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Anxiety and me

Michelle talks openly about her experience with anxiety and how it impacted her


Written by Michelle O'Connor and posted in opinion


This is an opinion of a young person and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of SpunOut.ie. It is one person's experience and may be different for you. If you'd like to write something for SpunOut.ie please contact editor@spunout.ie.


"I began to absolutely dread my friends wanting me to socialise after work, I wanted to see them, but I had no energy."

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When I was 21 I was diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and my counsellor told me to go to group counselling sessions for low self-esteem. She felt the decisions I had made in my life were due to a lack of confidence, attracting a certain type of person to me, which in turn led to the traumatic event, etc.

This seemed to help me for a while, but three years later I realised that I wasn’t really okay and it wasn’t just self-esteem. So I did what I had always done – throw myself into study, and luckily I had a Masters degree to keep my brain occupied. That had always been my strategy when my mood started to drop; find something that takes up all my mental energy and throw myself into it.

That doesn’t work. It’s a head-in-sand situation and it’s simply just deflecting thoughts rather than actually dealing with them. Well, I mean it worked for me to an extent, but then, inevitably, reality hit.

In the middle of the summer when I was writing my thesis, I ended up in A&E with severe pains in my stomach. I was referred to a gastroenterologist and sent for ultrasounds, scopes and scans. The results of those and my blood tests came back normal. The consultant thought maybe I’d had a small ulcer in my stomach that had healed over in the waiting time between A&E and the tests. I was given some antibiotics and sent on my way. 

I was fine, I graduated and started working soon after. Part-time at first, and then full time in a new job. A “normal” job; I had a desk and a computer and a swipe card to access the building. And then in November 2015 I started to notice that my stomach wasn’t great, I had nausea almost every time I ate, when I woke up and when I was going asleep. I knew I wasn’t pregnant and it couldn’t be morning sickness.

I put the exhaustion I was suffering down to the commute in and out of work, which takes anything between an hour and an hour and a half each way. I figured that the winter was taking a toll on me, that spending all the daylight hours inside under fluorescent lights was negatively affecting my mood. So I started to go for walks around St. Stephen’s Green during lunch, getting on the bus a stop farther away, and eating healthier.

None of those helped me. I began to absolutely dread my friends wanting me to socialise after work, I wanted to see them, but I had no energy, I felt like I would just drain them with my fatigue. I was sleeping from between 8 and 9 hours every week night, and for 10 to 12 hours on Friday and Saturday nights. I woke up exhausted.

The straw that broke the camel’s back came at the end of February this year. My mind was really just, I felt, uncontrollable. Anytime I had a drink, I would cry the next day. For anything. For nothing. I had been unable to concentrate on anything for months, and my short term memory was starting to slip. I used to be able to sit for 6 hours a day reading, and I couldn’t even make it to 6 minutes now without losing concentration. I made the decision that I needed help, so I decided to go to the GP. I didn’t tell anyone I was going, because I felt defeated.

I was called into the doctor’s surgery and when he asked me what he could do for me today, I started to cry. I told him about the lack of concentration, energy and memory. I told him about my stomach problems and the persistent pulsing in my ears, tinnitus deafeningly loud whenever I was lying in bed. He checked; there was no wax build up.

“You seem to be suffering from textbook anxiety and stress.”

I couldn’t run any more. I was prescribed a very mild dose of an SSRI recommended for sufferers of anxiety and asked if I would consider counselling. I agreed to give the medication a try, tentatively, in order to prepare myself for the counselling that I will start in a few months.

I still feel odd about being on medication, but I’ve already finished reading a novel for the first time in a year and I’ve met up with friends almost every evening after work. The medication for me is a short-term solution, to give me the energy to work on myself and reformat my thought process.

I know it’s working, because when I step on the overcrowded bus into work in the mornings now, I no longer imagine myself trapped on it forever. If I miss my stop, it doesn’t matter – I’ll get there in the end.

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Published April 21st2016
Last updated August 9th2018
Tags anxiety mental health know anxiety
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