I am a natural worrier, always have been. Worrying is my way of solving problems before they arise. But I am determined to be a “turn that frown upside down” kinda girl, so outwardly I focus on the bright side of life. To me this was the perfect balance between caution and optimism, until it wasn’t. I was 37 when I had my first real panic attack. Of course it didn’t happen overnight. It started with a little bit of worry everyday. Seemingly reasonable concerns that anyone might have about their job; how was I perceived at work? Was I doing well enough? At some point those worries grew bigger and the negative voices in my head got louder. It started to spill outside the work box into other areas of my life; what if he doesn’t love me anymore? What if they don’t think I’m a good mother? But I still didn’t want to worry anybody so I kept quiet, desperate for them not to find out.
Pretty soon I was having difficulty sleeping and was waking up in the night to that soundtrack in my head reminding me of all the terrible things that could happen. I thought it was a phase, that it would pass. I thought that if I just tried harder, worked harder, that it would all get better. Anxiety was like the school bully living inside my head. Eventually I learnt that the best way to stand up to bullies is to ignore them. Someone wise told me that worry is like a plant – if you feed it, it will grow. If you don’t, it will wither and die. Once I was free from my tormentor, I determined that nobody should ever have to live with that kind of fear and shame. There is life after depression and it can be brighter than you can ever imagine. It is your right to be happy and fulfilled, and together we will find out how.