According to ADAA (Anxiety and Depression Association of America), anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the States ages 18 and older, or 18% of the population.
It isn’t uncommon for someone with an anxiety disorder to also suffer from depression or vise versa. Nearly one half of those diagnosed with depression are also diagnosed with anxiety disorder.
I’ve been battling depression for almost half of my life, and anxiety for a handful of years already. The latter just gets worse as I get on in years.
I wasn’t like this.
I had a normal childhood. I’m the eldest of three. I went to school like any other kid. I was a student of the Montessori educational system. I was an average student in grade school with average grades but my sixth grade, I asked my mom for an appointment with a psychiatrist. I wasn’t able to have that appointment.
I reached high school and, by my estimation, my depression really started there. I wasn’t prepared mentally and emotionally, I think, for the constant bullying I had experienced. I’m not the type of person to say something mean to someone out of spite. Anyway, I don’t know what else had triggered it. I could only pinpoint the bullying.
I had thoughts on committing suicide during those days. I had my”ideal way” to kill myself. I was a cutter as well. Seeing my blood trickle down my wrists was a sort of high for me. But I fear death and I have my family to think about as well. Sensing how dangerous I had become to myself, I turned to writing as a form of therapy.
For a while, I managed. I had not regressed so far. I was doing well in nursing school and even if I had to repeat a semester because of a failed subject, I still did well. Mentally, that is. I thought less of hurting myself. I wrote and wrote until I did not have anything else to write about. During my last semester, some of the faculty found out about what I had going on and it was a nice support system aside from my friends.
I mentioned earlier that I also have anxiety. I guess, from the symptoms I have, I’m suffering from GAD or Generalized Anxiety Disorder.
GAD is characterized by persistent, excessive, and unrealistic worry about everyday things. People with the disorder experience excessive anxiety and worry even when there is no apparent reason for concern. Symptoms include restlessness, being easily fatigued, difficulty concentrating, irritability, muscle tension, and sleep disturbance. In order to be diagnosed, an adult must have 3 or more of the following symptoms on most days for a period of at least 6 months or longer. (source)
More often than not I panic or feel anxious not knowing why. Even if I’m walking down the street, I would suddenly feel scared out of my wits. My heart rate goes up to 120 beats/min or more, I feel restless, and I want to run away.
I noticed one of the symptoms (restlessness) while dad was driving me to work one day. I was on edge and I was tempted to open the car door and get off while he was driving. My first thought was maybe I might be having an asthma attack since I also felt like I’m about to hyperventilate. The next episode was a few days later when dad was driving me to work and I thought that I must be claustrophobic, so I opened the car door windows which gave me relief. However, claustrophobia doesn’t affect me when I’m in enclosed areas such as an elevator. I chose to ignore the signs because I did not know what it was.
The symptoms did not just “concentrate” there. I would often wake up in the middle of the night in cold sweat, tachycardic and hyperventilating. Those things are not even caused by having a nightmare. I would then have trouble sleeping afterwards.
The worse attack that I had experienced would be 2 years ago. I was starting fresh at this local hospital. I have no idea what had happened during the training phase but the night prior to being deployed to our specific wards, I couldn’t sleep. I wondered why. I felt I was being choked. I was extremely anxious and worried. I kept on staring at my bedroom window because I dearly wanted to jump through it.
For several days, as I started to work, I couldn’t sleep. Literally couldn’t sleep. I had difficulty eating as well. I tried to force myself to eat but I would vomit moments after. I forced myself to function normally but I struggle. I was very aloof at work. I ignored everyone at home. Unfortunately, it started to affect how I worked. I, shamefully, AWOL-ed.
Today, I had another one of those worse episodes. Today, I am embarrassingly absent from work.
Mental illness here in the Philippines, in my opinion, is taboo. It is disgraceful for a family to have one of their members have any form of mental instability. Likewise, it is taboo for my family as well. I sought for psychiatric help but I got none because they thought I was just going through a phase in my teens.
Writing helped me from my depressive episodes but I don’t think that it has an impact on my anxiety. I still fell quite anxious as I am writing all of these down. I think I am at a point wherein I might need medication.
However, psychiatric consultations are expensive than regular health consultations and currently, I do not have the necessary funds for such. In the hospital where I am working at do not have psychiatric OPD so a free check-up isn’t available.
Other people think that depression is a fad, being “emo”. Some people also think that anxiety disorder is just a fancy way to say that someone is scared. It’s not. They are both not. It’s hard and it sucks and to be going through it almost every single day is hell.