What is it that you struggle with?
Mild social anxiety and Extreme health anxiety (a form of hypochondria). How long has it been a problem for you?
I first noticed my social anxiety when I was 28. I had moved interstate with my partner and I struggled having no friends or family living close by. I went from being a very social person to hiding myself away.
My health anxiety started very young. I was about five years old when a family member told that if I ate peanuts I would choke. So when I ate the peanut, I thought I was choking. For many weeks, my mother had to take me to the doctors as I kept telling her that it was stuck in my throat. Many years passed with no issues until I was 22. That’s when I hit rock bottom. I would diagnose myself with life-threatening diseases if I became ill. This went on for years. My biggest fear was and still is of dying. I was at the doctor’s constantly. None of them understood. They would give me a script of antidepressants and send me on my way, I was terrified. I am now 39 and still fighting this fight, a fight that I will have for the rest of my life. As I live in a small country community, it’s hard to open up to a doctor about my issues as you don’t know how long they will be practising here. So many doctors have different views of treating these conditions which unfortunately affects the people that are suffering. Now I’m absolutely terrified to visit the doctors. How does it affect your daily life?
Some days are good, other days it feels like you are just existing. It can take one minor thing to trigger an anxiety attack and can take days or weeks to move on from it. Our minds are a powerful tool and it’s mind-boggling that how we think and panic about things in our heads can cause actual physical symptoms. The headaches, stomach problems and a hell of a lot more. There are times when I cannot even put one foot in front of the other. Sometimes I can be fine for months, but always in the back of your mind, that anxiety can strike at any minute. You do learn to ride with it but I will never give up hope. How do other people’s actions or opinions affect you and your condition?
I limit what I tell my family and friends. My husband, mother and sister are the main people I can talk to and I feel that I won’t be judged, as well as my counsellor. But there are still a few things that I keep to myself because when I say them out loud I feel so stupid. Some of my friends have the old “here we go“and “what’s wrong with you now attitude”. I don’t get cranky at them for it. Like a lot of people that just don’t understand, it’s hard to unless you have experienced it yourself. How do you think people in the community can be better educated about this?
We hear so much about depression and anxiety these days and on how much help is out there. Sometimes I feel that they are just words and there are no actions. It’s also so hard to go out and ask for help. We feel embarrassed and awkward., and when we do, sometimes we just get that wrong doctor or nurse that will make us feel so incredibly stupid. There is more than one type of depression and many types of anxiety and I think it would be great if everyone knew what they were. The communities need to know that everyone with a mental illness just wants to be normal, happy and live their life the best they can. They don’t want to be judged or labelled as an attention seeker etc. It makes things so much worse. More advertising would be a great help for the community to see what type of depression/anxiety that the people around them are suffering.