Natalie, 39

Dubbo Photo News - - Issue -

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.

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