anxiety - The Shona Project

Anxiety. It’s often a feeling that people put down as occasional nervousness, maybe before a big exam, or before a big event. But what some people don’t know, is this ‘feeling’ can overtake your whole mind and body, and leave you feeling that you’re on the brink of breaking down 24/7.

That’s what happened to me. A lot of my friends would tell you that I’m an extremely confident person, I never had a problem putting my hand up in class, or putting myself out there for a job. But in all honesty, the only reason I ever put my hand up in class was that the awkward silence of having no one answer the teacher made me want to vomit, and the thought of disappointing my parents by not working was much worse than the constant inflow of panic that I had when working.

For a while, I thought anxiety had truly destroyed me. Endless, upon endless sleepless nights. A pain in my heart from thinking about the worse things that could happen in life. Pains in my jaw and back from constantly being tense and overall depression from feeling like a constant failure in life.

You may have noticed I used the words “had truly destroyed me” above. Well, those days are over. At the start of Lockdown, in March 2020, I decided to take small steps that would help me improve my overall quality of life. My goal seemed simple: Improve my mental health. Little did I know, it was going to be a lot harder than I thought, and that there wasn’t one single answer that could ‘fix’ my problems.

So, I started small, going outside once a day and trying to take in as much sunshine and fresh air as possible. I implemented small fifteen-minute walks into my schedule once a day and reduced my caffeine intake. I started opening my blinds and windows and opted for sitting on top of my dressed bed rather than snuggled into my covers in the dark.

Still, I found myself clenching my teeth, hunching my shoulders and constantly touching wood whenever I had thoughts about bad things happening to my loved ones.

Now, don’t get me wrong, these things definitely helped. In fact, they’re still things I implement into my daily life, as I found they really do help with bringing my inner peace. But the anxiety monster was still lurking in the dark corners of my brain, grabbing whatever happiness chemicals I had managed to produce and doing its best to destroy them. I felt hopeless. Really, I felt that no matter what I did to try and combat that monster in my brain, I was fighting a losing battle and I just couldn’t take it anymore. I couldn’t take the feeling of constantly feeling sick, worried and feeling like I had constant pressure on my heart. I couldn’t let it consume me anymore. So, I took the next step. I went to my GP.

I had taken the route of going to the GP before and my doctor tried his best, he truly did. I was sixteen at the time and I still remember him referring me to a therapist and me looking at my Mam sitting next to me thinking “How the hell am I going to talk to a therapist when my Mam has to tell the doctor what I’m feeling for me?”. So naturally, I never went and to be honest, I still regret it to this day. Most people would kill for the chance to have a doctor actually listen to them about their mental health concerns and actually try and get them help for it, and yet I did and still I did nothing about it. But this time, it was different. This time I was ready to make that change. So I went to the doctor, this time by myself (my Mam still made my appointment for me, but it was an achievement nonetheless) and I explained how I was feeling to him and the steps I took to try and solve my problems. Again, he recommended therapy and I am all for that, but deep down I knew my issues weren’t going to be completely solved through talking. So, he offered me anxiety tablets. At first, I was extremely hesitant as going on tablets for a mental health condition isn’t for everyone. I was deathly afraid that all of my happiness would depend on this one tablet and that none of it would be real. But at second thought, even the concept of fake happiness was so much better than how I was feeling at that moment, so I took the prescription and oh my god I’m so glad I did!

There’s this perceived notion about mental health medication out there, that really annoys me. There’s no shame about going on medication for high blood pressure or heart problems (and rightly so), so why is there this perception about mental health medication?

It is now seven months since I got my first prescription for anxiety tablets, and to say my perception of life has changed is an understatement. I have finally managed to repair some of the pieces that the ugly anxiety monster had destroyed. I have so much more confidence now, I’m ready to take risks, I sleep better, and I can now make plans and be excited about them, rather than think about all of the possibilities that could go wrong. I am happy about life again and excited about the journey ahead of me. Now, don’t get me wrong, they didn’t cure me. Sometimes that ugly monster still rears its fangs inside of my head. But I now have some armour to protect me when I go to fight that monster, and I hope to pick up more weapons to help me when I finally start therapy. To be honest, I don’t think I’ll ever get rid of my anxiety, but that’s okay because I can now adapt to how I’m feeling and learn new ways to get through it.

If you suffer from anxiety, I highly encourage you to talk to your doctor about it. Talk to them and try to find a solution that suits you. That solution may be different to mine and that’s okay! We’re all on our own journeys and we all need to walk our own paths. Hopefully, your path will guide you towards the light at the end of the tunnel as mine did.

It’s important to know, that not everyone’s anxiety looks the same and not everyone’s anxiety is treated the same. We recommend that you reach out to your GP and discuss your options with them.

Remember, the most amazing, compassionate, successful and inspiring people we know are those who faced challenges, and managed to overcome them.

Hang in there, it will pass x

SPUN OUT:  This is a one-stop-shop for all mental health issues. The articles are very matter of fact, helpful and all bases are covered.

YOURMENTALHEALTH: Lots of information about Mental Health in Ireland.

TURN2ME: Support for anyone feeling anxious, sad or lonely.

SAMARITANS: This helpline is open 24 hours a day and completely confidential. Call 116 123.

CHILDLINE: Helpline and online support, offering advice and support to young people under 18.

AWARE: Providing support and assistance to that section of society whose lives are affected by depression, bipolar disorder, postnatal depression or suicidal thoughts.


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