There were a lot of bad days. There was the night when my friend had to call an ambulance when my mental health hit an all-time low. There were days when my hand trembled as I considered calling the Samaritans for support, but my anxiety stopped me because ‘I didn’t deserve it’. There were days when I had panic attacks in the office loo and had to fake a smile for the rest of my shift and act like nothing was wrong.
But then things started to get better. I started to manage my anxiety and the clouds of negative thoughts slowly started to clear in my mind.
I thought my anxiety was gone. I naively thought I was ‘cured’. I was too ignorant to realise that mental health disorders don’t just magically vanish. They’re something you have to manage for life.
My anxiety reappeared this May, on one of the hardest days of my life. The memory of this day is one that will never leave my mind, I remember it all too well.
I was curled up in bed, engulfed in my copy of The Surface Breaks by Louise O’Neill when I heard a strange noise from the room next to mine.
Was someone snoring or coughing? I wasn’t quite sure, but my gut told me to check what it was.
I opened the door to find my mam turned over on her side in bed, but she wasn’t asleep. She was having what we later discovered was a seizure.
She was shaking uncontrollably, foaming at the mouth, making this horrid gurgling noise because her brain had shut down and her body was struggling to breathe.
I held her grey, lifeless body in my arms and just yelled and yelled until my dad and sister came upstairs to find us. We shouted at the paramedics to hurry up and get here because as I clung onto my mam, I genuinely thought she was dead, we all did.
I sat in the James’s Hospital A&E for thirteen hours, waiting, hoping and praying my mam was okay. And she was.
The doctors explained to us that mam had a seizure, but have yet to find the cause, but they upped her medication, schedule constant appointments and are pretty pleased with how she is doing at the moment.
Mam is happy and healthy, but ever since that harrowing day I have been a ball of anxiety. The trauma of nearly losing her triggered my anxiety and let it attack when I was at my most vulnerable and I must admit I haven’t been able to manage it as well as I used to.
I am jumpy at home whenever I hear an unusual noise. I wake up in the middle of the night to make sure mam is okay. Dozens of thoughts whizzing through my mind: Is she breathing? Has she taken her medication? Will she be okay when I’m at work?
My parents tell me there’s nothing to worry about, but my brain disagrees. It’s full of panic and dread every single day, and it’s no longer just about my mam’s wellbeing.
I’ve started to panic on public transport again. I break out in stress rashes in my office. The heart palpitations are back. The rapid breathing is back. The negative thinking is back.
And I have accepted that.
There are days when I let my anxiety take over because I simply don’t have the energy to fight it, but one thing I’ll always remind myself of is that I am stronger than it, even on those days when I just want to give up.
There is a quote by author Matt Haig, who is a hero of mine, that I always repeat on the ‘bad brain days’.
“The key is in accepting your thoughts, all of them, even the bad ones. Accept thoughts, but don’t become them. Understand, for instance, that having a sad thought, even having a continual succession of sad thoughts, is not the same as being a sad person. You can walk through a storm and feel the wind but you know you are not the wind.”
I have accepted my anxiety. I have accepted the bad days, the panic attacks and the constant worrying, but I never let myself forget that this too shall pass.
If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this feature you can contact Pieta House 24/7 Helpline 1800 247 247 or the Samaritans Helpline 116 123.