Anxiety is a funny beast...

Anxiety is a funny beast, I've always lived with it. As a little kid I can remember being crippled by insane fears, or the feeling of fear. Not attached to a physical situation, just always there to pop up as it pleased. It was always physical, intense symptoms but they only lasted a few hours at a time.

As a child I hated sleeping over at friends houses, being away from home I felt insecure and scared. My parents thought it was just separation anxiety, you know a kid learning to feel safe away from home and family.  Eventually that shifted, at about ten or eleven years old I was able to stay with friends, or visit relatives alone without breaking down as the sun went down, begging to go home. After that it all went away for some time, and nothing was thought of it. A bad year at school when I was about thirteen manifested in a break down due to anxiety. I didn't know what happened, and my parents didn't either. I would lay awake all night feeling sick, shaking, crying, with dizzying headaches, but suddenly by morning I would be fine. This again lasted a year, passed and allowed me to live again as a 'normal' teenager. By the time I started High School it seemed all those fears, and physical symptoms had passed

 

My parents had divorced by then and that brought a sense of calm to me. They both seemed happier for it, for a few years I got two enjoy two loving, and happy homes with my younger brother

 

Anxiety is a disease, it can happen to anyone. My 'image' of an anxiety sufferer is a pale skinned, kid shut away in their bedroom playing video games and eating fast food. This is an insane concept, because I am one of those people- I am a sufferer of severe anxiety. I've always been active through my life the outdoors in many ways is what has kept me sane. My weekends filled by bikes, skating, rock climbing, hiking and fishing with friends. Somewhere through the years I figured out physical exhaustion was the best remedy for me. Naturally I begun working as a landscaper/ gardener/ labourer etc... as a way to exhaust me, and my mind

The anxiety first manifested as an intense fear of vomiting, not even getting sick- just vomiting. Not dying, not getting some terrible illness- just vomiting. Over many years I worked with it and managed to gain some control over this fear. I always hated parties for this reason, as a child it was my friends eating to much sugar and vomiting. Then as a teenager it was friends getting drunk, or greening out; and vomiting. This fear again consumed me when I was seventeen; it'd been a good run, a good almost four years of living a pretty normal teenage life. I was partying, drinking, doing drugs, all that fun stuff. I learnt to control my intake, I never get out of control and never over indulged. The first time I got drunk was off a bottle of Vodka by a fire. I was fine, but everyone else was throwing up all over the paddock. After that I decided I would never binge drink, and that curbed the fear at parties, I'd have up to three beers, and know I would be fine. Never mix drinking with other substances, and never mix drugs together. Three simple rules that kept me in tact through those teenage years

At seventeen it all rushed back, all of it. I was feeling sick daily, scared of not sleeping in my own room. I stopped going to parties, I became a social recluse. I had stopped seeing my father, as our relationship had collapsed; that plus the stress of school work broke me down again. Still every weekend I rode, skated, hiked, climbed, and worked outdoors to save money. Gaining experience in these skills and nurturing my love of the outdoors. I didn't let my anxiety take that away from me. By eighteen I was ok again, this was thanks to my girlfriend at the time. She helped through one of the darkest parts of my life, and single handedly bought me out of my fear filled world, again able to be social and enjoy the company of others. I met this amazing woman on my eighteenth birthday, at my birthday party. Even then I was running away to hide in my room ever few hours for ten minutes to gather myself. We'll call her Andrea, with her supporting me I begun to live again and we finished school

In those years the shadow of anxiety still snuck back in. I was away with friends for the weekend, staying with one of their older brothers and his family. We arrived late Friday night after a three hour drive. My friends brother was sick, and vomiting. I freaked the fuck out, the next morning I spent chain smoking standing outside in the fresh air where I felt safe. Eventually asking my best friend to drive me back to the closest town, to get a bus back home. I never told them the truth, just made some lame excuse. That shook me, but it didn't stick, I went to Andrea's and by the next day it was gone and I was ok. Small attacks like this happened but I never got stuck in it, managing to shrug it off. I stayed away from big parties, didn't go to many gigs, and essentially avoided all crowded spaces. These always bothered me, I have always lived in quiet areas. The peace of being isolated has been a big part of my life

 

After school I begun working as a full time as a landscaper, then a handy man, then gardener, then labourer for a house relocation company. I ended working with the relocation company, as the boss fucked me over with payments and let me go for no reason. Even with that, the death of a family member, and a close friend admitted to the hospital psychiatric ward; I held it together. All this time I was feeling great, anxiety seemed like a bad dream left in the past. I worked all year, then travelled Peru with my family, and Europe with Andrea, and our close friend Fay. Andrea and I broke up soon after arriving home, I was worried I would relapse, but I didn't to my surprise. I went through a short stage of depression, but made the move to New Zealand and was feeling better then ever

After six months I returned refreshed back home, anxiety always there but not controlling me anymore. I had power over it, I was in control. The following years I worked in a plant nursery, worked for a Uni as a field (research) assistant in the science department, and studied fine art. Andrea's departure from my life left me spinning, but I came through it free of a breakdown. It wasn't until the stress of my work for the Uni had me slowly degrading back to a bundle of anxiety, the job finished. I moved back in with my family to be closer to the town I grew up in, that's when it hit

Whilst working I had been living with friends, toward the end the anxiety was creeping back but I chose to ignore it, pretending it wasn't there. Things like to much coffee, or a harsh word from a co worker would tip me over the edge into panic. Luckily my work, family, and home environment was filled with loving, calm people who made me feel supported. Toward the end of the job I begun making mistakes, small but noticeable. feeling in over my head, never having studied science I stepped down, and eventually quit. Deciding to move back with my Mum and family, and work once again as a gardener to keep my life simple and stress free

I moved in, and the panic started 24/7. I had been living independent on my own steam, schedule and rules for so long that moving back in with my family shook me. There was always things happening, people everywhere, things to be done, and so much energy constantly around me. It was a drastic change from the relaxed, simple living share house I'd grown used to. Within days I broke down, I awoke one night feeling sick. I thought I was going to throw up, I ran out of my room, toward the bathroom. Suddenly my mind stopped me, and I found myself running outside. The fresh air hit me, instantly I felt a little better. I spent the night pacing the yard in a shaky panic, finally slipping into sleep at about four the next morning. A panic "hang over" the day after feels like you've spent five days on speed and jus starting to come down, your wired yet exhausted at the same time. You crave rest, and quiet; but it never comes. Your body shakes, you can't stay still, but neither can you stand very long. You feel sick, confused, and completely shattered with a body of sore muscles from tension  

This continued for months, until I was completely beaten down. I couldn't sleep, eat, work, or function in my "normal" life. I found people's energy so over whelming I was reduced to hiding away in a dark room. I tried every treatment I could find, eventually exhausted after a trip to the ER due to a week of no sleep or eating I was given some Valium, and able to peacefully sleep for the first time in months. That episode had me ending up in a sterile doctors office getting handed a prescription, out of option I had admitted defeat

"Oh, no Valium is addictive. Don't take them at all! Take this SSRI once a day, come back in a month" He said. Under duress he gave me small Benzo prescriptions for 'emergency' situations 

That was all the support our 'advanced' medical system had to give, throw some pills at me after five minutes of talking and hope for the best

I begun seeing a psychologist (to look good on my file), and a counsellor (who was more aligned with my belief system). It was late May by then, I'd been unable to work since February and was quickly running out of what I'd saved. Unable to move out, work, or do anything. Most days I was confined to my bed by the fear of having a panic attack or feeling to sick to move. A close friend in New Zealand was experiencing the same journey, I would Skype often, and found great support in each others journeys. I Skyped with a dear friend in Melbourne who also had personal understanding of mental illness, combined their support was unmeasurable

Despite feeling like I was losing all control over body, mind, and soul I made myself pack and board a plane to New Zealand for a month. Then a plane to the US for another month. Then home, while away I kept getting better, and better. By the end of the US trip I was feeling completely myself again, I was hiking, and climbing again, I could eat, and I didn't have a single panic attack. I felt like the person I used to be. The second I arrived home, I was back at square one. Within months I was back on a plane to New Zealand, after selling what ever I could to make money and pay for a flight. There I felt good, I was working again out in gardens, and designing landscaping projects. After a few months it snuck back, and once again I was back at the beginning. Constantly shaking and feeling sick, completely unable to quieten my racing heart, and mind. By now I realised SSRI's are also addictive and coming off them would be another whole battle in itself

This disease is not easy to see from the outside, but I can assure it is as real as a broken arm, heart attack, or cancer. It is debilitating, exhausting, and untreated or cared for can kill

I am now at a loss. Taking pills I don't want, that don't seem to help, and will be a challenge to get off. A medical system that doesn’t really know what they are doing. I become more, and more convinced medical school is no more an expensive sales degree for selling for what ever pill is the flavour of the month/year/decade

There is no conclusion to this story, it's still being written, and may be a never ending series for all I know. The best I can hope for is brief escapes and moments where I feel myself again