My lived experience with anxiety and depression – Dean

‘Thank you Dean for sharing your story’ – WTF

The Ascent

It is hard to believe that it was 18 months since I was diagnosed with suffering from anxiety and depression. It has felt both the longest and yet quickest period of time in my entire life. At the beginning, when I was first barely starting to comprehend what was happening to me, time felt that it had slowed to the point of standing still. Every hour of every day was gripped by pain, fear and endless worrying. I had slipped from a very promising position in my career, having recently achieved a promotion in a job that I had set my sights on ever since I knew what I wanted to do as a career – ‘my mountain top’ if you will.

What I did not account for was the stormy weather at the top of that mountain, or in fact during the climb. Dark clouds rumbled away in the background drawing closer, but I pushed on, not realising the danger. When I reached the summit, I turned, slipped on a rock and fell tumbling down the other side – this peak was too short lived.

 I had a near total breakdown; I felt internally broken and yet somehow knew that I needed to find a foothold somewhere. Something to hold on to, to stop me slipping any further into the darkness. Those footholds have come in many different forms over the past 18 months, each helping me to begin to start climbing again.

I was quickly given the opportunity to have CBT therapy, prompted by swift actions from my GP – who I give so much thanks for helping to explain to me what was happening to me at the beginning. I will be honest; the CBT saved my life. It changed my thinking, helped me to understand that some of my thoughts were ‘faulty’ and in fact hurting myself as a result. Each session taught me something new about myself and I began to understand how I actually worked, thought and perceived the world around me and my place in it.

Just before I began my therapy, I was prescribed sertraline, a form of antidepressant medication. At first I was unsure, falling in line with the negative views of taking this type of medication. I did my own research to understand what it actually did, which helped me to gratefully receive it – and I’m so glad I did. Medication has helped me to function day to day and if I feel better because I’m taking it, then it is worth it.

As I slowly began to ascend again, I also began engaging back with aspects of my life that had seemed lost before. I rediscovered my love for football, keeping fit and healthy felt that it had renewed purpose once again. I developed a new love for walking, reading and even doing jigsaws – all activities that help me either focus the mind away from the negative, or help to clear it and replace any ill thinking with some peace and serenity.

The final, but by no means least important footholds for me have been connections with people. My wife, family, friends, colleagues, team mates and people that I have encountered who have shared their experiences of managing their mental health with me. Each time I have shared how I’ve felt, each time they have text, phoned or emailed asking ‘how I am doing’ has made life quite simply, better. I was scared at first, that relationships would change because they would see me as ‘someone with problems’ and they would treat me differently because of that.  I was right in part that relationships with these people have changed – they’ve become even stronger than they were before. If I have learnt anything at all over the last year and a half, it is to never undervalue the power of talking to a person about how you feel.

And so all of this combined has brought me to this point in time. I am a different person because of my experiences and that personally is a good thing. I have changed for the better and I am ‘on top’ of my anxiety. There may be days and times up ahead of me when things become challenging again – I am not naïve enough to think that I am suddenly ‘cured’ because my mental wellbeing is better right now. However, I am better prepared in knowing that if things do get tough, I know I’ve got ways to manage, challenge and improve it. These are the tools that I use to keep on climbing.

Right now, it’s sunny and clear outside as I’m typing this – I think I’m going to stay and enjoy the views from the top of this mountain a little while longer…


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