Today’s guest blog is from Kelly, a singer/songwriter with anxiety and depression. So grateful to her for sharing her story on my platform! Let us know if you relate in the comments below.
I have struggled with both depression and anxiety my whole life. Of course, I didn’t realize this until the age of 26 when I was officially diagnosed.
When I was a child I was always described as ‘painfully shy’ and had a lot of ‘tantrums’.
In other words, the world terrified me. People terrified me and I would cry if any attention was brought to me, even if it was positive. I just wanted to hide I was constantly in fear of saying or doing the wrong thing.
My dad died suddenly when I was 15, shortly before my 16th Birthday. This horrific event forced me to think about how unhappy I was with my life. I was due to start college in a few months time, it would be a new start. I could finally escape the bullies, but most of all I could finally escape the cage I had built for myself to hide from the world.
So, I cut all my hair off and I decided that I was going the be the person I am inside, not the ‘painfully shy’ girl anymore.
It was hard, but soon I achieved what I had wanted to. I became bubbly and outgoing. I became the lead singer in my first band. I wrote my own songs, I performed in shows and started gigging.
I had my first panic attack at the age of 17. I was nearing the end of my time at college and the stress of my exams and coursework built up until it had nowhere to go but out.
I had never heard of panic attacks. I didn’t know what was happening to me. I was watching tv one moment, the next I couldn’t breathe. The room was spinning, I couldn’t feel my legs or my hands and I had a pain in my chest like I was having a heart attack. My Mum took me to A&E (editors note: an emergency room in a hospital) in a taxi. It was terrifying. I thought I was going to die.
We sat in A&E for an hour or so until the nurse told me that I was ‘just having a panic attack’, she told me to take some paracetamol and get some sleep. For those of you have had a panic attack, you will know that sleep is the last thing on your mind; at least until the attack is over. I saw my GP the next day and they explained that panic attacks can be triggered by anything.
Panic attacks are caused by a build up of stress over time, which is then triggered by a loud noise, a stressful situation, being put on the spot; there are different triggers for everyone. The panic attack itself is the fight or flight response, which is innate in all animals. It causes the body to create a mass of adrenaline and to tense as though ready to run away or ‘fight’. This is a natural response, however in people who have chronic anxiety, the fight or flight response is triggered when there is no real danger, but the brain thinks there is. The brain creates physical symptoms which would historically help you in a dangerous situation. Unfortunately, they don’t help you when you are unable to make a decision in a supermarket, or you can’t find something, or there is a loud noise, or you are feeling overwhelmed.
There are many different kinds of anxiety and many different kinds of depression. Everyone is different. I have made the decision to remain on anti-depressants for the rest of my life. This is not the right thing for everyone, however for me, I find they even out my mood. I don’t like myself when I’m not on them.
Recovery for depression and anxiety is pretty much a constant thing. I have had several big breakdowns where I was suicidal and I am still recovering from my most recent breakdown, having been off work for over a year.
I have been through therapy, which has been a huge help. I have done CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) and also CAT (Cognitive Analytical Therapy). Both have helped me move forward and have provided me with coping strategies. Talking is probably the best thing for me to help cope with and prevent relapses.
I use social media as a way of sharing my experiences with mental illness in the hope that maybe I can help make it easier for other people.
Two of my close friends have taken their own lives in the past 4 years and two acquaintances as well. I never want that to happen again. I need to know that my friends know it is okay to talk about mental illness, that they are not alone.
A few people have told me that I shouldn’t talk about my mental health on social media. One person told me I will never find a relationship if I tell everyone I have depression and anxiety. I was appalled at this. Mental health is nothing to be ashamed of. The more we talk, the less the stigma will exist and the more lives we can save.
I believe that supporting each other with our mental health is so important. Being able to talk to others who understand what we’re going through can really help with recovery.
I would like to thank Slay Girl Society for inviting me to share my experiences on her blog. It is an amazing and important thing you are doing. Thank you.
The Faraway Girl xxx
(Aka Kelly Brownell)