My battle with anxiety
Man was too scared to leave the house
FOR Adrian Thomas, walking to Home Bargains, buying some goods and heading home felt like walking on the moon.
Deep in the grip of anxiety and depression, a simple trip to a store was such an ordeal, it brought him out in a sweat.
Then living in Llanelli, Adrian should have been in the prime of life in his twenties, out enjoying clubbing and the single life. Instead, his weight had ballooned from 12 stone to 19, he was petrified of leaving the house, and lived a life of takeaways and TV.
Now his battles with both anxiety and depression – including two breakdowns – have been aired publicly.
Adrian, now 29, made the brave step to speak up on Facebook about the sometimes crushing anxiety he felt that was so severe he actually believed he was having a heart attack.
He wanted to see if there was anyone who felt the same way he did – and was stunned to find nearly 180 similarly affected people around Carmarthenshire wanting to meet up, or just talk to someone else, just a fortnight after his posting.
Around 80 of those have been brave enough to tell him their own stories – often harrowing accounts of near-paralysing anxiety and depression.
For Adrian, his difficulties stemmed from an unsettled childhood, having to leave the family home at 14 and move in with his grandmother.
When he was around 17 or 18 he was in and out of hostels. He stayed with a friend for about a year and had a really heavy “weed” addiction (he hasn’t smoked for about six to seven years).
When he was 18 he was working for a meat packing firm in Cross Hands until he was 23, but he left after an accident at work.
He was unemployed for about six months, then got a job at Amazon and worked there for about four to five months.
But he was then laid off, which is when he had his first breakdown.
He was in a relationship with the mother of his son, and was buying and selling technical stuff such as Xboxes.
The relationship with the girlfriend then broke down and he lost contact with his son who he has not seen for years. The son would now be aged about seven.
Adrian lived in Station Road, Llanelli, at the time, and stayed there for about three years.
That’s when his weight began to rocket. He said: “I was too afraid to leave the house. I was having a takeaway almost every night, which meant I didn’t have to go out.
“The scariest thing I’ve ever done is take the step outside to walk to Home Bargains at the end of the street.
“When I was walking there I would have felt unnerved, dizzy, lightheaded.
“I would walk around as quickly as I could and stand in the queue. I would profusely sweat, and I would think everyone was staring at me because of it – which made me sweat more.
“When I got home I was over the moon. I felt like I had actually landed on the moon.
“There are a lot of people who are scared to leave their house.”
Adrian fought the fear to build in more trips to Home Bargains, then to a pub nearby, where he met like-minded people.
But a second breakdown at 26 left the intelligent and caring man battling new demons.
He had moved back to Carmarthen to work at a call centre. When that didn’t pan out as planned he was given another job in another nearby call centre.
But it was as he was being shown the ropes in his new job that it hit him: “I went in on the Monday morning and they showed me everything about the job.
“It got to about 1pm and I just started sweating. I spoke to one of the owners and he said to go home and come in next week with a fresh head.”
When it came to returning to work Adrian found it impossible. He could get up and get dressed, but couldn’t walk through the door.
But if you feel you can’t understand what would make his dread so huge that he would risk losing a job, you’re not alone.
He said: “It’s mostly because you don’t understand it, that’s what drives you insane.
“I was never scared because there’s demons out there or anything, but I was terrified.
“Just getting out of the front door of that house – it scared the life out of me.
“As soon as I shut the door I was fine.”
As his fear became more uncontrollable, Adrian sought help from his GP.
She put him on antidepressants, and he had fortnightly sessions to talk through his fears – even going as far as testing his heart to prove he wasn’t having heart attacks. But until the medication dose was correct Adrian faced some of his darkest times.
He said: “I was starting to even struggle in the house.
“I didn’t leave my bed for six weeks. Walking outside was terrifying.
“If I got my heart slightly elevated I was convinced I was having a heart attack.
“I thought of every negative reaction that could come from each situation. I even panicked about having a panic attack.”
Even speaking to the doctor was a huge hurdle.
Adrian said: “We (men) are supposed to be macho. I shouldn’t say it, but weakness is for the girls.
“I have spoken to so many men who have this issue, which is the reason I have spoken about it so much.”
But it is the reaction from those who have never suffered from depression or anxiety that is sometimes the most difficult to take.
Adrian said those who told you to “just get over it” or “man up” just irritated him.
It was his experiences that spurred Adrian on to post on Spotted Carmarthen, calling for like-minded people to meet up, talk about their issues and struggles and provide help to each other, sometimes in a small and safe setting.
He was blown away by the response. Expecting around 10 to 15 people to reply, Adrian has been shocked that in the first 18 days 175 people who understood exactly how he felt came back to him about his post.
Around half of those have taken the extraordinarily brave step to reveal their own experiences, no matter how difficult that has been.
Adrian has created a closed group where sufferers can chat safely, and wants to meet people and create small support groups within the larger ones.
There will be no professional help – just moral support – but Adrian can refer people to practitioners who might be able to offer counselling or other treatment.
In the meantime, he’s planning a picnic on the beach in the summer, but understands that some sufferers will not be able to
I live with anxiety. When you learn to cope with the triggers of that anxiety you either avoid them or face them until they don’t become triggers any more
He said: “I live with anxiety. When you learn to cope with the triggers of that anxiety you either avoid them or face them until they don’t become triggers any more.
“Because every single person on the site can relate to every single person’s problem it’s huge.
“The more people who post their stories the more it inspires people to post their own stories.
“It takes a huge leap of faith to put themselves out there.”
In the meantime, Adrian, who finds it difficult to claim credit for bringing so many people together, has found a new lease of life in organising the group and ensuring people get the support from others they need.
The scariest thing I’ve ever done is take the step outside to walk to Home Bargains at the end of the street
Adrian Thomas, after his weight ballooned to 18 stone.
Mr Thomas has set up a group to help others suffering from anxiety and depression.