Real Stories: “I relied heavily on alcohol to manage my anxiety”
Kerri's anxiety has made her life difficult, but she is learning new ways to cope with it
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"I went to the doctor almost fortnightly, not wanting to believe it was depression. I wanted to check every other avenue – was it a hormonal imbalance, something wrong with my glands or pancreas, was it a bad side effect to the pill, absolutely anything."
I used to associate depression or anxiety with people who were sad and cried all the time. I also thought depression was caused by a massive life trauma such as a loved one dying or job loss etc; I was wrong. I was quite confident in secondary school, I was academic, outgoing, with a big group of friends – as soon as I moved back home after my first college flop in DCU it all started to change. It’s easy to think “she’s a young girl, sure what would she be anxious or sad about?!” – but age, gender, social background etc make no difference when it comes to anxiety.
Early 2012 I noticed I was full of self-doubt, always looking for reassurance from others in all aspects of my life, unmotivated, highly anxious and generally miserable. Instead of talking about this I relied heavily on alcohol – as a young person, this is seen as relatively normal, drinking is the a main past time for young people of our generation so I didn’t see it as a major problem. But if anything it fuelled my low moods and anxiousness.
When I returned back to college in Cork, my mood picked up for a while but over the course of the next year or so it would deteriorate again. My anxiety went through the roof, going to lectures was beyond daunting and minor panic attacks ensued almost daily at the thought of going into a lecture full of strangers. I would enter just before it was about to start and dart out the second it ended, class parties terrified me and the words “group project” or “class presentation” made me feel physically ill.
I wanted to do well academically but I was so unmotivated; I wanted to have loads of college friends and be sociable but I physically could not bring myself to do so. I stopped going out as much and would feel safest in the comfort of my own room. I loved going home and would find any excuse to come home early, some weeks I even took off completely as I couldn’t bring myself to journey up to college. My results took the brunt of it. I would miss so many lectures and be an absolute mess around exam time, feeling severely under pressure.
I went to the doctor almost fortnightly, not wanting to believe it was depression I wanted to check every other avenue – was it a hormonal imbalance, something wrong with my glands or pancreas, was it a bad side effect to the pill, absolutely anything. I demanded endless blood tests but eventually I accepted the fact when told by my doctor.
At the start of 2015 my depression reached its peak, I was irritable, mood swings like no tomorrow, my anxiety almost bordered paranoia at some stages. All I can describe it as, is like the daily version of “The Fear” – like what most of us experience after a heavy nights drinking, however this “fear” would occur almost daily.
I was nauseous, a sense of guilt (even when I’d done nothing wrong) and extremely paranoid. If a friend didn’t text back I’d assume they were mad at me for some ridiculous reason – my head was an abundance of irrational thoughts, constantly. From the moment I woke up to the moment I went to bed, completely irrational thoughts would takeover my mind. Causing me to be emotionally and mentally drained. My sleep suffered – if I did sleep it would be broken. Study became impossible due to my level of procrastination. My part time work even suffered and I had no choice but to take time off. To be brutally honest I thought I was losing my mind, that is how overwhelming it was.
It is important to talk to people but you must be aware not all people will act as you would hope. Some people will never grasp what is going on inside your head and will label you as “crazy” they will tell you it’s all in your head and to essentially get over it, this however is a minority group, thankfully.
The majority of the great support system I had around me were amazing; some of them will never understand the importance they played in my coping – some of my friends would endure nonsensical phone calls with me wailing down the phone until I calmed down, others coming to my house while I just napped because I was so mentally exhausted
My family were also very supportive; My Dad would notice I was upset and would only have to ask me what was up for me to let it all out to him while he simply listened and let me cry, my mother on the other hand would let me cry on the phone to her but then be on hand to give me solid advice on what to do.
Don’t get me wrong I’m not a ball of anxiety all the time but it is always niggling in the back of my mind. I primarily wrote this piece because I honestly thought that I was the only one feeling this way – I thought I was going crazy.. So my message is to others that more people suffer from this than you realise, believe me. There are many ways to combat this; I would recommend talking to your Doctor or a counsellor. Certain things work for different people, if I’m stressed I will walk for ages while listening to music. Others have mindfulness techniques, meditation – their are many different coping mechanisms.
Worrying the odd time, or getting stressed in certain situations such as before a big match or job interview is perfectly okay and having the occasional bad day or week here or there is completely normal as well. But when you feel like you can’t function or do normal day-to- day things because you are feeling particularly anxious or low that’s when you should seek some help. It is possible to manage a life with anxiety. Don't be afraid to ask for help.