the side effects. I stopped googling health related content, I stopped reading the information brochures provided with the medications. What I needed to know; my psychiatrist would tell me.
HOW FAR I HAVE COME ON MY JOURNEY
Which leads me here to today, telling my story of how far I have come.
I am still seeing my Doctor, Psychologist and Psychiatrist and have come a long way in such a short amount of time.
By utilizing the relaxation techniques, I have learned from my psychologist with the medication and support provided by my psychiatrist, I have felt myself rapidly improving.
HAVE YOU TRIED A WEIGHTED CALMING BLANKET?
Another way to relax is to invest in a weighted calming blanket.
I was sceptical at first and like many, thought it was just a fad. A cash grab from money hungry gold diggers looking to make extra money from people that are suffering.
I’ve got to tell you though, they work.
The weight of the blanket helps you feel calm and relaxed, like you are getting the best hug you have ever received.
It won’t cure your anxiety, but it will help to make you feel a little less anxious and calmer. It does wonders for me when I use it to sleep.
YOU ARE NOT ALONE
I want you to know that if you feel anxiety or depression symptoms, you are not alone.
Ask for help, it is the strongest and bravest thing you will ever do.
I promise you, it does and will get easier. I am a living example of that.
There were many times in the recent past that the light at the end of the tunnel was starting to fade, but it has become so much brighter now I have asked for help.
You got this.
If you or anyone you know is experiencing distress you can reach out to Beyond Blue: Beyond Blue’s support line is available 24/7.
Lifeline: For crisis support, Lifeline provides a 24/7 line. They have a range of online resources as well.