Coping with depression and anxiety

The Ambitionist has teamed up with the wonderful Naked Fashions to talk mental health. Naked Fashions was created in 2012 by Lauren Johnstone. For more information drop her a line at lauren@nakedfashions.com.

The article below was originally posted here, but we just had to share it with you. The Ambitionist team has tweaked the content lightly; however the original message is unchanged. We hope you enjoy it.

The struggle is real

I’ve wanted to write this post for what seems like an eternity, but ironically, have been too anxious to. It’s not so much the writing that I struggle with, but I’m very aware that depression and anxiety still have a lot of stigma attached to them and I am slightly worried about the reaction to this post. I believe that mental health is something that should be spoken about more often and I want to encourage others to speak openly to support one another.

Rewind five years, I’m 17 years old, terrified of going to college every day and spending most of my hours in my room (like most teenagers). I noticed a change in my behaviour when I really began to analyse everything about myself, cry to myself for no reason at all and just be a miserable bitch 90 percent of the time. Things that you would usually be excited or joyous about provided me with no comfort and like a lot of people, I was forced to make the dreaded to trip to the doctors to confront my problems.

I was told there and then that I had clinical depression and anxiety. It was the coldest conversation I’ve ever had in my life. No support was given, instead I was handed a prescription for Prozac and a referral to counselling. I was 17 being prescribed Prozac, an insanely strong drug that should have never been prescribed at that time. Thankfully the pharmacist picked up on this and refused sale. At the time I was in too much of a haze to realise anything but looking back, I can only imagine the hell my mum must have been going through with the doctors at the time. Nothing came of the counselling. I had a few phone calls and was told I’d be placed on a waiting list; a waiting list that seems to be longer than the river Nile in my eyes, because I never heard anything ever again.

I left Liverpool when I was 18 to attend university in the south. I’ve now finished my degree thankfully but towards the end of my final year it got to the point where I couldn’t be bothered to get up, wasn’t attending lectures, was slacking in my university work, my job and even my blog (which I find the most joy in). I hit breaking point and I snapped. It was time to revisit the doctors, quit my job and sort my life out.

The breaking point

November 2015. I was registered with a new doctor in London where I have been living for the past four years. I was lucky enough to be seen by an absolute dream of a doctor. This doctor was not patronising in anyway, he was supportive, concerned and actually listened to what I had to say. I was prescribed an anti-depressant that I was to take every day. I was also referred to counselling (eye-roll, this shit again.)

I’ve been on the pill for one whole year, popping them every day with no shame or embarrassment. Why should I be ashamed to take something that is going to help? You take pain killers to alleviate a headache so why shouldn’t I take these?

Anti-depressants have a number of side effects but thankfully I didn’t suffer the extremes. After four months my mood felt lighter, I was enjoying things a lot more and actually getting out of bed. Hey I have my bad days, who doesn’t? But all in all they’re really helping with my depression.

The anxiety on the other hand…the dreaded anxiety that clasps you and tightens around your chest, forces itself into every part of your body till you are completely incapable of doing anything, is still a demon to me.

Anxiety is something that affects the best of us, even people who don’t have anxiety every day suffer throughout their life with anxiety during stressful times, and if there’s no cure, the body just reacts with panic attacks. I tried counselling but found it completely unhelpful and sadly gave up after a couple of sessions.

I can’t lie, I still really struggle certain days but surrounding yourself with positive people and doing things you love really helps.

Help

So obviously there are a few things that you can do in order to feel more relaxed and take you out of that slump. These are a few of the things I’ve found that help and may help you too.

Dogs: I live for dogs. Which is why I started The Lead (this may seem like a plug of my own website but I swear it’s not). theleadmag.com is going to be full of articles all about our furry friends and looking at the influence they have on our society. Whilst I can’t have my own dog currently, I can always get some joy out of other peoples.

Art journals: I’m not exactly the best artist but I do feel so much calmer when I draw. I tried colouring books but it doesn’t give me the same feeling. So if you’re like me, get onto your Pinterest account and start finding some inspiration for drawings.

Music: This is a pretty obvious one, but I honestly do panic when I don’t have my headphones. This year, I’m going to invest in some noise-cancelling headphones so I can really drown out the sound of that commute.

These are just a few of the things that help me. Whilst I’ve made a hell of a lot of progress, I still face a number of problems such as that daily commute (especially if you live in a busy city, you’ll know how I feel).

Mental health, depression and anxiety are not topics that should be hush hush in 2017. If you’d like to share your story with us then please email abigail.phillips@theambitionist.com or hop over to our ‘About’ page for more information.

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