*Before I start to talk a little about my experiences of anxiety and depression I need to stress that the reason/s for my mental illness will be different to anyone else’s. Although symptoms may be very similar recovery will be unique for every individual. Part of who I am and what I want to achieve is showing that people, like me, who are or have experienced mental illness can recover or learn to manage their symptoms and lead the lives they want*
At age 17 I was diagnosed with depression and put on anti-depressants. Not long after I started to experience panic attacks, this was just weeks before starting University. The anxiety was focused largely on my health, in particular my heart.
University was a mixed bag of experiences. Having depression and anxiety gave a different experience to the one I was hoping for. I struggled to attend lectures, socialising was either nonexistent or exhausting. Panic attacks, IBS, generalised anxiety and low mood were my norm in my first year. Throughout my degree there were times where I had anxiety free days and even had a job in my second year, it was around this time I decided to stop taking anti-depressants, gradually with the advice from my GP.
“I was getting through days,
relieved when it was time to go to bed
because I could go to sleep and get a break
from the relentless anxiety I was experiencing.”
When I got home from Uni my experiences of anxiety would come and go again as generalised anxiety and a form of OCD called pure OCD, which was probably the most scary form of anxiety I have had would arise when I was feeling stressed or low.
Thankfully by chance at a yoga class I stumbled upon a counsellor who was working with young people in the area. I had about a year of counselling in total. I made significant changes to my life and started to regain who I was. Counselling was hard, I’d known for a long time that there were certain experiences I needed to talk about and to heal from, I knew there were things in my life that were not good for me. I knew that I would change, that my life would change and I was scared, the unknown had held me back for so long there were times it was more comfortable to feel anxious because that had become my norm.
By the end of the counselling my life had changed so drastically that after a holiday to California with friends I decided to save and plan for a solo trip to Australia. This was about 6 years after my initial diagnosis of depression. About 8 months later I travelled to Australia on a working holiday visa, I spent 10 months with little plan and limited funds but I experienced so much. When travelling there were especially stressful times anxiety, very low mood and occasional panic attacks happened, but the majority of the trip I was OK, more than OK, I was living a life I could only have dreamed of before.
My trip was back in 2010.
A few years after returning home and moving to Nottingham, I decided to enter counsellor training.
I am so passionate about the person centred approach because of the impact it has had on me and my life.
Life still has it’s ups and downs and I have accepted that I am sensitive to feeling anxious or low at times. I know without counselling and the work I did in those sessions I would not be half the person I am today. I now have the resources within myself to manage and cope whilst acting on the warning signs as soon as I am aware that I am out of balance.
I have certain things in my life I see as my ‘medicines’ things like yoga, mindfulness, cycling, being in nature – especially walking in woodlands, eating well and being creative.
Counselling gave me the opportunity to get to know myself better whilst being supported and encouraged to face some wounds that needed healing.
I remain expressive about my feelings and experiences as I believe
“What is most personal is most universal.”
― Carl Rogers