I woke up soaking wet in sweat, it happens a lot lately…
I’m flying home today, after 4 years, is that true? It can’t be true. I’m excited but paralysed of fear. Nervous, shaking, I feel I’ll throw up any minute now. ‘What if the plane crashes?’, ‘What if my head explodes?’, ‘What if I have an infection and my appendix blows up on the plane?’ The beast has awaken once more…
I used to love flying. Absolutely adored it. And now, now I’m dreading it so much I may faint at any point on my way to the airport.
I was to fly home with my ex-boyfriend. We were together for 5 years and he hasn’t visited my home country yet. I’ve booked a hotel in Paphos and planned daytrips to show him around. But his passport got washed by accident, he needed a new one, the Greek Embassy in London is ridiculously horrible blah blah blah. I don’t think he ever had any desire to come with me anyway…
I still really wanted to go despite my severe anxiety attacks and my extremely, hit rock bottom confidence. I’ve put on weight, I was unhappy, I hated my body, my daily routine, I hated myself. Costas and I argued a lot, I rarely felt appreciated and although I told him about my troubles he couldn’t help me. He was dealing with depression himself.
I did well to hide it from my family and my friends. I smiled, I joked as if everything was OK. But inside. Inside, the pain was real. I struggled almost every day, I was scared to do anything and my anxiety also developed to hypochondria. I often diagnosed myself with cancer. The pain was not just mental, it was physical. My breast hurt, my teeth hurt, my head hurt, everything hurt. My mind made my body hurt to convince me I was gravely ill.
That’s what anxiety does to you. It blurs your mind. It turns simple daily tasks into a nightmare, it makes you paranoid, it makes you scared to leave the room. It’s painful. Your head, your brain, your mind hurts. Everything hurts. It’s noisy, never quiet in there and that drains you. It sucks the life out of you.
But I made it. I made it home. And I ended up staying three weeks instead of two and had the best time ever. A friend’s wedding, my sister’s birthday, days at the beach, daytrips around the island, my sister and her friend taking part in a TV music show, severe sunburn. A three week ray of sunshine in my grey, miserable life.
That was the very first time I realised I was in a dead end relationship and I also needed help. But right now the only one who could really help me was myself. Or I thought that nobody else would because I did not want to ask for help from anyone. ‘Who can I ask? I don’t have any close friends in Southampton and I don’t want to worry my family or my friends.’
After I went back I was in tears daily, fighting with my worst enemy, myself to put these irrational thoughts aside and get out of this dark hole.
And I made it. I joined the workplace choir, I started exercising and improved my diet and I later joined SingNow choir which was a turning point for me. I met my best friend, my Sheba, I’ve made great friends and that’s what opened my eyes to the beauty and love I missed out of for years because I was told to ‘be careful what you tell others about us’, ‘lose weight’, ‘you can’t do this’, ‘that’s not good enough’.
I still had bad days.
Anxiety and depression never go away. They are always there at the back of your mind and they make their appearance again when you least expect it, when you are already down on your knees, crying your eyes out, because life got too much again…
After the breakup and my aunt’s death I was in denial and avoided even the tiniest opportunity to deal with the demons that tormented me for years. I was out all the time, drinking, travelling, avoiding any time with myself. I was not used to being on my own, let alone on my own with two of my least favourite friends residing in my brain.
It finally caught up with me about a year ago. It slowly started in November but it reached its worst point in January. I couldn’t eat, I didn’t want to go out, I didn’t want to see anyone. I quit SingNow and stopped going to the workplace choir, I turned down any invitations from friends. I isolated myself from everyone. Although I was scared. Terrified. Daily things stressed the hell out of me, getting dressed, making dinner. I often skipped eating completely. I was not hungry anyway.
‘What if I die? Nobody will miss me. At least it will put an end to this pain.’
After I’ve written about it, I pushed, no, I forced myself to get out of it. I slowly crawled out of the hole, towards the light… I re-joined the workplace choir and I went home for a week in April which helped immensely. I didn’t have to worry about trivial things I worried when I was on my own, like ‘Have I left the iron on?’, ‘What if someone breaks in whilst I’m asleep alone at home?’ (I lived on the third floor, highly unlikely).
I decided to take part in the One Sound show, although I still suffered from anxiety attacks. It was different this time around. The year before I was excited and I couldn’t wait, the pros of the denial stage, you feel fearless… for a while.. but this time I was terrified. I cried when I went home after the big rehearsal. Seeing my SingNow friends after months, hugging me, asking me how I was, it was so overwhelmingly beautiful. I was worried even going to the rehearsal, thinking they may hate me.
The show was incredible although I struggled the whole time. I smiled but in my head the noise was louder than the noise of 300 choir singers backstage. Deafening.
I now feel much better. With the help of my incredible, loving, caring colleagues, friends and family but mostly myself I made it to the other side.
There are still times or days I panic and worry about the most meaningless, little things or I feel down but I now know how to help myself get out of it. I know how to cope with it because I never want to hit rock bottom again.
Writing about it, music, yoga, mindfulness, finally loving and accepting myself, talking through it and lots of love from my nearest and dearest are my remedies.
Asking for help and sharing your irrational, crazy or unbelievably sad and depressing thoughts it’s not easy, it may well be the hardest thing of all to do, but it’s the most liberating feeling I’ve ever experienced.
Next time you see someone smile or laugh, do not assume they are OK. They may be fighting a demon inside… This is a snap of me from 2014, at my worst. Would anyone guess from this what was happening in my fucked up mind?
I hope one day mental illness is taken as seriously as any other illness and nobody is ashamed or scared to share their story.