Anxiety and Depression as a Teen. My Mental Health Story.May 17, 2023
This week is Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK and it seemed like the perfect opportunity to share my own story of mental health and my struggles since I was 19.
In fact, my first experience with mental health actually came when I was 13 years old. We had gone on our first ever holiday abroad; my mum, dad, me and my brother. We had a great week in Ibiza and all seemed well. Until we got home. We had been home and in bed for an hour or so when my mum thought she was having a heart attack. The doctor was called and confirmed that she wasn’t having a heart attack, but that this was a panic attack.
I’d slept through it all, but what followed was seeing my mum continue to suffer from anxiety. We would often see her breathing into a paper bag as she was feeling so short of breath. At age 13, I was pretty naïve to what was happening – I mean, the world simply revolves around you at that age doesn’t it?
However, when I was 19, I was about to find out what it was all about.
I remember I was at a friend’s house and she had a group of us over to stay while her parents were away. We were sitting around doing some kind of drinking game when I had the most strange out-of-body experience. I was literally looking down on myself in that group. I started to hyperventilate and knew I had to get out. Somehow, I managed to drive home where I proceeded to cry for an hour and didn’t know why.
What then followed was me going to the doctor the following day (not something that would happen now) and me giving him a letter where I had written down how I was feeling. He looked at me and said he would prescribe Prozac if I wanted it. I took it. Over the weeks ahead, I struggled to leave the house, wouldn’t socialise with anyone, and felt my most comfortable when I was out driving in my car. When my friends phoned, I wouldn't be available. Talking felt too difficult. Other things like going into shops, and dealing with money all felt too much!
I lost some weight as I couldn’t be bothered to eat which, when I started to feel a little better, gave me some confidence as people were commenting that I looked well (little did they know). I had a phased return to work which didn't go to plan. I had tried to go back after three weeks and totally lost it because someone had unplugged my audio machine and I couldn't work out where to plug it back in. I went home and had a further four weeks off before I would try again.
I had some counselling sessions through occupational health. I worked through all the things that had mounted up that had caused the camel’s back to break. I remember the girls in my office being clueless about what anxiety and depression felt like and them not understanding why someone aged 19 would be feeling this way. Feeling judged hadn't helped when I tried to return after three weeks. I remember one of them saying “What have you got to be depressed about?” And she was right. On paper, there was nothing – but lots of smaller events had gotten on top of me until my mind and body said “enough”.I was on Prozac on and off for about a year and I slowly started to feel like myself again.
I wouldn’t revisit that medication route again until I turned 40 – when my mum passed away after a long battle with cancer. It wasn’t until she had been gone for around six months that my brain could no longer lock away the feelings. The brain is clever like that. It protects you by locking things away to keep you safe – but after six months, things were coming to the surface and I started to unravel.
I was lucky that I could put a call into my GP and after a chat, he agreed to give me a course of Fluoxetine. That was seven years ago and I continue to take anti-depressants now. I have tried to come off a couple of times, but I start to feel wobbly within a week or so. I can deal with the stresses of life a little easier when I’m taking my one a day so that’s what I will continue to do.
There should be no stigma around looking after our mental health, whether that be taking medication, doing meditation, yoga, running, walking in nature, dancing, and so on. I have found running and being outside helps me so much with my mental health. Whether it’s training for a race and having that extra focus or running to enjoy a scenic route.
When it comes to our mental health, the most important thing we can do is to talk. You are never alone. And, if you have a loved one that is going through a tough time right now, the best thing you can do is simply be there for them and listen.
The SRSR team are always here to help. We have various qualifications in mental health and are here to support you. You can contact via our social media channels or direct at [email protected]