Sunday, September 2, 2012

Panic, Anxiety, Depression

Today's post touches on the topic of mental health, or lack thereof.

As always I will say my two bits and invite others to share their experiences/knowledge/opinions, if they care to.

My first experiences with anxiety occurred when I was in the first grade, I believe I had just turned seven. I began having waves of panic, often they were related to religious themes...going to hell for sin etc, other times they manifested as hypochondria - I was convinced I had AIDS and many different types of cancers at various times in my grade school career.

Puberty was also unkind to my neurotransmitters. I began having what I can now recognize as depressive episodes at age 11, crying fits and feelings of hopelessness which only got worse up through high school.
The guilt and fear of disease was not replaced, it acted in rotation with the new depression.

When I was eighteen I began dabbling with drug use, which is the worst thing you can do if you get anxious or depressed. This is when I began having legitimate panic attacks. This was no longer just feelings of preoccupation, this was me feeling like I should call the hospital.  Pounding heart, tingling limbs, and an inexplicable sense that I was removed from myself. I sought help from a doctor in the form of SSRIs,which did help, but I am still not back to where I was before.

Here's the thing, before these anxiety attacks happened, I had learned to cope with the other forms my depression took. I had managed to bolster myself into a pretty fearless individual; there were very few things I was afraid to do.  But, since that fateful period in my freshman year of college, I have gone through all sorts of phases with this anxiety; it has weakened me in ways I never though possible. I would panic while driving... being in a bar at night, even with trusted friends and family, made me so incredibly uncomfortable: partially because being in an unfamiliar place was more unsettling than it had been, but I had also developed the fear of being poisoned, and if you think that sounds like paranoia, I'm pretty sure you're correct. I was bordering on agoraphobia as well.

I am now 24 years old, and it has gotten better, I have learned to calm myself in most situations. I am not 100% recovered though, and I don't know if I ever will be.

I have learned my limits with substances. I do drink a bit, but everything else does not sit well with my brain chemistry. This is not a cautionary tale about drug use, I think that was the straw that broke the camel's back, but not the root cause. If you choose to use recreational drugs, that is your business.

I am terrified. Most of my friends and family know I have this problem, or at least have some vague idea. A lot of them think I am a drag because of it, which obviously hurts my feelings because I don't want to be, and I really did used to be so much fun. I wish more than anything I could go back to confident person I was before. But, I am doing my best to be optimistic, and hope for the best everyday.

I will likely do a part two to this focusing more on the depression than the anxiety.

If you have any advice, or questions or comments, please do share.

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