A Snapshot of My Story

My first memory of anxiety is at 5 years old. I walked to school each day with my sister who was 7. On the journey to and from school, my experience of anxiety is what I can only describe as white noise. There were so many different noises and voices in my head. The white noise was so loud and constant it made my real world seem surreal. I felt very disconnected; like I was a spectator in my life; rather than a participator.

Episodes of this white noise continued right through to my adult years; accompanied by my  chest so tight I could hardly breathe and my throat so constricted at times I found it difficult to swallow food. I filled my world with constant activities, people and loud music to keep the white noise at bay which eventually led to exhaustion, burnout and depression.

My pendulum swung a long way with big highs and massive lows and for many years I tried different types of drugs to find peace and comfort in my world.

As a child, food became my drug of choice and of course resulted in me being quite overweight. I also wore glasses, not the nice funky ones you get these days; but the thick brown rimmed glasses. The school yard bullies had a field day, christening me with names like fatty four eyes, Bessie Bunter and Yogi Bear to name a few. All of which exacerbated the anxiety and alienation I already experienced on a daily basis. I hated going to school.

At 15, I made a new decision to starve myself and chose physical exercise as my drug of choice. I figured that if I was skinny the bullying would stop; and it did. I am certainly not advocating being skinny here to stop the bullies; however this was my experience. This extreme choice though, resulted in dramatic weight loss, illness, paranoia and even more anxiety. I became so thin my period stopped completely and did not resume until I was 18 years old.

At 18, alcohol was my drug of choice and I became a champion binge drinker. Alcohol was extremely effective in cancelling out the white noise; however it intensified the highs and lows resulting in an addictive and destructive cycle. I was fat, depressed, remorseful and miserable.

At 21 I married; at 23 had my first baby and my second at 25; this was my turning point; or so I thought. I cleaned up my lifestyle and made a new decision to be the best mother on this planet. Perfection became my drug of choice.

I showered my boys with love and kindness, worked full time, kept fit, my house was clean and tidy and so were my children. No-one would find anything to judge me on in this new phase of my life.

I was determined that my boys would always feel loved, feel good about themselves and not have to struggle with their emotions as I had. I was on a mission to create a new story.

My marriage didn’t last and as a single mum the level of anxiety escalated to epic proportions. Keeping all the “balls of perfection” in the air was a big job. I pushed myself to the limit trying to be everything to everyone and one day I fell over the edge into the biggest, blackest hole.

I woke to find one side of my head and face so  swollen; I looked like “elephant woman.”

I had suffered psoriasis which is a stress related skin disorder most of my adult life and it had been in the “hot phase” for quite a few months and on this particular day had become infected.

It was all I could do to get out of bed and get my son to his first day of school. I wanted to crawl under a rock and never come out. On this particular morning there was no white noise and no tightness in my chest or throat.  I felt dead inside; paralyzed, numb and emotionally disconnected. If it wasn’t for the overwhelming love for my children I would not have made it out of the house that day.

As I did begin to move I felt like I had a heavy, dark blanket over my head. It went all the way to the floor and all I could see were my feet moving one behind the other in a very slow shuffle. It seemed to take forever to get ready to leave the house.

I kept my eyes to the ground as I walked my son to his classroom, hoping no—one would see my face. I was mortified that I was in this state on what should have been a milestone in my son’s life.

I left the school grounds and went to my General Practitioner. He was shocked at my appearance and told me in no uncertain terms that I was not leaving his surgery until I came clean and explained what was happening in my life.

The floodgates opened and I could not stop crying. I am not sure I made any sense at all because to be honest with you, I didn’t know where to start. I didn’t really know what was wrong, but I did know that nothing was right.

My General Practitioner recommended anti-depressants. I was devastated. I couldn’t believe I had reached this point. I always believed I was far more resilient than this, and maybe that was the problem; I thought I was bullet proof.

If nothing else on that day I had a moment of clarity and realized that something had to change. My two boys were so important to me and my driving force to finding some balance in my life. If I didn’t start looking after myself, how on earth was I going to take care of them?

I left the surgery without anti-depressants and took my General Practitioner’s advice to seek professional help to address the state I was in. On that day, I made a new decision to put me first and create the space to do the work required to lead the life I deserved.

I read numerous books, tried many therapies and therapists; changed my diet and explored movement, yoga and meditation to improve my coping mechanisms. Some things worked and some didn’t. As my journey progressed I integrated what did work into my life to become a happy, resilient and confident individual who could cope with any challenges that came my way.

The biggest lesson I learned on my journey was that I was the cause of most of my problems. It was when I took responsibility for my mental and physical health and took action to change the way I lived my life I achieved great results.

I now live by the philosophy “when I change; everything changes”