Perspective is everything.
To me, its always been important to understand where someone is coming from before you can understand what they mean. Well, here I am. This is me.
Anxiety’s presence has been strong within me from a young age. As far back as I can remember really. At birthday party’s I would cry or hide. Sometimes both because I did not want to open presents in front of people. Always hiding before pre-school hoping my parents wouldn’t find me. School was torture for me from the beginning. When we would have company over I usually tried to retreat my room pretty fast. The older I grew, the larger my anxiety grew. My parents slowly stopped taking me out in public as often. They felt bad for me.Almost every time we went somewhere I felt like I had the flu. Id get so sick it was ridiculous. Vomiting, Diarrhea, feeling faint. Not very responsive. I would disconnect from the world. Those feelings were just the beginning.
When I got a little older my parents took me to several specialists. I was convinced I had some type of severe illness. The frequency of me being sick was just ridiculous. First, we tried a gastrologist. Logically because of my symptoms I thought for sure they would find something. Nope, all clear. Next, we tried a neurologist. All checked out good there as well. I was sure that they were missing something. There’s no possible way I should be throwing up all the time & diarrhea this often. Luckily before we left the neurologist began connecting the dots. After asking several questions about my background, he recommended I see a psychiatrist. He told us that this could all be anxiety induced. Finally a plausible answer….. But a mental problem? Really? I wasn’t sure how to take this information. It was hard to comprehend that all this sickness was because of my mind. How can that even be possible?
By this time I was already in pretty deep. At the age of about 10 years old. Depression had started to consume me. Fear has already reigned over my life since day one. Anxiety was leading me into paranoia, phobias & deeper into depression. All together it wasn’t long before they drove me into isolation. My life had ended before it began. Destroyed by my own mind. I began to wish it could have been a real disease. At least then I know it was all in my head!
Eventually, I decided to give the psychiatrist a shot. I was hesitant at first but who wouldn’t be? Right? Especially at that age. Although what did I have to lose. I just wanted to be like the other kids.. Have a normal life.
After taking several tests & discussions with him for a few weeks. He diagnosed me with an anxiety disorder and depression. Which again seemed to help at least knowing what the cause was.… but yet not. If you know what I mean? I finally had an answer but at the same time, I was more confused than then ever. Understanding a mental health problem at that age was difficult. I’m depressed? That’s what really caught me off guard. I thought I kinda avoided answering any questions in a manner that would have given him that idea. Apparently, I was too honest on my tests.
For the next 6 years, I went to several psychiatrists off and on. I would usually get to a point where I felt it was a lost cause. Knowing the end result was not going to be good. So why waste my parents’ money? These people aren’t going to change the way I am. I was born this way. I had a bad attitude about the whole thing. Later on, I’d usually muster up some hope again and start going back. Re-committing to try to make a change. This was a common pattern throughout my teenage years. The depression roller coaster.
I began my journey with medication around age 13. I went through a good-sized list of different anti-depressants and anxiety medicine before finally finding one that helped me. Ativan, I was on ativan for about a year before I switched to clonezepam. The ativan helped, but it made me feel dizzy/nauseous sometimes. The second trap was in full swing. I now wasn’t just a slave to fear but also a slave to medication. In the end, the medicine was a bigger hindrance then the fear was.
Looking back now I wish I would have taken all the advice my counselors had given me. Now that I’m older it all makes perfect sense. The reason I couldn’t is because I felt they didn’t have any real experience themselves…. They just read about it in books & studied it in college. How could they possibly understand if they havent been through what I’m going through personally? Even though the information was there the sense of a relation to then wasn’t. If I personally could not relate to something the information no matter how valid was useless to me.
For a while growing up I only had 1 close friend. Brody. I met him when I was 12. We had home room together in middle school. He actually started to get me out of the house a bit & made me feel like a real kid. When I didn’t want to go somewhere or do something. He sacrificed going to stay in with me. Just the other week my mom was talking about all the times he gave up going somewhere fun, just to stick by his best friend. One time my Mom and step dad were going to some races. He really wanted to go. My mom told him to just come anyways & that I would be fine. He told her “its okay, Brandon needs me” & stayed home with me.
Over the summers he practically lived with us. Having his company really held me together through those years. But still the only time I really got to see friends was in my neighborhood or at my house. I managed to go to a few places but the end result was never worth it to me. As long as I was somewhere close enough to retreat to my house, I would be somewhat okay. He introduced me to just about every friend I had after that. He was the only one who ever truly knew how deep my issues went. I’ve mentioned anxiety & depression to the others before but never really talked about it much more than that. He knew the real me.
At 15 I met my wife. This was the next largely influential person in my life. For over a year all we did was talk on the phone and pass notes in school. She was someone I could vent too. I would send her pages and pages of texts complaining about my life. It was nice having someone to talk to about my issues. Also it was much easier talking to a female about these things than males. Trust me the last thing you want to do is be all emotional all the time around your guy friends. I was too nervous to see her in person outside of school (was nervous in school to but I had no choice, Uhg I still remember the knots in my throat. the choking sensation). It was hard enough for the few minutes in the halls. This was good though because we got to become best friends before we ever hung out. Eventually I moved into the same neighborhood as her. We finally got to see each other outside of school. We always met at a lake just a few miles from our houses.
I was ready to try to have a real girlfriend. I knew she was aware of my issue. So it made me feel more comfortable around her. She was unique. She was very polite, kind & loving. We talked & dated off and on but every time I would eventually end it. I was a let down. There was no way I could be a real boyfriend. I couldn’t meet her parents. I couldn’t take her anywhere. I couldn’t do anything that was important to her. She so badly wanted me to meet her parents. I knew it was only a matter of time before she got sick of my crap. Also I didn’t want her to be close to me when I did finally decide to end my life. I knew it would happen one day. Just wasn’t sure when.
At this point in my life suicide was starting to peak. Though this new neighborhood had my future wife in it. I didn’t get to see all my friends from my old neighborhood. A few of them got their license but I was too afraid to get into a car with them & no way was i going to their house. I was scared to death of parents. Brody still came over just about every weekend & over the summers though.
When I was about 17 I started to get more comfortable around people. I tried to surround myself with more and more friends. I figured the more I was around them the easier it would be to be like them & the less time I would have to focus on depression. Still I would rarely ever leave my house. My friends would come to me. Most of the time they would pick me up and we would go to my dads house to play cards or video games.
Eventually i got brave enough to not care if they saw me puke or panic. I started to let them pick me up in their cars more and more. For some reason my friends liked to pick me up under the impression that we were going straight to my dads house. They always “forgot” to mention they had to stop somewhere first… until after I was in the car. This drove me crazy. I can’t even remember how many I puked in/on their cars because of this. I swear they would intentionally not tell me. knowing I wouldn’t agree to go if I knew. I literally had to start interviewing them before they picked me up. Who are you with. Whats your plans. Are we going straight there? Did you eat yet? ARE YOU SURE? To even sit in a drive through for food was enough to put me down for a day. I hated being trapped. With cars ahead and behind us my anxiety was through the roof. There were many times I was ready to just open the car door and run. Not sure where too but I was in panic mode, it didn’t matter.
Even though socially out of school I was doing better. I still avoided public pretty heavily. At least I had a lot of friends to occupy my mind from depression a bit. But on the other hand anxiety was getting the best of me in school. I had to finish the second half of my senior year online. I missed way more school then is even legal. Luckily the school was aware of my issues and the consolers worked with me. There were countless times I would spend a whole class in the bathroom vomiting. Most teachers would mark it as an absence for that class leading me to failing by attendance pretty quickly.
There were a few teachers and students who picked up on what was going on. I remember coming out of the gym locker room one day. After puking, my usually routine. I overheard one of the teachers asking my gym teacher and a friend of mine what was wrong with me. I know he was just concerned but it made me feel angry. Nothings wrong with me. Well I guess there is but I don’t want there to be. I just wanted to be normal, I hated being put in that special treatment category. There were only a few who cared enough to actually ask me. Thank you for those that did. It does mean something to know people are there for you. My electronics teacher was an amazing help too. He let me spend my study halls in his room where I was comfortable. I could not sit in a large study hall with all those kids. Panic attack central. My government teacher always let me make up any work I missed as well. She really strived to help me stay up to date. Much appreciated.
Shortly after graduation we moved about 30 min out into the country. At the same time my dad also moved. So both the houses I was comfortable with in my hometown were no longer ours. I was stuck all alone out in the middle of no where. All my friends faded pretty quickly. Mostly because I never wanted to go anywhere with them or to anyone’s house if it wasn’t mine. They eventually stopped trying. Me, my wife and my best friend all grew apart by then as well. These were the darkest days of my life. Without the closest people to me. They were the only ones who understood what I was going through. Depression was at an all time high. I still couldn’t go to friends houses. I couldn’t drive. I would never go on a date. So much in my life I missed out on already and it was just going to get worse.
I was at rock bottom. I never thought I would cry in my entire life as much as I did that year. The only reason I had a job was because I worked for a manufacturing company that produced displays for my moms company. So I rode with her to and from work everyday. Always with my face looking away, out the window. Tears would silently run down my face to and from work. Id go to the bathroom during my breaks and cry. Come home from work and cry myself to sleep. Later on id get up and play some video games for a while to distract my mind from what little life I had. Trying to find a little light where there was none. This carried on for about a year.
All day long all I thought about was death. It wasn’t just suicidal thoughts anymore. It was a pure suicide mindset day in and day out. I’ll tell you what. I was as close to the edge as anyone could possibly get without going over. I’ve been ready. I’ve prepared myself many times. I’m sure you all know how this feels if you’ve ever been depressed to the max. When you are at the end of the line that’s all there is.
Here’s the thing. No matter how close I got to death. Something always stopped me. It wasn’t because I was afraid. I literally had no life to lose. I missed out on so much of the world. No it wasn’t fear. As selfish as I was my whole life. Only caring about me. The one tiny bit of selflessness I had was to not put my mom through another death. Within the past 10 years she lost both her parents, brother-in-law and sister-in-law. I couldn’t imagine putting her through another death.
I always came to the conclusion that I would rather suffer the rest of my life in agony then to put her through that. Beyond that there was always a message that would pop in my mind when I was at the end of the line. I was made for more than this. I felt like all this suffering would not be in vain. I would gain something great for all that I have been through. There was a reason I’m still here. I may not be aware of what the reason is but there is one. Something inside of me knew there was much more beyond the dark valley I was stuck in.
It took that full year rock bottom depression & isolation to wake me up. Toward the end of that year I took a look around. I had nothing… What was there to lose? Id puke a few times? Die from a heart attack? Who cares? Choke to death from nervousness? Oh well. I’m better off to die trying, right? Wait why didn’t I think of this before! At least if I die trying to live it doesn’t look as bad… because it wasn’t suicide. Then my family doesn’t have to put up with the burden of me alive or dead! If It doesn’t kill me then I may have a chance at experiencing a real life. Why didn’t I see this before. I fell so deep that fear lost its power over me. I didn’t care anymore what anyone thought. I didn’t care if anxiety killed me. I didn’t care that I was depressed. Screw it. The epiphany of all Epiphanies. I was so depressed all my cares were gone. Now I have depression to thank for helping me overcoming anxiety. This was the first major awakening in my life.
I started talking to my wife again at this point. I was ready to make changes in my life. She decided to give me another chance. We went on our first date. This was a struggle. Before during and after my IBS was going crazy. I remember sitting there at the dinner table everything hazy feeling like I’m about to collapse. But I lived. Next we tried the movies. Then church. These were the first times I was going out to public places and events in many many years. Aside from maybe 2 or 3 times during my senior year it had to be at least 6+ years since I’ve been out in public. I was ready to try anything. Bring it on. Let me die trying. I’ll go out on my own terms. Not depressions.
Soon after that I moved into an apartment with my brother. I started seeing my friends again. I was facing all my fears one by one. Best part is. Im still alive! Within that first year of being moved out Anna and I had our first kid. This was absolutely insane to me. The last thing I thought I could be in this world was a parent. Even though I knew I had a shot at life now, I still had a lot to fix.
A month after our daughter was born I got my license. One challenge after another I was victorious. I now was growing inch by inch into the person I dreamed of. I had everything around me I needed. In a little over a year I went from having nothing to having everything. I traded hate, jealousy, spite and envy for Love. Love was the cure, love was the answer, love was the key. I knew i couldn’t let my daughter see me the way I was. I had to change. So i did. Out of love.
But depression and anxiety still had deep roots within me. After spending the majority of my life depressed and anxiety ridden that’s all I knew. Even through all the progress I was still plagued by my past. That’s okay though. I had something on my side that overruled everything. I just didn’t know it yet.
In the mean time unfortunately Brody committed suicide later that same year. His death is what inspired me to start writing about mental health. We use to talk about raising our kids together. Growing old together. All the things best friends do. Sadly I was too consumed with my own issues to see anyone else’s. It was all about me. My problems. My anxiety. My depression. I had it worse than everyone. My selfishness blinded me. All the time he spent to help me I’ll never be able to repay him. Why couldn’t I do what he did for me? Why was I so selfish? This was my second awakening in life. It was time I stop focusing on just me. I can’t make it up to him but maybe I can help others in his memory. First I had to get in a better position. I didn’t feel like I was ready to start down this road yet. I had a few more hurdles to jump.
All my life I believed in a higher power but I wasn’t religious. Actually to be honest I put religion down a lot. For several years I only went to church to please Anna. But over time I began to learn more and more. It wasn’t just a book of rules and laws meant shape people. There was much more to it then that. I would go to church and watch everyone week after week. Month after month. Year after year. I would study them. Is it real?
Anna and I got married in January 2015. We moved into a house and started our lives together. I was no longer a slave to fear. I was no longer a slave to Anxiety. I overcame every fear and challenge that was in front of me. Unfortunately I wasn’t free yet. Although I made so much progress there was still one large hurdle in front of me. I had no sense of accomplishment yet. The shadows still loomed over me.
We had another daughter and moved into a new house. There was one thing that still stood in my way. I had been on medicine for about 10 years. Did I really achieve anything or was it all masked? The moment I return to the true me will it all go back to how it was? Was all this progress only because I was “influenced”?Will I be enslaved to medication forever?
I slowly began to taper down my dosage. After about 6 months I was down to 1/16th the dosage. As well as spaced out to only taking it once or twice a week. These were tough times. I now had a wife and 2 daughters to look after. It wasn’t just me anymore and my anxiety came back full force. I had some of the worse anxiety attacks in my life at this point. I was scared to death. All my progress was an illusion. Fears flooded back into me. Nightly anxiety attacks haunted me. Depression would tempt me. For several months this carried on as I remained at the 1/16th dosage. I felt if I didn’t keep it in my system the attacks would only get worse. I was on chains.
During this time I learned 2 very important lessons. God is real & the mind is powerful.
I had a second job I had to go to training for. Nothing special just cleaning some offices in the evening. I was a nervous wreck. On the way there I thought about pulling over several times. My limbs were numb. I was in full-blown panic. Choking in the car. Sweating. Feeling like I’m fading out. You know… all those fun feelings. There was no way I could do this. I was going to die. Several minutes later I pulled into the parking lot where I was supposed to meet the boss. I arrived 20 minutes early, I had given my self enough time to throw up a few times and attempt to calm down.
For the first time in my life I prayed. A true prayer with belief. Not just a quick prayer out of fear. All those hours spent in church watching all those people. Debating if what they claimed they felt was real. Did they really believe all this? Was it just in their heads? I Studied them for a long time. Every Sunday for about 3 years to be exact. At this time I was really struggling with religion. I suspected a higher power. But a living god that could still influence lives today was hard to believe. I wasn’t sure where I stood with my beliefs.
After I prayed I noticed how beautiful the sky was that day. It was magical. All I could do was smile at how amazing the sky looked. To my surprise. All my anxious feelings were gone. Vanished. It was like a scene out of a movie. I literally started to tear up. Goose bumps from head to toe. Never in my entire life had I been completely free from all symptoms like that. There was no more confusion about where I stood with my beliefs. God was there in that moment. I have never felt so good in public before. I was anxiety free for the rest of the day. Miracles are real. God showed me what I needed exactly when I needed it. I was at a major crossroads in my life. Between my family, work, medication, anxiety & religion. Everything was questionable.
I was ready to get off medication completely. I now knew that there truly was a living God. I had someone to fall back on. To watch over me. To help me.
More panic attacks came. I prayed again in hopes God would perform another miracle. Nothing happened. I felt abandoned. This happened several times. So I prayed about what was going on. I soon realized how foolish I was to think God would save me every time I experienced anxiety. What would I learn? How could I progress that way? I was missing the lesson. It came to me that the miracle I had witnessed was not just to relieve me from anxiety but to show me He is real. To influence my belief in God. From then on I involved myself heavily into religion. Reading the bible. Devotions. Prayer. Lots and lots of prayer.
About a month later I went to the doctors and had told her my progress with tapering down on my medication. She was happy for me. I explained my concerns about withdraw and being completely off the medicine. She told me if I am truly taking as little as I say I am as spaced out as I say. The medicine isn’t even in my system. There is no withdraw. All those panic attacks you experianced were because that’s what you had in your mind.. Not lack of medication. She was right. I walked out of that office and never touched a pill again. That was may 2017
Since then I have replaced my medicine with meditation and prayer. Far more helpful than medicine ever was. Healthier too.
I am free. Free from depression. Free from anxiety. They are still part of me. Everyday my mind is impacted by my past but I learned to use it to my advantage. I am grateful for all my experiences. The lessons I have learned through the trials can not be taught any other way. Perspective is everything.
I still have anxious days sometimes but thats just life! I accept it and roll with it. I find a way to benefit from it. Generally through prayer.
Through Belief I defeated depression. Escaped Isolation & partnered up with anxiety.