Nikki shares her story about living with four separate anxiety disorders. One she talks about in particular is Complex PTSD.
I’ll never forget the day it happened. I was getting ready to leave the house and I had this weird knot in my stomach. I ignored it best I could and carried on, because that’s what you do. Right?
Hair was done, dressed and ready. I get in my car, still with this knot. It’s a little tighter and feeling uncomfortable but still, I had things to do. As I was driving it hit me, nausea, shaking, ice pick headache and jaw clenching. What was happening to me?
Was I having a heart attack? A stroke? I take deep breaths to lower my heartbeat and calm the nausea. I turn the car around and go home.
That was my first real anxiety attack.
Since that day it escalated. I’ve had depression ever since I can remember, but this was different. Painful.
Since that day I’ve been diagnosed with four separate anxiety disorders. Germaphobia, general anxiety, health anxiety and complex PTSD.
I have to live with these. It’s not an easy task as you can imagine.
How do you live with this? Do I tell people? I mean, general anxiety is one thing but four? Will people judge me? See me as weak? Broken? Unlovable?
I spent the best part of a year beating myself up both mentally and physically. I starved myself of food, a social life and the idea of ever meeting someone who would accept me with so much baggage. I didn’t feel worthy of any of it undeserving.
I sought professional help in the form of therapy. CBT to be exact. My first therapist although good, wasn’t equipped in dealing with complex PTSD, the worst of my anxiety disorders. I was only sleeping two hours a night due to nightmares. Something I still struggle with today.
I didn’t know who to tell or how, so I didn’t. Not until just before my last session. My therapist advised over and over that I needed to tell those closest to me, but I was too scared, ashamed.
Complex PTSD is caused through multiple traumatic events. How do I tell the people I love, that love me, that something so bad has happened to me that it literally changed the way my brain works?
I started with my best friend, she had witnessed part of what happened and fitted the pieces to the rest so she had an idea what I was going to say. We cried a lot as I told her of the mental abuse I had endured from someone I once loved.
I then told a select few people who I trusted. It wasn’t easy to admit I was broken. Honestly, when I look back, I wish I had told them sooner. The understanding, help and love I received was endless, and still is.
I was slowly recovering. The trauma was still there along with the rest of my anxieties but I was coping. Then everything went wrong. My mother died. This caused me to spiral in to what can only be described as self-destruction, again.
After a whole string of bad things happening after then, I decided I needed help again. No one but myself could get me out of my downward spiral and I wasn’t going to bring people down with me.
This time was different. I had a specialist in complex PTSD and dream therapy. I’m not going to lie, having to re-live all my past and present trauma was hard. There were times I wanted to run and never look back, but I persevered. Not just for me but for the people I love. I needed to get better for them too.
Now after therapy, I’m continuing to use the tools I was given to try and help my brain differentiate between memory and present. I have good, bad and worse days, flashbacks and nightmares. I feel scared still but deep down I know I will be okay and this wasn’t my fault. I did what I had to do to survive.
To anyone out there who feels like it’s their fault, remember, it isn’t you its them. You survived because you are strong and because your story isn’t over.
Words: Nikki Kent
If you or someone you is experiencing anxiety, here are some useful websites and helplines below:
Mind Infoline: 0300 123 3393
Mindsmatter Pendle: 01282 657927
Anxiety UK Phone: 03444 775 774
Samaritans Phone: 116 123