Hi everyone. I used to spend hours on these forums back in 2013 and early 2014 when I thought my life was practically over. I had always been an anxious person but since November 2013 I experienced the single worst time of my life as extreme anxiety caused depression (I didn't even know it was depression back then). I didn't know what to do or how to survive so I would read these forums for hope, just to keep me going. Each day was a case of surviving. I wanted to write a summary of my story here because once life starts getting better it is very easy to concentrate on other things (like life itself!), and a lot of people come here needing help or support but then you don't find out what happened to them later. Now I am doing really well, finishing my studies and all!
Back then, several stressful events led to my anxiety reaching extreme levels. I didn't even know it was possible to feel that bad. I had dizziness, racing heart, chest pains, sore swollen throat and so on. I would wake up crying, and had nightmares every night. I described it feeling like the adrenalin valve had been turned on and I couldn't turn it off. I tried all the natural stuff (valerian, passion flower etc), meditation and so on. Simple word associations related to my worries would send me into a panic attack (crying, hyperventilating, I felt like an animal trapped in a cage). I had racing, obsessive thoughts that wouldn't stop. They were really catastrophic and always ended with me thinking my life was over and that it was all my fault. I couldn't check the mail, email, even watch the news. I stopped watching TV and using the computer for fear something would set me off. Then I slid into depression: really dark thoughts that came out of nowhere, only wanting to sleep, waking up really early. In the end I would go and sit in a cafe with a cup of hot chocolate just because I knew nothing could happen to me there. My worries were completely irrational but to me I was CERTAIN that they would all happen, no matter what anyone said. I got really paranoid, and didn't eat for days at a time because I had no appetite.
As you can tell, this is not the way to live a life. It went on for 3 or 4 months, just getting worse, especially the obsessive, circling thoughts and the depressive symptoms. I told a few people and they would talk to me a lot, that often helped for a few minutes but the next day I would wake up hyperventilating again. EVENTUALLY I began to wonder if everyone else was right...that maybe at least part of it was in my head, and I should go to the doctor. Nothing terrible had actually happened to me - I just kept being certain that it would. I went to the university psychologist who sent me straight to the doctor. I burst into tears there before I could even explain how I felt. I had written all my "symptoms" on paper because I didn't know which were real or which were relevant. She asked a few questions, then called a psychiatrist and made me an appointment. She also ordered me to go to a psychologist.
The psychiatrist put me on an SSRI (I won't say which one because I don't want to seem like I am advertising a company). It took 3.5 weeks to kick in. First I just had side effects: my vision got a tiny bit worse (still is), I have some tiny muscle spasms (mainly when feeling relaxed), dry mouth, sometimes clenching teeth. They were things I could live with, but I was so sceptical that the medicine wouldn't work. first week I was very up and down, I had a panic attack and one really terrible hour of crying, I just lay in bed and waited for it to go. Suddenly around 3 weeks I started to notice that the odd hour or even 2 hours would come that I felt a little bit optimistic, and sometimes even the thought entered my head that "maybe those things that I am worrying about aren't necessarily going to happen", or even that "even if they happen, maybe it won't be the end of my life".
These periods got more and more, and by 5 weeks I was feeling SO MUCH BETTER. I haven't had a panic attack since. I get the odd "adrenalin feeling" as I call it, but the breathing and muscle exercises my psychologist taught me helps with that (they wouldn't have helped back when I was sick, it was too strong then). Several months on I am now finishing my studies, doing well at work, and feeling very optimistic. I can see which of my worries were irrational and some were even downright ridiculous. A few things still worry me but I know that I can deal with them. My appetite is back and I am no longer depressed. I am looking forward to the future. My psych is helping me to learn lots of tricks and tools for dealing with anxiety disorder and obsessive worrying. I really think that the SSRI saved my life, and the psych sessions will help me to deal with the future. Maybe one day I can taper off the SSRI but for now I just want to feel normal for a while, go out with friends, be productive at work and at uni.
I hope that you all can find the help that you need, whether it is medical, counselling or whatever. I would recommend seeking help as soon as you know that your life is being disadvantaged by your condition. If you get any depressive symptoms, go to the doctor straight away. Talk to friends and family. And know that anxiety and depression are disorders that can be treated and you CAN get better. I did!