It was a regular Saturday. I woke up feeling calm, ate some breakfast, grabbed my sports gear and headed to the sports hall for a training session. It was the beginning of a new routine and exciting chapter of my life. Just a few weeks ago I had moved to a different country to work on expanding my business. I was part of a sports community, had made some friends, and had my girlfriend with me. Opportunity was aplenty. Everything seemed perfect.
The training started. I warmed up as usual, doing my routine exercises. But today, something was off. An hour into the session, I started feeling extremely dizzy and had a shortness of breath. I shrugged it off, and continued my training. But the feeling would not subside. After a couple of minutes it got worse. I started to panic, briskly walking over to the side of the field to sit down for awhile. Try as I might to relax, the feeling clung to me. Something was not right.
I felt dizzy. My breathing was out of control, and black spots obstructed my line of vision. My stomach was growling, face and arms tingling.
What was happening to me?
After some time, things started to slowly improve. The training finished, and I managed to walk to the locker rooms to take a shower. My girlfriend and team mate took me home to rest after I told them what had happened.
Little did I know this was just the start of what was to become a living hell.
The same feeling I experienced during my training began to return, only this time more sporadically and in different ways. I could not cope and was at a loss of what to do, where to go, with whom to talk…
I developed a sense of derealization– a literal detachment from reality. I lived in a bubble, a dream, which slowly suffocated me from the new life. I tried to read about what was happening to me online, but my experience seemed different. I was alone, very alone. Nobody understood what I felt, and I had no words to explain what was going on inside.
I wanted to die, but I was to scared to do anything about it.
From an outsiders perspective, my life was the same. I continued my routine. I woke up, ate breakfast, worked on my company, ate dinner, and got drinks with friends. On the side, I tried meditation, yoga, continued with sports, or did simple relaxation techniques.
My body would not respond. I lived in a constant state of fear.
Things began to get worse. My normal days soon became a beckoning call from hell. I was scared to wake up, knowing my symptoms would be there to greet me. I began to limit my social activities, so much so that I was unable to visit the grocery store or take public transit. To see my girlfriend, I would always take a cab to avoid people. My own apartment began to fall apart–I could not take care of my place.
All of this took a major hit on my business. I declared bankruptcy, and put the extra money I had at the time for therapy. I was prescribed anti-depressants. They helped–slightly–but were very harsh on my body.
None of my friends could comprehend what I was going through despite me being open about my state of mind. They greeted me with phrases like “Hey Mr. Dizzy”, not understanding my internal struggle.
I could not continue to live like this. There was no light at the end of the tunnel.
But I knew I had to re-group and re-focus.
One day, I got out a sheet of paper and wrote down what I loved to do before this hell began. I slowly started to re-frame my situation in my mind, constantly asking myself “what is the worst that could happen?”
I pushed myself, slowly. I went back to the grocery store, and chose to stand in the longest queue. I started taking public transit again. Every day I forced myself to do something I loved.
The tides turned. My dark moments of despair grew lighter, and I began to regain control over my symptoms. The process was painfully slow and tedious. But as I sit here writing this now more than two years later, I can confidently say “I feel better.”
Throughout this experience, I learned an important lesson: simply ignoring or fighting against my symptoms was not a viable solution. For much of what you begin to discover about yourself is out of your control (as I will explain more in Part 2-The Flashback).
Awareness is key. There are a lot people who don’t know they are depressed or have anxiety. Some common symptoms I had and that are often experienced are:
- 24/7 anxiety
- Chronic hyperventilation
- Loss of feeling in my legs and arms
- Tingling in my arms, legs, and face
- Upset stomach, no appetite
- White/Black spots in vision
- Blurry sight
- Pressure on chest
- Tightness in chest
- Impaired hearing ability
- Feeling alone
- No emotion (unable to experience joy, pain etc.)
- Scared To die
- Careless about myself, care too much about others
Things I did to take action:
- Take a long talk every single day
- Tried to do what I love everyday
- Talk (family, friends, therapist)
- Hang out with friends
- Keep living life
- Working through my symptoms through writing
- Finding out how my symptoms occured (did something memorable happen in my life to cause this?)
Current Age: 23