“To be healthy as a whole, mental wellness plays a role.”— Anonymous
To spread awareness about mental health conditions during the National Mental Illness Awareness Week (4th October to 10th October), we reached out to Amy, a mental health warrior to share her personal story with Anxiety and Depression and learn more about her recovery journey.
1. Please tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Amy, I’m 28 and living in Germany, Karlsruhe, although I’m originally from the UK, Birmingham.
2. Please share your experience of living with Anxiety and Depression.
Growing up I watched my Mum struggle with anxiety and depression. She went from the loving, outgoing Mum to a nervous wreck, where she couldn’t leave the house or do anything on her own. She made several suicide attempts and ended up being hospitalised. As a young teenager, I hated her for it. I didn’t understand what anxiety or depression even was and I just saw my mum’s behaviour as attention-seeking. I moved to Germany in my early twenties to do a PhD. This is when I started to suffer. I started binge eating and drinking, crying myself to sleep. Feeling down for no reason. I didn’t think anything of it, put it down to homesickness.
After a couple of years, the suicidal thoughts began. I wasn’t happy. I kept it quiet, embarrassed. I moved from a shared house my own flat and this is when things escalated. In a doctor’s appointment for an unrelated reason, I just broke down and I was referred to a psychiatrist. This is when I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression and I was given medication. Since then, my mental health issues have got worse. I now understand what my mum was dealing with.
I just wish I’d have understood before and been more supportive of her. I now struggle with negative thoughts, stomach problems, anxiety-related symptoms including sweating, headaches, insomnia. I also now struggle to leave my flat when I want to and I’ve had to have times off from work due to my mental health. I am now writing my thesis for my PhD and after multiple extensions of my deadline, I have now paused my PhD completely in order for me to try to sort out my mental health. My productivity, confidence and focus have deteriorated so much that I cannot write my thesis or even contemplate doing my PhD defence.
3. Which coping techniques helped you in your journey?
Before, my coping mechanisms involved excessively drinking, but this became a problem when I started skipping work to drink or turning up to work still drunk. Now, since I’ve paused my PhD I am taking my healing seriously.
I am practising mindfulness, journaling and meditating. Self-care is a big priority. I am prioritising doing things for me. Going for long walks, being mindful of what I eat and drink (and how much). During heightened anxiety I do breathing techniques, remind myself of my positive affirmations and most importantly, I talk about how I am feeling. I am very lucky to have a wonderfully supportive family that understands what I am going through and I can speak openly and be honest. I also talk about my journey on my Instagram account and have made amazing supportive friends.
4. What message would you like to share with those living with Anxiety and Depression?
If you’re battling with mental health issues and anxiety and depression yourself, my message for you is just to do you. Do what’s best for you, what you can do, whatever makes you feel better and don’t feel guilty about it. Your mental health comes first above anything. And I highly recommend practising mindfulness, it seems to be working out for me so far on my healing journey!