I’m Josh, I’m 21 years old and I suffer from insomnia, depression, and anxiety. The combination of the three can often be crippling, leaving you unable talk to anyone or wanting to do anything. I’m writing this as a coping mechanism and also on the off-chance that someone reading may feel in a similar way, or have had similar experiences and feel a sense of comfort in knowing they’re not the only ‘mad’ one. Statistics show it’s not uncommon to feel this way, despite what many people have become accustomed to believing. It’s estimated on a weekly basis 1/6 people will battle with a form of depression or anxiety.
I was brought up in a loving home, with the greatest parents any child could ask for, both loving and a true testament to exactly how I want to be when I grow older. My father, a true gentleman, known and loved by everyone he meets. My mother, the women who has the biggest heart of any I know. Not only have they been together for over 45 years, but they’ve managed to raise 10 children and 15 grandchildren (2 on the way) and also took on the most selfless of acts in fostering children with disabilities. To say I respect and love them for everything they’ve done and continue to do for me to this day would be a complete understatement. My childhood was perfect, I had 9 older siblings who always looked out for me and were always there as role models for me and I had a great group of friends, both of which have continued to this day. I grew up in a football-mad household and developed a love for the game and my beloved Swansea City. As a child, I believed I was going to go on and one day put the jersey on but unfortunately, my gut became as big as my aspirations at the wrong age(cheers mam for the copious amounts of your famous ‘pastie pie’) and you can’t just have an average left foot to make it nowadays.
Anyone who’s ever met me would tell you I’m a happy go, lucky person, always laughing and smiling and can’t resist making a joke out of anything possible. It came as a surprise to almost everyone when ‘out of the blue’ in my previous job I called in sick for a week after going to the doctors because ‘I wasn’t feeling myself’. After the week had passed many people on my team, including my manager at the time (who was brilliant throughout the whole process) were bemused by the situation wondering exactly what was going on. I, at the time, was in charge of boosting morale on the team, ensuring everyone remained happy on the phones during busy periods, surely I couldn’t be the one who needed the morale and boost of happiness myself? After going to the doctors to try and figure out exactly what was going on in my head, I was prescribed Fluoxetine on a normal 50mg dosage to see if it made any difference. The next 2 weeks were possibly the worst of my life, with any anti-depressant it takes time for them to work. With the fluoxetine, however, in its initial stages it starves your brain of serotonin this makes you feel 10x worse than how you felt prior to taking them, this hit me like a train. The initial 2 weeks I probably had around 2/3 nights where I managed to get over 4 hours sleep, I’d sit awake through the night, in the dark with the most horrific thoughts running through my mind. The tablet makes you over think absolutely everything, I’d be laying worried that a family member had died or something was going to happen to them during the night and the thoughts would then stem to the most upsetting nightmares imaginable.
After the nightmare period had ended, I started to feel a little saner and started to slowly feel like less of a ‘psycho’. The problem with the tablets for myself was that I felt like an unemotional robot, ticking through days without purpose or care. I’d usually be found sitting in my room in the dark, watching television or listening to music, only ever leaving my room for a cigarette and some junk food. Because of this lifestyle of not wanting to do anything, not caring about myself or anything for that matter, as well as complications with my tablets it led me to balloon from 12 stone to 17 stone in a matter of months, something that even to this day is embarrassing to touch on. For anyone, weight is something that can be a struggle and conscious entity, as a child I was always chubby and then in my later teenage years, I’d become thin and athletic, so gaining the weight made me become even more of a recluse, this then becomes a vicious circle where I hated the person I was but was too embarrassed to go out and do anything about it. The nightmare continued.
After 3 months absence from work, I decided that although my mental state of mind was not ready to go back, I had no choice, if I had carried on like this any longer I felt I’d have completely lost my mind. Work were brilliant, they allowed me to do a phase return meaning I’d slowly increase my hours weekly depending on how well I was coping. The only struggle I felt on that first day going back was the thought of seeing everyone I knew and knowing I was a lump of mess, but after getting passed the seeing of everyone and the questions of where I’d been, I felt back at home right away and got back to everything slowly. In the coming weeks, I made the decision that the current shift patterns I was doing weren’t helping my frame of mind and this could potentially have been the issue all along. I was working 9-8 shifts with 3 days off, at the time I loved it. I had a great manager who would bend over backward for anyone and 3-day weekends which catered for my love of football and love of alcohol. Upon returning to working 8-5 shifts in no time I felt great and came off the fluoxetine completely. I was starting to feel myself again and work was going well. I’d had a change of scenery and I’d just been chosen to go out to India for what ended up as being a 6-month stint. A life-changing opportunity that I simply couldn’t pass up. Not only did I see it as an experience of a lifetime, but I had heard Delhi belly was a real thing and this could have helped with my weight-loss. (sad but true lol)
India was a special place, filled with fond memories and experiences that I never dreamed I’d have achieved. I met extraordinary people who taught me some amazing things and most importantly it made me realise just how spectacular home is and how I’d never be able to permanently leave Swansea. (how cliche) Whilst coming to the end of my term out in New Delhi I was starting to think about my options and decided that going back and working 8-5 speaking to angry customers on the phone wasn’t what I currently wanted to do. One of my biggest passions in life is music, something that unfortunately I possess no talent in. I decided that I’d quit my job upon returning to the UK and I’d go to University and study Music Business. Two of my favourite things music and money, surely this would all go right?
September came and I was starting school for the first time all over again, filled with dread, but mostly excitement. I met my classmates and started learning about a topic that really interested me. I was excited going into each lecture because I felt I was learning valuable things that would assist me in future endeavors and I had a real sense of optimism, something that for a while I hadn’t had. It was great! The assignments started coming in thick and fast, then the exams and I was starting to fall behind with it all, I felt completely inept and out of my depth and was worried I’d be a failure. I’d just quit a good job after being urged not to by my parents (only because of never completing college and dropping out of everything I do, out of sheer indecisiveness) and I was about to fail my exams and end up having to go back begging for my old job. I felt scared and worried about the whole thing, I started missing uni and started feeling myself falling into the same traps that had held me before.
The new year came and went in a flash, it was a new term and I was determined to get cracking on and nailing all my assignments and exams. My brain had other ideas, it decided to start keeping me up all night and making me feel down about everything all over again. The real worrying part for me was when I experienced my first panic attack, something of which I never fully understood and still don’t really to this day. I was laying in bed, restless, I’d finished watching TV and was just there still, alone with my thoughts. I started feeling my heart rate increase and the palms of my hands start to sweat as my throat felt like it was closing up, it was 3am and I felt paralyzed, I couldn’t move or do anything for around 5 minutes, this absolutely petrified me , In those moments I genuinely thought I was going to die. After calming myself down, I read up online (don’t do this) and searched for exactly what had just happened to me, and stupidly self-diagnosed it as a panic attack. The worrying of having another one kept me awake for a further two nights until, and the attacks were becoming ever more frequent. In the end, I decided I couldn’t carry on living like this. I’d try and fail to sleep every night and the nights I would end up sleeping I’d wake up feeling like I had no purpose. Something had to be done.
I spoke to my parents who were as supportive as ever and explained what was going on, how worried I was feeling and how I couldn’t carry on not sleeping and feeling this way. I decided to speak to the doctor and explain my situation. Their first response without even thinking was to prescribe me Fluoxetine again, I refused, that tablet had already made me go on an emotional rollercoaster and I was still taking up two seats of it. I needed something different, so they gave me Citalopram , the first day of taking I decided I needed to change my approach or I’d become exactly what I was on Fluoxetine. I decided I’d be going to work that night in my pub job, I’d start eating healthy and exercising. I knew if I’d lost a bit of weight it’d make me feel better and hopefully coinciding with the tablet I’d be fixed in no time. I took the tablet, went to work and cracked on with it. After about 2/3 hours of work I started feeling all over the place, I was feeling extremely anxious and I felt a panic attack on the horizon, this petrified me as I didn’t like the thought of being in an exposed area around people I know, looking like a ‘nut job’. My boss sent me home early and I took my Phenergan (prescribed for my insomnia) and I was out for the count. I slept for 16 hours and woke up still feeling mentally and physically drained, I took my second days worth of Citalopram and I felt fine. In the month that followed I was exercising, eating well and feeling good about myself, I’d managed to lose around 4 stone since the start of the year and I was starting to feel normal again.
My initial 28 days on the Citalopram had ended, I’d stopped taking my Phenegran, my sleeping pattern was great, I felt amazing and I was the happiest I’d been in a long time. Being the impulsive person I am, I believed I now knew exactly what it took to make me happy. I didn’t need any tablets to make me feel good, I just got myself into a rut previously and never really got out of it. I was on the straight and narrow and I decided to not renew my Citalopram. A month went by, I continued with my exercising, eating healthily and the weight continued to drop off, I still felt so good, surely to goodness now I’m cured and this was just a phase.
I walked to work, I was about to do my usual Sunday 12-10pm shift at the pub, one of my favorites of the week because I get to catch the football during quiet spells and always keep myself busy. I don’t think it hasn’t even entered my mind really at this point how close I am to the end of the first year at University and I’ve got a ‘shitload’ of assignments and presentations due, maybe it was there subconsciously, who knows? But I started getting the feeling of a panic attack coming on again, something I hadn’t felt for over 2 months. Something I thought I’d never have again and something that was just completely out of the blue. I’m not sure if God was on my side this day, but for whatever reason at 6pm in work whilst this panic attack occurred, not one person was in the building other than me. This should have probably scared me, but I saw it as comforting that nobody else would have seen my struggle. Since then I’ve continued to have panic attacks, not as frequently as before, but still every other day. I started to feel myself get back into a rut and this worried me again. I didn’t want to become reliant on a tablet to allow me to feel healthy and normal, I didn’t want people thinking that I needed a drug in order to make me like them and worst of all I didn’t want to feel weak and inferior for not being able to make myself happy.
I came to the conclusion that being reliant on a tablet to dictate your happiness and normality is unhealthy, however, tablets can assist you in the process as long as you do something about it yourself. You can’t just sit at home, taking the tablet waiting for the black cloud to pass by. I don’t ever want to get into the rut I was in 2 years ago and I’m going to ensure that I never will. Some days are harder than others, some days you feel like the worlds going to end and you’re being swallowed up and spat out. I’ve decided I’m going to start taking my Citalopram’s again from next week, not because I feel reliant on them, but sometimes you have to suck it up and admit when you need help. There’s no shame in admitting it, everyone needs it sometimes. I in myself am fine, I still feel good about myself and I’m still doing the things I enjoy, but I’d rather do something about the small issues I have sooner rather than later.
The best thing you can do is talk with your friends and family, being honest about your feelings doesn’t make you any less of a man or woman, if anything it takes a lot of balls to admit you need help. Without my friends and families support, I’d have been a complete and utter mess. This is an open invitation however to anyone who feels the need to reach out to someone, my DM’s/Inbox/Messages are always open to anyone who needs help. We’ve all been in the same boat at one point, some people are just more willing to be open about it than others and that’s fine. But don’t allow it to eat you up.
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