ANXIETY AND DEPRESSION – My Story by Peter
Trigger warning: This article contains discussions surrounding mental illness, suicide attempts and self-harm.
Hi, my name is Peter, and I have cerebral palsy. I have been suffering from anxiety and depression on and off since 2000. This video aims to hopefully help people who are currently going through these terrible conditions. Thankfully, due to a wonderful family and friends support network, and the amazing help and support of A******re, (more about that later) I am out the other side, and you can too. Depression and anxiety don’t need to be a death sentence. You must hang in there and get the support you need. Getting better will take a long time, and your family and friends need to be aware of this so they can help you through it.
Here is my story:
My first brush with anxiety and panic attacks was in 2000 when I was working at an agricultural Institute in Camden, NSW. I was working in accounts at the time and was balancing cheques. I thought I had lost one of the cheques as the total didn’t match up, and I completely lost it. I was screaming and I was sweating, it was a horrible feeling. (I hadn’t lost the cheque) After a visit to a medical centre because I thought I had diabetes, (I didn’t, it was just a panic attack) I got in my PJs and was in bed at 3 PM. I went to my GP the next day and he put me on 3 weeks of sick leave. At this stage, I was unaware of what was wrong with me, and I wasn’t officially diagnosed with any form of mental illness for many years to come.
My second episode came not long after when I broke the nose piece off my glasses. I thought WW3 was about to start! I was hysterical, and my father yelled at me to pull myself together. Unfortunately, it takes time to pull yourself together once you have had a panic attack. He was not supportive, as he didn’t know what I was going through This is why your family and friends need to know that if you are having an attack in their presence that they need to be patient and understanding. Something my father was not. Basically, you need to sit or lay down in a quiet, dark room, take long deep breaths, and think of pleasant things. Eventually, the attack will subside.
My first bout of depression hit me when I was on an overseas trip, again in 2000. I had been suffering from gout on the trip, which had precluded me from really enjoying myself. It was on this trip, that I made my first lame attempt to take my own life. I was depressed due to the fact I was on my own, apart from the tour group, and couldn’t enjoy myself as much as I would have liked. One funny thing happened during this episode. I woke up in a panic one night, thinking that I had missed the tour bus to our next destination, so I hurriedly packed my bag and went down to reception. I was asked what I was doing. When I asked had the tour bus left, the guy in reception said, “Go back to bed mate, it is only 1 AM”!!!!!
On return to Australia in late 2000, I had another panic attack, but this one was relatively mild compared to other ones. I went to my GP about my gout, but I don’t think I mentioned my issues overseas to him. In hindsight, that was wrong.
It was at this time that I had a hiatus concerning my panic attacks. I was feeling good and happy in my job. It wasn’t until 2012 that I had another attack. I was working at a reception desk, taking calls and looking after colleagues and customers. I did not feel well that morning.
Something didn’t feel right, but I made it to work. Not long after starting, I dropped a pen on the floor. WW3 had started again! Somehow, I made it through the day, but I knew I wasn’t doing the right thing by myself, my colleagues, or my customers, so the next day I went to my GP and we decided that I should finish work. I had worked for the same government department for 29 years, so we agreed I had worked long enough. I was really tired and was struggling to walk by this stage. My GP initially put me on 3 months of sick leave and then once my sick leave was used up, I then used my leave days and long service leave. I officially finished my employment in February 2013.
It was around this time that my dear Mum was very sick and unfortunately close to death. I had been living with her since my dad died in 2009, and we were really close. For the first 12 months after she died, I managed the house, and my life ok. I had great family and friend support that was getting me through. I was going on holiday to Melbourne at Christmas 2014 and ticking off 2 things on my bucket list, so I was happy. It was around this time that I had been communicating with a lady on Facebook. She claimed to have Spina Bifida, and I was happy that I could have finally found someone. We chatted on the phone two or three times a day and texted A LOT the rest of the day. We arranged to meet and were both very excited. Just before the day, she told me her Mum wouldn’t let her meet me! We had been planning this day for months!!! She even unfriended me on FB. She said her Mum wouldn’t let her be my friend anymore. She claimed to be 36, so I was mortified!! This caused a massive panic attack. I was up all night, really anxious and sweating badly. We ceased communicating. I got away to Melbourne and had a great time. Looking back on my Mum’s death and the incident with the girl, I believe this is what could have caused the major depression that was to hit me soon after.
It was early 2015, I woke up one morning and just felt like ending it all. I went into my kitchen, lit a tea towel, and put it on my arm. I then threw that towel on the line, hoping to burn the house down, killing me in the process. Luckily for me, my neighbour heard the smoke alarm and rushed in to help. I went to a GP for my arm injury, and she recommended I get admitted into a psychiatric hospital. I spent 4 weeks there. The psychiatrist told my sister I would never get better. I made a lame attempt of taking my own life in there also. Once I left that hospital, I was admitted to the psychiatric ward at Westmead Hospital. I was to stay there on and off for 5 months in 2015. All the time there I would mostly be flat on my back, no motivation to do anything. When I was at home, I would do the same, lay flat on my back in bed 24/7, not eating, not doing anything. My poor family would ring me up 2 or 3 times a day to ask me if I had eaten anything. I said that I had, but in essence, all I was eating was apples, and putting the cores in the crisper of the fridge. I didn’t even have the motivation to put the cores in the bin. My family had to do it. It got to the point where I wasn’t looking after myself, and the house was a mess. My family was always around cleaning up for me. In the end, I had to sell the house and move into a nursing home for my own good.
It was around this time that I had my first dealings with a wonderful organisation called A******re. A******re’s role is to assist people who have come out of a mental health facility, to get back into the community, and do the things that you were doing before you got sick. I have had wonderful support from this organisation. They have helped me so much, and even now that I am in a nursing home, I still get wonderful support from them. I couldn’t recommend A******re highly enough.
I am happy to say that I am now out the other side and powering ahead, and you will too. For the first 6 months of me arriving at the home in March 2016, I wasn’t right in the head. I still felt off, but we have a wonderful doctor here who has got my medication spot on, and I now feel 100% again. I don’t take a depression pill anymore and require very little assistance. I still have my wonderful family and friends who are supporting me, and I can’t thank them enough for that. I had put my family through so much for over twelve months and I am happy for them as much as I am for me that I am now 100% again.
So that is my story. I am sorry if it has bored you in any way, but I wanted to get my story across in the hope that it may give inspiration and help to people out there who have anxiety and depression. As I said earlier, it is not necessarily a death sentence. You WILL eventually get better and get back to the person you were. It will just take time and patience, but you will get there. Good luck.
“As a P.S. to this story, I have been living in a lovely villa in an amazing retirement village, so my life has turned full cycle. I moved into a villa in 2018.”