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Living with anxiety & depression

As many of you know, last year I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression (A&D). However, a lot has happened since then; some good, some not so good. I guess this post is partially an update, and partially for anybody interested in the kind of life and struggles I face on a day-to-day basis.

In my first blog post about my illnesses, I spoke about having Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), mostly to combat the depression, but occasionally focusing on the anxiety and panic attacks. I'm not going to lie, it was useless. I had six sessions in a tired looking, cold building with a woman who looked at me with so much pity as if my pet had just died. Also, I am totally aware that I do not think rationally, but she just kept trying to make me realise this, but never actually helping me think rationally. She would get me to fill in a form every week which was basically just to check I didn't want to try and kill myself that week; it was a waste of time. The only useful thing she told me was a video about having depression, comparing it to living with a black dog, but apart from that, it was useless.

After this, I just carried on going through the motions of everyday life, having panic attacks every so often, feeling crappy, feeling exhausted and so on for about 4 months. Then on a night out, I had a complete breakdown. Admittedly, I had had a lot to drink but it was no excuse for how I acted and for the things I said, but luckily, one of my best friends who has seen me at my absolute worse was there so luckily I knew she wouldn't take anything I said to heart. It just made her more worried about me because she didn't realise I had got that bad again. As a result of this, I knew I had to do something; I went back to the doctors and finally got put on anti-depressants. Although I had to deal with a few shitty side effects, I felt a massive difference almost immediately, and my friends and family noticed a difference too. I was a lot less tired, I didn't have a constant headache, I was a lot less sensitive to insignificant things, and I was just generally happier, and nicer to be around. 

However, these tablets do not and will not cure me; I still have really crappy times where I just cry and feel shit for a few days at a time, I still get pretty anxious and I still have panic attacks. It is still a daily battle with my fucked up brain. Coming back to uni, although not as bad as last year, is still a lot to get used to, so my anxiety went into overdrive for a couple of weeks. I would have panic attacks daily because once I've had a panic attack, my anxiety is on a higher level than normal so then the next attack will be set off by something so pathetic, which I wouldn't normally react to. The thing with A&D as well is that you get so tired (especially after a panic attack), so having coursework to do and having to go to work, I have coffee, and the caffeine is not good for anxiety, so it is a vicious cycle at times, especially recently. 

Due to this, I finally took myself to the uni counselling service which I have heard great things about. I have only had my assessment appointment so far, but I've already learned so much about my issues and sensitivities. My counsellor made me realise that I care so much about other people, I forget to look after myself, but that's because I would never want anybody to feel how I often feel, even people who have hurt me in the past. I wouldn't wish it upon anyone; so I guess as long as everyone else is happy, even if it means hurting myself, it's worth it. Also, although it sounds lame and cliché, and like I've watched too many chick flicks, I've never been treated well by a guy. I don't need to go into it, because the people who care already know everything. However, although some people may see this as pathetic, I've always been second best to any guy that I've got close or attached to, so I always see it as there something being wrong with me whenever the 'free one month trial' that I've mentioned before comes to an end. This then leads me to think that I don't deserve to be treated any better, because I've never known any different; so when you have low self esteem, this really doesn't do great things for that. 

My counsellor also told me that I am a clinical perfectionist. Now I know the word 'perfectionist' is thrown around so casually, just like when people say "oh I'm depressed", or "I'm going to have a panic attack" etc., but she means that I fit the medical term of perfectionist. This means that when things aren't the way I need them, I get anxious, cleanliness in a house for example. Also, perfectionists set very high, often unattainable goals for themselves, whether that comes to school, work or relationships, and when these goals aren't met, they feel like a failure. Therefore, perfectionism is very closely linked to depression and anxiety. So thanks for that, Brain(!)

At the end of the day, A&D is exhausting. I often have to put on a brave, happy face and pretend that I'm fine, but on the inside, I'm screaming to get out of situations. Even simple things in my life are affected by it, for example, I won't go in a lift on my own because I'm terrified that I'll get stuck in there on my own. People often tell me that I "don't look like I'm depressed"; now, I don't exactly know how someone 'looks' depressed, but this confident front I often have is to hide it. I'm really a lot more fragile and vulnerable than people realise. Some think that I have a thick skin, but sometimes I can be over-sensitive to certain things, especially if the joke is too close to the truth. People sometimes freak out when they realise the fuck up that I am, which is why I get so exhausted at times, because pretending to be happy everyday isn't easy. Also, if I'm feeling particularly anxious, this makes it hard to sleep anyway, which again, is a vicious circle, because the more tired I am, the more anxious I get, the less I eat, the more tired I get and so on.

I guess at the end of all this, I can only speak for myself, but if you're going to get involved with someone with A&D, either romantically or just as a friendship, please be genuine, and please make an effort to stay. Also, if you do choose to stay, please be patient. Sometimes I'm unbearable and really not nice to be around, but luckily the people who care about me most have stuck by me through it all. It's so disheartening when you constantly get let down, then this wall I have with people gets higher and stronger because I don't want to let people in if they're just going to drop me. As I've mentioned before, I depend on others to be happy, which is what I will be working on with my counsellor, but if you have no intention of caring about someone with A&D, don't even get involved.

I want to end this with a thank you: thank you to anybody and everybody who has been there for me the past few months, especially the people who have had to sit there with me crying uncontrollably. Although I may not say it, I do really really appreciate it.


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