Will's story: My time with anxiety
Will Shears tells us about his experiences with anxiety and how it led him to James’ Place
I now know that I have lived with and experienced anxiety for my entire life although I was not able to identify it was anxiety or why I was experiencing it until much later in my life.
I have vivid memories of my first experiences of anxiety, at the age of 8. It was around the same time as the news coverage of the Iran Uranium enrichment programme and I believed that a nuclear weapon was going to end the world at any given moment.
At around 10 years old I was worried about the bird flu outbreak. I had an overwhelming fear that my family and I were going to be infected and we would all become terribly sick and die. Although these fears may seem trivial now I did lose sleep over them at the time and had to regularly be consoled by my parents over these fears.
Moving on to secondary school, I developed much more physical symptoms of anxiety, especially around exams. I always thought I wasn’t good enough at school, despite being a student that performed well. I experienced shortness of breath, nervousness, sweaty palms, overheating, stomach issues and dizziness when placed in situations I felt like I wasn’t going to perform well in and let people down.
I was struggling to sleep by the time I got to sixth form. This developed into anxiety and depression during my first year of AS level, manifesting itself as a total lack of motivation to do anything. I gave up on my studies and totally bombed all my exams. During the time shortly after my exams I started refusing to go to school, my mum only allowed this to happen once or twice and it ended up with another trip to the GP, again to try and find some sort of solution to get me through this issue. It was a short-term sticking plaster over a bigger problem.
Despite my results I did manage to get into university but I suffered terribly with anxiety, particularly when final year was approaching and the pressure was mounting. After two years of probably not working as hard as I could have and crunch time around the corner, I reached out to my GP to try and find a short-term solution to the inability to focus, constant dread and sleepless nights. I was lucky and medication helped me get through the tough last few months. I thought this would be the end of it, I weened myself off my medication and prepped for life outside of study. How wrong I was.
On the 4th July 2018, my life was turned totally upside down. I was informed that my younger brother, Peter, Ped to family, had died. I lost him to suicide, and in the coming years I would almost lose myself too.
In the following 18 months to 2 years I really started to suffer desperately from anxiety. This anxiety led to a deep depression and eventually a suicidal mental health crisis. From my experience, depression and anxiety go hand in hand, although, this may not be the case for all.
The anxiety that I live with today, started in earnest straight after the death of Ped. The whirlwind of the emotions, not knowing what to do, graduating, my sister moving abroad, having just moved out of student accommodation into a regular rented property all entrenched the feelings of anxiety I had experienced but probably not identified as anxiety throughout my early childhood and adolescence.
I started to use old crutches to help me get by, numbing the pain with alcohol, keeping myself constantly busy amongst many other things, anything to avoid the crushing despair, constant feeling of dread, always feeling unwell and jittery, not being able to sleep, night sweats, picking all the skin around my thumb nails. All of which I now identify as an aspect of self-harm, I wasn’t looking after myself, so I was in essence harming myself.
I did what I did to get by, until I couldn’t. This destroyed my physical health, mental health, relationships both romantic and platonic. I almost lost my life due to my anxiety turning into suicidal depression.
I was referred to James Place in 2020 after reaching out to someone at work to tell them I had suicidal thoughts. It saved my life.
I was also placed on anti-depressants by my GP, and after trying a couple of different medications I found what worked for me. Coupled with the fantastic therapy I received from James Place I learnt to identify when I was feeling anxious, what would trigger it and how I could deal with the symptoms in a healthy manner. For example, incredibly busy scenarios I know trigger an anxious response, my breathing rate starts to increase, and I start to panic, using a simple breathing exercise helps bring my heart rate back down and some clarity and ability to think straight in a situation I find difficult.
I am now able to identify my symptoms of anxiety and be proactive about tackling them instead of letting them run out of control and take over my life. I will forever be grateful for those at James’ Place and those that were there in my time of crisis. They helped me work through it and put mechanisms in place when my anxiety spikes.
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