I started suffering from symptoms of anxiety and depression during my second year of University. I was in denial about it all and tried to brush it under the carpet in the hopes that it would ‘go away’ because I wasn’t ready to accept that there might be something wrong with me. When I first opened up to my mother about it, it was about 8 months after I had been feeling this way. By this point I was suffering from weekly anxiety attacks followed by several days of depression. It was a vicious cycle: My anxiety would reach its peak until I would suffer a sever anxiety attack, then in the comedown of it all my depression would kick in. There wasn’t a day that would go by that I wouldn’t feel depressed, anxious, or both.
Telling my mum, I remember feeling embarrassed to even say the words ‘anxiety’ or ‘depression’. There has always been a stigma around mental health, and I was afraid I would be pigeonholed or classified as ‘crazy’ and that people would look at me or treat me different.
I finally decided to seek help and see a Doctor about it, in Gibraltar, but I didn’t get the response I expected. The first and only thing they offered me was antidepressants.
I felt completely overwhelmed because I hadn’t even accepted that I was suffering from Mental Health issues, and all of the sudden I felt like they were trying to shove antidepressants down my throat and push me aside.
I rejected the antidepressants because I felt that surely this wasn’t the answer to everything, was there no other way around this? were there no steps I could take before resorting to this? Is there no other way that could potentially help me get to the root of the problem?
I was told another option would be to go to counselling, but for that I would have to be referred and it would be a while before I see anyone. I was shocked at this because I thought that in the meantime I could potentially get worse. Luckily, I was heading back to my third year of University so I thought I would deal with it in the UK and seek help there.
The help I got in the UK was really good, I went to the doctors again there and they advised me that although there were anti-depressants I could take, there were also other ways to go about it. They got in contact with my University and told them what I had been going through. My University were very understanding and were willing to hep in any way they could, so they sent me a form to fill in a sort of questionnaire to see where I stand so that they could provide me with the help I needed.
The form sat in my email inbox for weeks on end because I was still afraid and embarrassed to accept that I was suffering from Mental Health Issues.
During those weeks, I became progressively worse, I started suffering from daily anxiety attacks and my depression was not far behind. I started having outbursts of anger, self-harming and left wondering what the point of life was. I felt completely lost in life.
It took that much for me to wake up and seek the help I knew I needed because I could not bare to spend my whole life feeling this way, and so I finally filled in the form and started attending counselling twice a week.
Counselling was not easy, it felt uncomfortable to talk about my feelings and everything I went through, but after time it got easier and they provided me with techniques and the tools I needed to control my anxiety and depression while getting to the route of the problem. I distanced myself from certain people because unfortunately I surrounded myself with people who would play it to their advantage. I slowly started becoming more self-aware of triggers and slowly but surely my anxiety attacks decreased and my depression subsided.
A year down the line since my last counselling session, I haven’t suffered an anxiety attack in 9 months.
So for me, there was a light at the end of the tunnel, it was a difficult journey, but I got there in the end. Mental Health is not a ‘one size fits all’ there are different ways to deal with it that would work for different people. Going to see a counsellor is as normal as going to the doctors if you ever feel ill. If I would have just taken the anti-depressants and not gone to counselling, I could potentially still be going through the same thing.