This is a Guest Post by the remarkable and inspiring Jade Craven, thank you Jade for sharing your story. You have touched my life and made me a better person for it xxx
How it started
I believe that I’ve always had anxiety. I was very clingy as a child, was selective mute in primary school and social phobic in high school
As soon as I hit puberty, things started to reach an unmanageable level. We all blamed it on hormones. I was always stressed out, thought the world was against me and had difficulty coping.
It didn’t get really severe until I moved out of home at 18. I had just started uni, and had to learn a different set of skills. At the end of my first year, my grandmother was diagnosed with cancer and given months to live. I spent much of this time at mums just helping out during the holidays. I’d often be there just to watch my younger teenage siblings while mum was in hospital.
This placed both my body and mind under a great deal of stress. And, when my nan died, that stress didn’t go away. I wasn’t able to cope with life, or school, and started to worry about everything. This stage lasted for years.
The difference between depression and anxiety
I used to think that anxiety was all mental – just worrying. I used to look down on the illness as a weak persons disease.
I had similar physical symptoms with both anxiety and depression. I had no energy, was incapable of taking care of myself or the house and had really poor cognitive symptoms. I couldn’t concentrate, had difficult remembering things and had trouble speaking.
It was the anxiety symptoms that were the worst. My brain just couldn’t process information and couldn’t handle loud noises or sudden movement. That meant that I was always on edge and out of breath. If it was too overwhelming, I’d dissociate. This is a symptom where your brain shuts down for a period of time.
My body would feel like it was on fire. If I didn’t handle the symptoms correctly, I’d have panic attacks. If I was really stressed, I’d hear voices. This lasted for about a year and was a really difficult time.
I actually used to look forward to my depressive episodes. My body would relax so much that I was able to sleep. I was lethargic, but that was ok because my muscles weren’t tingling. Eventually, the depression would get so bad I’d be suicidal and crying all the time, but I didn’t mind because it gave my body a break from the constant tension.
In many cases, these illnesses coexist and it can be hard to tell them apart. I realized that they are very different and require different techniques to manage
My disorder presented me with a lot of challenges that made everyday living difficult.
o I didn’t have the energy to maintain my appearance, so I often looked frumpy. This really impacted on my conference.
o I was rarely well enough to interact with friends and family so I was convinced they all hated me
o I was on a really low income and rarely had the money to treat myself
o I was petrified every time I left the house.
o I had poor concentration and lost my creativity. I lost touch with my hobbies and started thinking I’d lost my personality.
I had to change but I didn’t know how
I’m not sure what pulled me through. All I knew was that I didn’t want to die so I just kept on struggling through every day.
And it was a struggle. I had very little quality of life and constantly felt horrible both physically and mentally. It got worse until I sunk into a really deep depression.
This is something I’ve never told anyone. I was suicidal and couldn’t find a logical way to talk myself out of it. Normally, I could give myself a reason that would allow me to persevere with the episode. I told myself that I’d pretend that I can’t fail and just give everything a go. I’d seek medical help and would give my blog everything I had.
Things started getting better
I turned my life around by seeking treatment. 6 months ago, I was crying in my doctors office and begging to be put on medication. She initial refused, because I had stopped taking other meds due to the side effects.
I decided that I wouldn’t let my prejudices get in the way and would take my meds, despite the reported side effects, and seek counselling. And initially, things got worse. I had bad side effects for the first month.
Then the symptoms started to go away. I was able to breath and think clearly again. I was able to process the ideas my counsellor was giving me. I was able to put more time in my blog and started reconnecting with my old hobbies.
How I started loving myself again.
Being able to love my life was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do. Part of anxiety is the constant negative self talk. I was convinced that I’d never achieve something and didn’t know how to change the mindset. There were a number of steps that I took that made the process easier:
o I got a haircut. This was really simple but it made such a difference to my confidence. I noticed afterwards that I didn’t hate my appearance as much and was more outgoing
o I slowly introduced myself to my old hobbies. This was hard, as I still feel I’ve lost a lot of my creativity, but it makes me so happy to go to a musical or do a bushwalk. Moments like that make the constant struggle worth it.
o I started chucking out my old clothing and buying clothes that fit my body shape. This was a great confidence booster. My pants only cost $40 from Target but did wonders.
o I stopped finding excuses when my blog friends asked to catch up. Now I’ve met so many amazing people.
I wont say this process has been easy. I’m now very happy with my life and I still think I’m a worthless piece of shit. Its hard trying to improve things but the Love Your Life challenge is brilliant for those needing help to take their first step.
There are so many different avenues to help you if you are feeling anything like this.
* See your GP
* Contact SANE 1800 18 SANE (7263)
* Contact Beyond Blue
* I highly recommend that you work with your GP and a Counselor or Life Coach so both physically and mentally you are getting the appropriate treatment.
* Jo baker Lifestyle Specialist of Believe Lifestyle Centre specializing in restoring confidence and self esteem in women.
* Susan Tyshkovsky Life Coach and owner of Life by Creation specializes in working through your issues in order for you to live and love yourself and your life. Getting you out of that rut.
Susan is donating 2 x 2 one hour sessions for the Love Your Life Challenge this could seriously change your life!