I think my problems began when I was 13 years old. I wouldn't have described my family life as ideal. I had been raised by my grandparents after my parents divorce, my father was distant (although he only lived 10 minutes drive away) and my mother spent a great deal of her time in pubs and with boyfriends. A little while before my 13 birthday we (my mother, brother and I) moved out of my grandparents into a house of our own. The first time I noticed something was wrong was when I began having difficulty going to school
… I'm sure I wasn't the first or will be the last kid who hated school (I was a loner, very shy and was bullied) but it seemed like it was something more than that. I would feel anxious and sick on the bus each morning and I began to feel the same way when visiting my only friend at the time or even travelling between my home and my grandparents (a distance of only a few miles). I began to become compulsive about carrying around alka-seltsa and extra-strong mints (don't ask me why) at school incase I felt ill. They were like a security blanket, I felt anxious without them. I felt claustrophobic – almost like a caged animal when I was at home in the evenings and began to become depressed. It sounds stupid but in winter when the skies were overcast I felt trapped. In the space of a year I had gone from a fairly care free kid who'd have no trouble visiting relatives in London, travelling abroad and generally functioning normally to some one who hated going more than a few miles from home.
At the age of about 15 I began smoking dope regularly. I found myself smoking compulsivley each night, I would become depressed if I couldn't, and more often than not I would feel anxious or have an anxiety attack when stoned especially if in the company of people I wasn't familiar with. The depression got worse. My family didn't understand me or what I was going through. They very much subscribed to the "buck your ideas up sunny" school of thought. My grand mother even suggested once that I should receive electro-shock therapy because there was something wrong with me. Kids shouldn't be the way I was. My relationship with my mother was difficult. She drank quite a lot and often we would get into arguments and she would hit me. I remember going to school and showing my friend the marks she had made on my forearms (she had dug her nails into the skin) during one of our arguments.
I struggled through the remainder of school, the anxiety attacks continued and they just seemed to be part of my life. I began attending counselling at a local NHS clinic once a week. We seemed to spend more time discussing girls and my family than my problems with anxiety. Finally, after a year, she told me she couldn't work with anymore because I was smoking dope, I completed my GCSE's and left school. Over that summer I seemed to have a respite from the attacks. I felt more able to cope.
In the autumn of that year I went to the local college and began a course. My smoking habits got worse. I would get up in the morning and get stoned by 9:00 am then ride to college on my moped. I often had to leave lessons because I was anxious and one time began to suffer from such severe chest pains I feared I had some kind of problem with my heart. The respite was over. I decided to quit smoking and over the next year or so things seemed to get worse in some ways better in others. I was 17 by then. I became obsessed with the fear of being sick, especially being sick in social situations or equally having an anxiety attack in public. I was afraid of what people would think. I always wanted to have a quick route out of any situation. I was unable to do many of the things kids that age get to enjoy but I hid it as best I could. I'm sure many friends thought I was weird and I knew they wouldn't understand. I failed the course due to lack of attendance and by the age of 18 I was unable to go to my local shop and buy a magazine without "freaking out".
A few years passed and things seemed to get a little better. I was coping O.K and managed to have a social life. But at 20 I developed a drinking problem, although not so severe to classed as an alcoholic, my life was affected badly. I became suicidal (although I didn't want to die, I saw no way to get through things and all I wanted was peace). Luckily by the end of that year I still drank a lot but I had calmed it down and was feeling a little better.
Over the next couple of years I seemed to go from strength to strength. Things that had once been difficult became easier and I often found myself in situations that had once been considered dangerous ground and there I was feeling calm and comfortable. I felt like there was hope and I could only get better. I met a woman and we began a relationship. Life seemed to be going well. That was 2 years ago. Unfortunately today, at the age of 24, I have slipped back into my old ways. I have began to suffer again, becoming increasingly house bound and the relationship I mentioned has ended. She couldn't cope with my problems. I have been racking my brains trying to work out how and why things went wrong. Where I go from here I don't know. I have over come it on my own before and I am determined to do so again. On a number of occasions over the years I have visited doctors to seek advice but have only referred to counselling. I didn't find that helped. I was also recently prescribed diazepam (as a short term measure) but I only took it once. I feel very wary of medication. But I will go back to my G.P and try again.
I would just like to say that you deserve some recognition for what you are trying to do here. I have suffered for 10 years with these problems and never held down a steady job or done many of the normal things people do. Although for many years I have know I wasn't alone both my family and my ex-partner believe that I am too self indulgent. It's good to know others have suffered as long and that the road to recovery can be a rocky one. I can over come it again.