Katie's story: recovering from panic attacks, anxiety and depression

I am not a laid back person. I never have been. I worry and get stressed and can be quite negative sometimes. Last year, this started to get slowly worse.

It took a long time to notice it but I lost control of how stressed I was getting. I would randomly start crying in the taxi on the way to a party or struggle to answer the phone at work because I was terrified. I felt like I was losing my mind – thoughts were racing constantly and I kept seeing images in my head of death.

Then one day at work I had my first SEVERE panic attack. Nothing happened, I was just at my desk replying to emails and then suddenly I felt myself losing it. It was like I just couldn’t cope anymore with anything. I didn’t know I was having a panic attack at the time – all I remember is feeling like I was going die.

With encouragement from everyone I booked myself an appointment with the GP as well an appointment with the counselling service. I was taught different techniques and ways in which to cope with what was happening to me – I learnt about mindfulness, breathing techniques, visualisation and the power of just ACCEPTING that you're experiencing anxiety and that's okay – it's going to go away eventually. It was really helpful.

I was more in control of how severe the panic attacks were but it wasn't good enough to me. So I started to feel depressed. I also wasn't looking after myself. The amount of alcohol I was consuming every weekend was excessive even if I had been ill during the week. It was self-destructive and not only made me more ill but also caused more emotional and personal problems. I wasn't eating either and quickly lost a lot of weight.

I began to feel lonely and detached from everyone and everything in my life. My self-esteem and confidence completely nose-dived as a result. It was a vicious cycle because I felt incapable of being alone and said yes to everything – and everything usually involved getting drunk. And on top of that I wasn't gaining any self-worth from work as I had missed so much from being ill.

One of my clearest memories from that time was ringing my oldest, closest friend and breaking down saying "I don’t feel guilty". I'd experienced suicidal thoughts for the first time that day and I was shocked that thinking about what it would it would do to my family had zero effect on me. They would have to get over it eventually because I can't go on a day longer feeling like this. I think that was the worst day of my life but I didn't do anything, so now I take strength from that.

Going home helped me start to get better. My Mum was mortified at how thin I was and made it her mission to look after me and feed me up. Being around family also just reminded me of who I am and that I am loved. We sat and watched home footage from when I was a little girl and there was a clip where my Dad had to help me with a toy and I was so upset with myself that I couldn't do it.

I realised then that I had wasted most of my life being my toughest critic. For the first time ever watching this footage I didn't feel the urge to tease my younger self – I felt sorry for her. I empathised with her and liked her. There is nothing wrong with her. There is nothing wrong with me.

I returned to feeling happier and looking forward to see everyone but I took it easy on the alcohol. I was also really looking forward to going back to counselling. I had 12 weeks of sessions and it honestly changed my life. I learnt things about myself I didn't realise and more importantly, I learnt to like myself.

Now, things are good. Not perfect! But that's never going to happen and I can accept and be okay with that.

  • I keep a gratitude journal and write positive things in it every day.
  • I look after myself. My anxiety and depression is still very physical but I just stop – I don't push myself to try and do anything until I feel better. And I definitely don't go out and drink.
  • I don't beat myself up for having a bad mental health day/week/moment.
  • I do more for myself. I don't try and be all things to all people anymore. Nothing bad is going to happen if I'm not a perfect person and if someone doesn't want to be in my life anymore – that's their loss.

It's been a tough couple of years but I can honestly say that I'm a very happy person and I have no shame in saying that I am a very happy person who sometimes suffers with anxiety and depression. It's not me all the time and it does not define me. When someone gets sick or injured – they're still the same person.

Look after yourself and be patient, kind and non-judgemental to others.

Thank you so much for reading.

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