My bat­tle with anx­i­ety

Man was too scared to leave the house

Llanelli Star - - FRONT PAGE - San­dra Hem­bery san­dra.hem­[email protected]­plc.com

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

Adrian Thomas

at­tend.

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.

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