The Truth Behind the Treatments
Updated: Jun 17, 2020
Finding the right form of treatment can make all the difference in the world, but it is unlikely to be a quick process. In partnership with Bath Mind.
Disclaimer – I would like to state that I am not a professional. This article is written purely based on my own experience. The piece has been devised with the intention of providing comfort to others in that they are not alone. I also intend to shed light and increase awareness of a topic that is not discussed enough. My article should not be taken as medical advice. No person is wired identically and individuals may respond differently to alternative treatments.
The initial stage of beginning to seek professional help can be daunting, like you are about to venture into a cave that you have been warn against, in search of gold you still believe to be of legend. You don’t know what will happen if you will enter the cage, you know it’s a risk but you are so desperately craving the richness of life – something you have only heard of – that you inhale all you can to ready yourself for whatever you may encounter, and take that uncertain step. There will be a constant flow of questions circling your brain – questions of self-doubt, panic and worry. These questions were printed at the forefront of my mind for too long a time. I couldn’t erase them no matter how hard I tried, and those questions began to control any decision I made in regards to progressing forward. The point I had reached within myself was dangerous.
Despite being advised to undergo treatment for my mental illnesses for some time, I always refrained. I was consumed by denial, thinking that I would just miraculously recover without any assistance – and that false optimism only came after I decided to accept there was an issue in the first place.
A timeline of events
After moving to university at 18, my anxiety was magnified to me. I had started the next chapter of my life, but it wasn’t the experience I imagined it to be. My own mind was holding me back in ways I could no longer handle. I was afraid to truly interact with the people I would be living with for the next year because I had lost all connection with who I truly was. I felt guilty as I saw myself to be pretending to be someone I was not; I was presenting a false and unrealistic version of myself to people who had the right to know who I truly was. I was aggravated as I was no longer who I had known myself to be and I had no idea how to find my way back. I was too scared to walk into any seminar one minute late or a lecture alone. I don’t know what I thought would happen but I know that whenever I thought I was brave enough to take those steps forward, I instead found myself walking, freezing, hyperventilating and turning back. There was no way I was able to keep this up, not if I wanted the life I had always romanticised in my head.
Following forcing myself to talk to my doctor, and managing to stutter the notions and fears crippling me from inside out, I was prescribed Propranolol – a beta-blocker that minimises the symptoms of anxiety. I was apprehensive at first, worried that people would consider me weak if they were to find out, so I kept it hidden. They worked for a while. My twice-daily panic attacks had reduced and my hands no longer dripped and quivered, but the emotional distress remained. Beta-blockers have the capability to make you seem ‘ok’ externally, but internally the voice in your mind continues to rush at an inhuman pace.
After I began to suffer more from a chronic illness, of which I had not then been diagnosed, things began to worsen again. I was missing out on the entirety of my life for a different reason. I simply was not fit enough to partake in my own game of life. I began to fear for my future, worrying I wouldn’t succeed. The panic attacks returned fiercer than before. My dosage was increased from 10mg to 40mg, shifting everything in my life into slow motion, minus the voice that had remained inside my head. All I really remember feeling is exhaustion. Things altered somewhat after my chronic illness was under control and summer began to settle in but I still wasn’t content with who I had become.
As time progressed, it seemed as though the waters had begun to calm. The panic attacks were rare and the low moods that casted shadows over my life throughout second year were little and often. I sincerely believed I had charged through the worst of it and made it out the other side but nothing is ever that transparent.
My third year of university has by far been the most testing year I have come to experience. It seems as though there has been setback after setback. My mental health plummeted due to stress and only began to sink lower when my physical health left me hospitalised. Though I was surrounded by so much support and love, all I saw was myself entrapped by my own destruction. It seemed as though the control over my health and my degree were torn away from me, despite giving all the remaining strength I had to try and cling tight. Everything was black.
That is what it took for me to open my eyes to my reality and close the door on my romanticised life. I spent hours writing notes of everything that I had gone through over the past 4 years. Each event, each moment of sinking, every emotion I had felt and the people who continued to stand by me throughout it all. I made a conscious effort to fuel my body with the food it had so long been craving in order to relieve my body of its physical strains, and planned help for the mental repercussions that would soon follow.
I turned to the people I trusted more than myself and asked for help. The first big step came about so fast, I felt as though I had no time to prepare. I was referred to an eating disorder clinic where I was diagnosed with my atypical anorexia nervosa. It would be a huge manipulation of the truth to say it was easy. Although I had to do nothing physical, I came out of it feeling as if I needed to sleep for weeks. I was requested to recap on my life, reframing each moment from an outside perspective. I felt as though I had lived through each of those years in one hour. In no way is talking therapy an easy process, but it is a process that will result in a chance to once again grasp the life you thought you had lost. I was lucky enough to have one of the people I trust most by my side. No words were said but her presence was enough to make it okay.
Don’t hide your truths from the people who care for you, ask them to take your hand. They don’t need to lead you, just walk beside you. The next steps down this path are not yet available to me as the waiting time for stage two is far from ideal, but knowing that soon I’ll get the call to ask if I’m ready has edged a couple of bricks out of the wall that has been blocking my light and more cracks are beginning to emerge.
Though I had success with treatments in the past, I always leant on the side of caution at the prospect of antidepressants. I had heard horror stories of what they can do to our minds and our bodies. It wasn’t until I became the protagonist in my own horror story that I realised I had no choice but to try. During the worst panic attack I have ever endured, I found myself experiencing thoughts that could’ve only been placed there by the devil himself – I didn’t want to be here anymore. I was breathing so fast my lungs couldn’t keep up, my whole body was burning and pins and needles spread throughout – my mind was screaming. As hard as I tried, no volume of noise could mute the temptation in my head. I felt as though it was my only chance at peace. My phone was continuously vibrating beside me, as my friends knew something was array but I couldn’t move nor speak in order to answer. Once I regained control of my body and the oxygen levels in my lungs had begun to rebalance, I reached for my phone but not to listen to my voicemail.
I booked an emergency doctor’s appointment for the next morning. I wasn’t scared anymore, I didn’t question how I would be perceived by others or how it would impact my future, as if I weren’t to do this, I’m not sure there would have been a future to impact. I confided in another of my friends, seeking her advice; the response I received only motivated me more. How could I evoke fear in the people I care about the most, making them feel sick to their stomachs worried for me? It wasn’t what I wanted for them.
I was prescribed Citalopram, an antidepressant that works to help both depression and anxiety. To say the first couple of weeks were hard would be a drastic understatement. My days were filled with nausea, fatigue and continuous temperature changes. I was close to giving in when I began to feel peace, happiness and a lack of dread. I felt alive. I am now able to go through my day without cowering at the thought of my future. Instead, I feel excitement and the good kind of adrenaline. I wake motivated for the day ahead, ready to overcome whatever obstacles it may bring. Though it took a while to get to this point, I am grateful for the detour, as now I am able to go through life smiling never taking a day for granted.
Something to remember
No matter how petrifying it may seem, the process of healing does get easier. The first step you take is the biggest one, once you have beaten that, those proceeding won’t seem so hard. These treatments don’t have to be permanent – they are just an aid on the way to your healing, just as someone with a broken leg needs crutches. If you choose to use them permanently, that is okay too! Sometimes, admitting a need for help is the biggest gasp of fresh air we can take.