Mine is a more common affliction of a mixture of depression and anxiety which is no where near as fun as it sounds.
For me it started in the December of 2003. I was working as a temp at Walls and Floors for an employment agency. No contract to start with, but a promise that if I worked hard there would be a full time job at some point. I was there for a good month, cracking on with my work and having a laugh in the process. I was moved into the warehouse and my new job was to pick tiles for orders, including some extremely heavy boxes of tiles that seemed more like slabs. And it was lifting one of those boxes that I put my back out. I couldn't stand without being in pain and as I was no longer of any use to the company, I was let go. With no contract they didn't need to offer me any sick pay whilst I recuperated and so they just booted me out, a couple of weeks before Christmas. This is a cold harsh reality that I have had to live through again very recently and am now quite used to, but at the time I was devastated. I lay on the living room floor whilst recovering, feeling sorry for myself and lost in my own thoughts. This is when depression took over. A complete feeling of helplessness and self pity, angry at the world for putting me in this position, angry at other people who carry on with their lives blissfully unaware of what I was having to deal with and convinced that I had ended up in a hole that I was never going to escape from. Depression sucks you in and holds you in a vice like grip that is so difficult to break free from. I've had people tell me to just cheer up, but it is never that easy. It takes massive amounts of will power and a lot of time. Some people never recover.
Anyway, I began taking medication and visiting a councillor and not long after I landed a new job working for Midland Mainline, selling tickets at the train station. My depression seemed to subside at least for the time being, but I was about to be hit with a dose of anxiety to make up for it. You see, in all of the previous jobs that I had worked, I always found myself working with a friend. Very rarely was I ever in a work environment that I didn't know anybody and in those rare instances I was thrown straight into work and didn't have much time to over think it. But this time I was sent on a training course in Derby where I sat in a room full of strangers and waited whilst the instructors fannied about with their Power Point Presentations. I was out of my depth and way out of my comfort zone.
Right about now there will be a good chunk of you reading this and wondering what all the fuss is about. Sitting in a room with new people is no big deal. Once again, I wish it was that easy...
Suddenly a wave of panic washed over me. I felt sick and the walls felt like they were closing in on me. I had never experienced a panic attack before and was confused by what was happening, which made me panic even more. I had to excuse myself and go to the toilet to throw up. All of a sudden I was stricken with this ailment that I didn't understand and I couldn't shift. Things that I would have previously taken for granted became incredibly hard tasks that would make me panic. Long car rides, sitting in the cinema or theatre or going to a gig, going for a long walk, travelling on the London Underground, attending a Wedding. All of these things sent my anxiety into overdrive and if I knew one of these things was approaching in the near future, I would panic about panicking. It began to completely take over my life...
Until I started the business. Once the shop was up and running my focus was entirely on business and I worried less about my anxiety. There were still occasions that it would flare up, but it began decreasing with every passing month until it hardly bothered me at all. Even when money was drying up and it looked like we were going under, I kept a cool head, not because I wanted to, but because I had to.
Since the close of the business both my depression and anxiety have returned. I have a better grasp on them now and find them easier to control. I may still panic, but I don't panic about panicking. I have to sit on an aisle seat at the cinema, otherwise I feel claustrophobic and I can go days on end without leaving the house because my anxiety leads to agoraphobia and my home is my safe zone, but for most of the time, I have it well under control.
What I want to pass on to you, the reader of this blog, is that all of this isn't a big deal. It is of course a big deal to me personally, but it shouldn't be to anyone else. I don't expect everyone to understand, but I also won't put up with blatant ignorance. It's nothing to be scared of or to feel awkward about. It's just me and I'm dealing with it and will have to continue to deal with it probably for the rest of my life, but it doesn't make me any less of a person. And for those of you out there suffering too, you aren't alone. There are probably quite a few people in your lives that suffer from one form of mental illness too and hide it from the world.
As this is a bit of an unconventional blog for me, I'm going to leave you with some interesting statistics that I found on the Mental Health Foundation website:
- 1 in 4 people will experience some kind of mental health problem in the course of a year
- Mixed anxiety and depression is the most common mental disorder in Britain
- Women are more likely to have been treated for a mental health problem than men
- About 10% of children have a mental health problem at any one time
- Depression affects 1 in 5 older people
- Suicides rates show that British men are three times as likely to die by suicide than British women
- Self-harm statistics for the UK show one of the highest rates in Europe: 400 per 100,000 population
- Only 1 in 10 prisoners has no mental disorder