“I’ve been suffering from anxiety and depression for well over 20 years. I was diagnosed with social anxiety, generalized anxiety, and PTSD.
As I think it does with the vast majority of people suffering from mental illness, my issues began with some traumatic stuff happening around the age of 7. I was sexually abused, and at the time, I really didn’t understand what was going on. This went on for about a year and a half. Eventually learning that this was really bad, I started believing that it was my fault, and was too ashamed to tell anyone. On top of that, there was alcoholism in my family–which made life at home very scary for a young kid and constantly had me in a state of fear. I felt like it was my job to protect certain people. Being scared and anxious was an everyday thing for me, and it eventually became part of who I am.
My parents noticed some of the effects of anxiety through twitching, blinking my eyes repeatedly, and always feeling like I couldn’t breathe when I got upset. I was holding everything in, so my anxiety and depression just kept building. Soon after that, I saw my first group of doctor’s. After cat scans and a bunch of other tests, they came to the conclusion that I was playing too many video games. This is mainly due to the fact that I was too embarrassed to talk about my home life and the big secret that I was keeping. I didn’t want anyone to think differently about me because of the sexual abuse, and I also wanted to keep my family safe. I wasn’t being hurt physically, but I was being destroyed mentally.
After some time in treatment, I started to open up about my real problems. And although I feel like this was the first step in my recovery, the doctors kind of made things worse by forcing me to have group therapy sessions with the person that was creating the fear at home. The problem with this is that as soon as I started to open up about what was going on–it felt like the next day, I was forced to confront an issue that has plagued my entire childhood. I know that it was absolutely necessary, but there was no warm up. I was thrown right in front of one of my biggest fears. It didn’t seem to me that the focus was on actually helping me anymore. After I opened up, it turned into family therapy, and I felt like I was the cause of all of these new problems for my family.
A few weeks later; things did start to get better with the drinking and fighting at home, and I have kept away from the person who sexually abused me. As for the abuser–he never was punished for what he had done. I don’t think that it was ever discussed. Partly because of me not wanting everyone to know what had happened. The abuser was just 4 years older than me, so age might have been a big reason for why nothing ever happened to him. I have had to see this person from time to time over the past 20 some years. Every time I saw him, it was more like, “Oh yeah, we know each other, and we both know what happened when we were kids.”
I’ve had my ups and downs with anxiety and depression since I was 7 years old. School started to become a major difficult place in my life because I always felt different from the other kids. In the back of my mind, I would always be thinking, “If they only knew the secrets that I had, it would be the end of the world.” I was incredibly shy throughout school, and was bullied for that–Sometimes the bullying would be pretty bad. I became very anxious, depressed, and eventually suicidal. Around the age of 13, I was put into a psychiatric hospital after threatening to kill myself. I was there for 7 days. I guess I could say that my experiences were somewhat neutral while there. I had some VERY bad days and some REALLY good days.
About 2 years later I met my first and only long time girlfriend. Before this, I only had short term relationships. Which makes sense at age 14 and 15. A few weeks after we started dating, I talked to her about my past and my mental illness. She was a huge reason why I started to finally do some really good things in my life. I got a great paying job, I talked about my problems with friends(Which is a huge thing for battling this disorder, and people suffering from mental illness definitely need to do it.), we got pregnant, engaged, bought a house, made a few really big purchases, I got promoted, etc. On the outside, everything looked like I was in total control, and had no problems, but on the inside, I was ready to explode.
My anxiety has come and gone for week’s, month’s, and even year’s at a time over the past 20 years. There have been 3 really severe breakdowns throughout that time. I would have the most intense anxiety attacks, which while they were happening, I was fully aware of what they were because I experienced my first panic attack when I was in 4th grade. And in my opinion, schools are just like prisons. They are virtually the same in the way that, if you don’t fight, and you let people take advantage of you–they will never stop. Well, I never fought–I always just took it and bottled it up. And if you reach out to your parents or a teacher, things can sometimes get a lot worse. The reason that I felt that way, was because I have seen it happen to other kids. I’ve never been to prison, but to me, this feels like the same type of system. fight or submit, and snitches get stitches. It took me years before I started to stick up for myself.
My panic attacks would include a barrage of symptoms including; feeling like I couldn’t breath, racing heartbeat, ringing in my ears so loud that I couldn’t hear what people were saying, dizziness, extreme fear of people seeing this happening to me, confusion, and feeling like I couldn’t swallow. I have had hundreds if not thousands of panic attacks over the years, sometimes many times in a day.
While I was highly praised by everyone, and respected by family, friends, and my workplace, I was just building and building anxiety. I felt like I was just going to explode at any time. I started to drink and take pain killers. The pain killers went on for a few years, and they would ease my symptoms. The alcohol went on for a very, very long time. At one point, I was drinking more than a bottle of liquor, or a 30 pack of beer every single day. I would start to drink after being awake for about 2 hours–once the anxiety became too unbearable. I wound up in the hospital 2 times with pancreatitis, fluid in both of my lungs, severe hydration, and the worst pain that I have ever experienced. Both times I was hospitalized, I was in there for about a month. I wasn’t allowed to eat anything, or even take a sip of water for about 5 days each time. Needless to say, the first time I went in at 204 pounds, and I came out at 179 pounds. I was warned that it was pretty severe, and I could never even take a sip of alcohol again. So I was at a crossroads–either suffer from extreme panic attacks and depression or drink to function and ultimately die. Well with all of the responsibilities that I had with work and family, I chose to drink; never thinking at this point that I would be able to stop, knowing full well that this would be what killed me. At the time, in my mind, this was the best and easier road to take. I felt like I had no choice. That was before I was hospitalized the second time.
Having no sympathy for me, the doctors just kind of ignored how sick I was and pumped me full of meds. Medication like Dilaudid, which is 200 times more powerful than Morphine. I don’t remember the first 2 weeks of being in the hospital, but I do remember a priest praying for me as I came in and out of consciousness. They lowered my medication enough for me to know what was going on, and I knew that I either had to try to deal with the anxiety or just die.
Somehow through my fiancee and my kids, I stayed away from drinking this time. While in recovery, I learned a tonne of ways to cope with mental illness and addiction. The biggest reasons being, I didn’t want to die, I wanted my kids to have a father, and I wanted people to respect me again. The major things that helped me get through all of these issues were planning out everything on a daily basis, keeping myself busy with something I enjoyed and slowly getting myself back into the world. Because I kept myself away from everything that brought on anxiety and depression for such a long time, it took a lot of work and much support from my family and friends.
If you can take anything away from my story, take with you the major importance of finding someone in your life that you can talk to and find support about anything that is bothering you. I think this is a must for any mental illness or addiction recovery.
Being in such good graces with my employer, I always had the option to go back to work. My boss was kind of like a mentor for me. He always tried to help in any way that he could. There were times where he would talk to me for hours at 2 a.m. He would often offer to get me help. This is a multi-million dollar family company, and I was just one person out of thousands, so it was a huge deal to me–that I was important enough for someone to care that much. I’ll never be able to say in words how much that helped me.
As I was recovering, I spent most of my time learning new things and with my kids. I taught myself how to be a web developer/designer, computer programming, and how to be an author. I eventually set my sights on writing self-help books, how-to’s, motivation, and other things. I’m now working on my first fiction novel, which I really enjoy. And this is now a full-time thing for me.
Looking back, I never would have dreamed that I would become a self-publishing author (Couldn’t imagine being able to sit in one spot that long), a web developer, or even a person that could function without being intoxicated all the time. The main things that helped me through were family and friends support, scheduling everything, writing down my thoughts, so I didn’t have to constantly obsess over things, eating better, medication, staying busy, and goals that I would never give up on that kept me focused.
I hope that my story can help people suffering from mental illness or addiction in some way. Just know, that when you feel like there is no way to change your situation; or improve it; that I did. If I can do it, you definitely can too. And I never ever would have thought it was possible.
It takes work and repetition; but little personal achievements that you feel “normal” people do with ease, can be a giant motivation. I Pray for your success, and I know that you can live happy, calm, proud, and have a great quality of life. You just have to take action and follow through every day. Even when you don’t want to. Seek medical help, and have support from friends and family. Don’t be discouraged by setbacks–they happen to everyone. Just understand that things will continue to get better little by little, each time you do them.
For anyone interested in reading my book Anxiety and Depression: How I overcame mental illness and addiction. Just know that this was my first book as an author, so my grammar, etc., wasn’t the best at the time. And if you are interested, I wouldn’t greatly appreciate a review. Reviews are so important to an author’s success.
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