This is my story that I have divide into 3 parts:-
The first part is by way of an introduction, concerning the relevant (to anxiety) parts of my life (ie my history)
I will go on ( in another thread) to address what I actually feel when anxious.
Lastly I’ll deal with my efforts in coping with anxiety.
In retrospect I’ve been anxious for most of my conscious life, though when young I could not put a label on it. I realised much later on that what I felt predominently was fear - not necessarily fear of a specific (though this happened also. How this fear manifestede itself I’ll return to later. In short I was classed as a nervous child and I meandered through life friendless and shy.
My mother at this time and indeed throughout her life was an anxious person also (crying a lot and putting up with my angry father who shouted a lot and did not really understand her condition, telling her to ‘snap out of it’). I’m sure this situation iaffected me (though it did not appear to affect my siblings - elder sister , younger brother - unduly). Perhaps I shared ‘anxious’ genes with those of my mother. My father I could not seem ever to please and I was fearful of him in childhood.
High school I really enjoyed. I mdae friends there and was good at sports as well as academic subjects, coming top of trhe class many times. I was meticulous in my approach to school and homework, often spending up to 6 hours every evening working. It became an obsession for me, shy in making friends outside school (though secretly I longed to.
The change in my attitude came when, after ‘O’ level exams (I did the best in school), I stayed on into the 6th form to do ‘A’ levels - much harder exams. However, mainly because of my discovery of friends, a social life, and the pursuit of the fair sex, I did little school work and consequently failed all my exams. I had the vattitude that I needed respite from the great efforts I made to secure my ‘O’ levels.
This failure did not appear unduly to bother me at the time. I got a job as a laboratory assistant and really enjoyed the next 4 years with my ‘mates’ from work. I re-took and passed my ‘A’ levels, going on to further education on day-release, which I did not enjoy. I subsequently failed badly in myexams. However, off my own bat I went to night school to learn about computing. This was in the mid 1960’s when commercial computing was in its infancy. Eventually I secured a position as a trainee computer programmer in another company. This proved a big turning point in my life.
At this time (unusually for me) I had a long-term girlfriend. My working conditions were totally different from those of the lab.. I had few friends at work and felt out of my depth learning about computers. I feared failure and making a fool of myself. This coupled with the claustrophobic feelings I felt in my relationship, drifting towards marriage (she was very keen) with my girl conspired to cause a ‘breakdown’. For the first time in my life I suffered bad panic attacks. Nothing can prepare you for these moments especially if you are naive about the physiological causes. I was 25 years old and VERY VERY frightened.
Soon followed much medication and psychiatric interviews. Nothing really helped. I felt overwhelmed (like an ant cotemplating climbing Mount Everest). Time off work made me worse - more time to focus on the problem. I struggled to come to terms with my job. My boss though was quite understanding and kind as medication (especially Valium and MOAI’s). I gained sufficient to get a better job, where for 4 years I was reasonably stable. Married now and still feeling trapped my wife stopped taking the contraceptive pill - without my knowledge and fell pregnant -which made me very angry. I was not ready for children. But she lost the child in pregnancy and then proceeded to repeat the deceit of not taking the pill and again becoming pregnant. Again she miscarried. Tiring of this relationship I would seek out other ladies and eventually had a mini affair. This ended and my wife took me back. By this time I had moved to another company (thinking it a good move along my career path). Yet again i felt out of my depth. These feelings (plus those of guilt over my adultery) caused another very stressful period leading to my wife’s inability to cope with my illness and she left me.
Again, devastation. This forced me to return to live with my parents. Feelings of rejection andfailure contributed to another ‘breakdown’. This meant more medication, psychiatric help and attendance at the hospital day centre, where I met other like-minded and troubled people. This was supposed to help me but only served to exacerbate my depressed and anxious feelings.
Slowly but surely I managed, after several sessions of ECT to drag myself back to a semblance of reality. I was still on medication, jobless and living with my parents. I would live for the pub in the evenings with friends and acquaintances.
Divorce followed - a few short relationships also. I abandoned my computer career as being too stressful and difficult for me. My father found me a manual job, which I hated (fellow workers were rather coarse and uneducated). Again I felt a failure, but I stuck at the job for approximately 11 years.
Eventually I plucked up the courage to consult the local employment agency. There, we agreed I should take a degree course in Textiles at college. I felt huge relief at my new career prospects, but also anxiety and apprehension about the future.
By this time I was in a new relationship (it was 1988), which led to marriage and my new wife helped support me whilst studying, though I did have an educational grant. My new wife, however proved unable or unwilling to cope with my anxiety periods. After obtaining my degree (with Honours) and after failing to cope with my first job (I was dismissed), this relationship also disintegrated and led to divorce.
However, helped by a good GP and new medication (Paroxetine) which worked well, I did not suffer too much from the marriage break-p and loss of job. I became self-employed as a broker of stationery printing. Working for myself, living frugally and not requiring much money to live, I felt much less pressure and now divorced, living in my own small house alone, a period (about 9 years) of relative stability ensued. I felt quite happy and fulfilled during this time.
Then in 2005/06 I had another ‘breakdown’, caused possibly by reducing my medication and/or some issues concerning a fall-out with a good friend (now resolved). This breakdown was quite severe and prolonged. It was only after sessions with a Psychotherapist undergoing CBT that I learned to cope better and not to rely too much on medication (though I did not reduce it).
Not having had a vacation for about 13 years, owing to my self-employment, I longed for a substantial break. I was keen to see something of the world and I chose to visit India, backpacking. My Psychiatrist thought it would be too much of an undertaking for me, however despite my fears, I plucked up enough courage to go. To assuage my fears I teamed up with a ‘companion to travel’ (from the internet) who was an experienced traveller. I was in India for 9 weeks backpacking around, mostly alone since I split up from my companion over differences of opinions as to the itinerary. I was forced to book trains and accommodation as I circuited this vast country and I felt really pleased and confident that I had the wherewithal and courage to accomplish this. In retrospect this achievement was a turning point in my life.
Since then (2008), despite the anxiety (which I still suffered but coped better) I have travelled (for 3 months at a time) to S.E. Asia, Central America, South America, Philippines, Ireland, Russia and Est Africa, all backpacking trips, booking transport and hostel accommodation on the way (not bad for a near 70 year old.
Also I have obtained my TEFL qualification and taught English in China (twice) to schoolchildren. This brings me up to the present day. I’m working towards more teaching in China (I love the place) later this year.
THIS HAS BEEN MY HISTORY. THANKS TO EVERYONE WHO HAS READ IT, HOWEVER LONG-WINDED.
MY NEXT POST WILL DEAL WITH HOW MY ANXIETY AFFECTS ME AND LATER HOW I COPE.