Light at the end of the tunnel
Posted Friday 14 September 2012
The other day, I sat watching the second closing ceremony of this amazing summer of sport and it made me really sad.
Four weeks of once-in-a-lifetime opportunities and I couldn’t say the words that seemed to be on everyone else’s lips… ‘I was there!’
Don’t get me wrong, watching on the TV at home in South London, I was filled with pride: pride for our athletes, our capital and our country. And I was thoroughly entertained too. But I wanted to be in that stadium and I wasn’t.
I could have volunteered. I could have got tickets for any of the venues during the Games - or at least tried - but I didn’t. I wish I had.
My panic attacks have been mainly travel-focused: I didn’t go on the underground for over 18 months; there was a long while when I couldn’t even go one stop on a train; and there were months when I didn’t drive because I couldn’t cope with the onslaught of adrenaline and what I believed I would do if the demon of my anxiety took control of the wheel.
Well, you can imagine that the idea of travelling across London with the hundreds of thousands of Olympic and Paralympic supporters was too much to even contemplate. Not to mention being in a huge stadium: all those queues to get in and out; seats high up in the stands; people over-excited and screaming everywhere... It was just too many variables that I couldn’t control.
Right now, as I write this, I’m relieved to report that my panic attacks are almost a thing of the past. I’m living back in London (I absconded from life, work and the city for a year to live with my parents) and, despite dark days from time to time, I’m pretty happy in myself. I have my life back.
But sitting watching the ceremonies, I was reminded of the damage my anxiety did to my life. I said no to many, many opportunities because just the thought of them terrified me.
So, I wanted to write this blog for all those of you who are still in that dark and horrible place: where everyday life is a mission, where the simplest of tasks are impossible and what should be joyful experiences become torture.
I wanted to write and say ‘I was there’… maybe not in that stadium. But I was there where you are. Some days I still am. But things can change.
I don’t pretend to know what’s going on with anyone else: I’m still figuring out my own things. But I wonder if I share a little of my journey with you, you might be able to walk a little easier in my footsteps, follow some of my breadcrumbs…
And, as terribly clichéd as it sounds, if my experience can help someone else overcome their own nightmare, I’ll feel like that year of my life that I’ll never get back will not be completely wasted.
For me, it wasn’t just one thing. It wasn’t one magical day when I was suddenly OK, or suddenly on the road to recovery. But there were some significant stages that got me there:
- I started telling people the truth about what I was going through
- I refused anti-depressants and anti-anxiety drugs
- I got professional help and found an amazing CBT therapist
- I started blogging
- I took up exercise and lots of it
- I tried to celebrate the little victories and not forget how far I’d come
I’m not completely cured yet. But I’m getting there and I will get there, just one day at a time.
Right now my one hope for the future is that I’ll have the courage to say yes to the things that scare me, and the faith that I will find a way to do them when the time comes. I want to be able to grab life with both hands and take every opportunity I can. I want the rest of my life to ring out with the words: ‘I was there’ and I’m determined to make it happen!
This is an edited version of Jules's blog post - you can read the full version and more about Jules's experiences on her own blog.
Read more about anxiety and depression and where to go for advice and support.
If you are struggling with similar feelings, you can get in touch with your local Mind or call our infoline team on 0300 123 3393.
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