How My Condition Changed My Life (Guest Post)
I have struggled with Anxiety for a very long time, so long that I don’t remember when I first noticed a problem. Through my years at school I slowly changed from a kid that loved drama class to a child that could barely put his hand to ask a question. By the time I got into University I had been formally diagnosed with Anxiety, and it had become a real problem. I spent half my first year sat at the back of my lectures so no-one would notice me. Presentations were a panic attack that I knew would come, but couldn’t do anything about it.
Then I got a job in a quiet bar and things began to improve. I made new friends and had learnt how to suppress my anxiety in most scenarios. Granted presentations still never went well for me, but my groups were always very understanding and would often leave me to write up our work whilst they gave the presentation. To be honest, I got very lucky. I loved my job (new bar that was much busier), I had my friends with me all the time, and I finally felt strong. However, in November 2016 everything changed.
I’d just arrived at work and was unlocking the doors to the bar I worked in and I had begun trembling. At first, I wrote it off to a minor hangover, that I’d be okay in an hour or so. Over the next half-hour I got worse. I was dizzy, my heart was hammering and I thought that my brain had begun to melt. I was terrified and asked my boss to contact my mother so I could leave, but by the time I’d got into the car I’d crumbled into a mess of tears and confusion.
I had a Panic Attack, far worse than I’d ever experienced before and I had no idea how to cope. I took a few days off work, went to the doctors and was given diazepam to help keep me calm. Over the next month I was in and out of work. I developed new symptoms that were not just Anxiety. My body would spasm randomly and I developed a stammer. As time went on I finally had to leave my job completely, as the spasms and speech anomalies are not good when you have to take orders, or carry plates.
Eventually I got to see a psychiatrist, and I received some help from the local Mental Health Team. I had a little money saved up so I knew I could get by for a short while, but I wanted to get back to work. Unfortunately, I never went back to work, and ten months on I still do not have a confirmed diagnosis. Some days I can barely walk, and even when I can, talking to people is quite difficult. I’ve seen several psychiatrists and I am now under a neurologist.
Ten Months and five doctors later, I still can’t answer when people ask me what is wrong. I have no idea what to say.
A lot has changed for me in a very brief time, not all of it bad though. I now have my own Blog about Mental Health. I get to write about things I always wanted to speak about, but never had the nerve to say. I suppose in a way, I’m braver now than when I tried to hide my Mental Health. Despite mobility gradually becoming a greater challenge, I have formed stronger connections with the people around me. Despite my vocal issues, I think I’ve laughed more with my friends more than I ever did when I was working full-time. Not to say I don’t miss work, I hate being stuck at home but that’s why I began writing again, something I always loved doing, but never had the time.
What I’m trying to say is that, don’t hide your issues. Mental Health can be incredibly hard, don’t make it harder by hiding from it. Current estimates suggest that 1 in 4 people will struggle with mental Health in their lifetime. That’s 25% of people living with conditions that can make even the simplest task a daily struggle. 25% of people that feel like they should be embarrassed about something they can control.
It won’t be easy, but all I want to see is the issue of Mental Health out in the open. Stigma only ever holds people back. Breaking this silence is the first step to a world where Mental Health is considered a priority, rather than something to hide using medication.
Bio: Jack McKay is the creator of A Jackals Voice, a blog dedicated to Mental Health awareness and an end to social stigma. Most of his work comes from personal experience, along with help from other people that struggle. If you would like to contact him be sure to follow his Twitter @ajackalsvoice or his Facebook.