By OLIVER SHAWYER
I was first diagnosed with severely extreme anxiety just over two years ago. Combined with extreme depression, I was quite a mess and in desperate need for help.
I used to sit on the train in to work crying as I stared out the window – trying to convince myself that everything was going to be ok – that I could get through the day. I used to look at everyone else through my sunglasses and wish I was them. They smiled. They laughed. They didn’t smile. They didn’t laugh. I didn’t care – I just figured they were better off than I was.
This would happen every single morning for weeks at a time. I’d sit in work meetings and my mind would panic incessantly. To try and cope with the moment, I used to dig my fingers into my legs, my arms, my body – inciting enough pain to distract myself and avoid bursting into tears in front of everyone. Often I would end up in the bathroom, hidden in the cubical with tears continuously falling.
I felt as low as I think I could ever go. I just wanted to disappear. I didn’t know how to stop my mind from racing. I no longer had any control over my thoughts and I’d somehow developed the ability to take a truly trivial topic, and in the same draw of breath, allow it to transform into a monster of self-destruction. From “Am I prepared for this meeting” to “these people in the meeting don’t like me” to “I don’t like me”.
I refused to tell anyone what was going on, and in fact hid from everyone to avoid having to do so. I sacrificed friends. I sacrificed my family. I made a solid effort of destroying a number of personal relationships. It ultimately got to a point where I would refuse to leave my house because I didn’t want anyone to know that ‘the once confident bloke’ was actually incredibly ‘weak’ and ‘pathetic’. Every situation I should’ve been able to explore in life was ruined by my overpowering anxieties.
I could always tell myself it was anxiety in some form – but I thought there had to be more to it than ‘just’ that. For first time in my life, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to fix this myself – I needed help.
It was only hours earlier that I’d literally ‘run away’ from my Advertising job and checked myself into the nearest GP. From there I was immediately referred to my psychologist and have since worked every day at beating every aspect of this debilitating illness.
Within the first few sessions I started feeling instant relief. I had someone that would listen, not judge and truly offer me external insight to who I was and what I was dealing with. Into the person I’d forgotten I could be. She changed my life. And I haven’t looked back.
Whilst everyone is different, having an ear to talk too is one of the most effective ways to work through this. Whilst there are a number of other incredible tools which I used through organisations such as beyondblue, nothing worked better for me than educating myself, learning about it and talking to people about it. And I hope to continue doing so.
For so long I thought I was alone. I thought that I could handle this all by myself. It took me far too long to actively seek help because I was stubborn. I was naïve and I was so scared of what ‘they’ would say.
And that is exactly why I write today – to tell you, to remind you, to assure you.
You are never alone. You don’t need to handle this by yourself. You don’t have to wait until it’s too late to get help. And most importantly – no one is ever going to judge you.
If you think you have any of the symptoms of Anxiety, don’t keep it to yourself. beyondblue has worked incredibly hard to remove a lot of the stigma around Depression and Anxiety Disorder – so rest assured that you have nothing to be ashamed of. You are so much stronger than you realise.
Embrace Anxiety and own it. Because the moment you do is the moment you start learning how to deal with it and the moment things get just a little bit easier. Fight this fight with me. We can all do it together.
Anxiety. We know who you are. You now have a face. You now have a voice. And beyondblue has just distributed a raft of ‘WANTED’ posters that are being plastered up on every street corner in Australia. Your chances of being caught in-the-act has just increased ten-fold.
At the beginning of the week, beyondblue turned the spotlight on Anxiety Disorder and its symptoms in Australia, with the launch of their intense and confronting ‘Get to Know Anxiety’ campaign. After thirteen years of moving mountains to raise awareness and understanding of Depression, the organisation has now shifted their primary focus on this illness that amazingly affects approximately 1 in 4 of us.
I happen to be one of them.
If you think you are suffering from anxiety, or you know someone who is, go to beyondblue to find out more.
Oli Shawyer is 27 years old and grew up in Sydney. He works in advertising and heads up a Sydney agency called Behaviour Change Partners. He loves his family, his footy, his yoga, his motorbike and his Xbox. He has a new found love for life and continuously looks to grab every opportunity he can with both hands. You can follow him on Twitter here.