I wonder how many of you have suffered with depression or anxiety? I wonder how many of you have done so in silence or in fear of the stigma attached? Too often, those who don’t understand can dismiss your feelings with exclamations such as “Man up!” or “You’ll get over it, just stop thinking about it!”. More importantly, I wonder how many of you are afraid to get help because of how you’ll be perceived?
Depression has only struck me in my life when both parents died – there was gap of 5 years between the two. Anxiety, on the other hand, is something I suffer with on a daily basis. Social anxiety, vertigo, panic attacks and health anxiety, to be exact. The purpose of this extra post today is simple; I want to talk to you about what it’s like because I believe people who suffer from it should. Men in particular are, at times, reserved or unwilling when it comes to discussing emotions or feelings that can appear to show weakness or a lack of masculinity. I have felt that way plenty of times myself. It isn’t true. Anxiety can affect anyone at anytime. It’s an undiscriminating f*cker of a disease – and make no mistake, it is a disease.
Anxiety, for me, is the perception of having to work harder than everyone else to accomplish things everyone else appears to take for granted. Something as mundane as walking down to the shops can set off a chain reaction of thoughts in my brain that go something like this:
“What am I going to get for tea?
I’ve had a lot of tea today.
Tea contains caffeine
Have I had too much caffeiene?
What if I have a heart attack in the shop?
Will anyone help me?
I don’t think I’m breathing correctly”
What follows is a sensation akin to being constantly on the cusp of panic; an unreleting feeling of dread which I have to talk myself out of. I become jittery and uncommunicative and have to retreat to an area of solitude. Sometimes this can go with chest pains, palpitations, cold sweats and numbness of the hands. My breathing becomes harder because I’m focusing so much on how I’m feeling that I create the shortness of breath myself.
All this occurs while I know, deep down, that I’m not unwell. I’ve had doctors tell me my problems are anxiety and depression – I don’t believe them. I search symptoms on Google regularly in the hope of finding some reassurance or peace. There is a demon inside me that comes out to play when it sees fit and I have no control over it – that does sound a touch melodramatic, but it also serves as the perfect description.
Large crowds make me feel uncomfortable and like I might stop breathing. Heights fill me with unease and a sense of being off balance. Any social interaction with others – especially those I don’t know – is a source of great pressure and fear. If I look confident; I’m not. I’m faking it, or at least trying to. Most conversations I rehearse in my head over and over. It is frustrating in ways I can’t describe to feel so unable to function whilst to others it appears so effortless.
I am now a non-smoker and I have been for 18 months. Smoking masked many of my anxieties and was my go-to coping mechanism. The first 9 months of cessation were absolute hell and the symptoms of anxiety all of a sudden greatly increased. There was an elongated period of time in which I felt totally lost and I suffered through it all whilst hiding it from everyone around me.
The point is I got through it. I released that talking about it and sharing it with others is the best way to get through it. They’ll be tough moments and it may never fully go away, but there is no need to suffer in silence. Silence and retreat only worsens how you feel. People will look down upon anxiety and depression because they don’t understand and those people, whilst misguided and a bit foolish, are very fortunate they’re unable to know what it feels like.
If you have depression or anxiety and you’d like to talk to, there’s a contact section in the headers above in which you can find me on social media or by e-mail. If you wan’t someone to talk to, then I’ll talk to you. I’ll do it happily. If you’re feeling sensations like you’re always afraid or life is too hard; talk to someone. It can be a loved one, a friend or a stranger on the internet. You might find mockery or those happier to dismiss your thoughts because it’s just easier for them to do so. But for every one of them, there’s someone willing to understand and help.
There are numbers you can call in the UK for help
Call – 08451 202 961
Call — 116 123 (The Samaritans fee line)
Web – Overcomedepression.co.uk
As always, thanks for reading, you beautiful bastards.