Shanna Towner

So I suffer with extremely severe anxiety, severe depression and mild bipolar. I’ve always been quite an anxious person, but when I was younger it didn’t really affect everything I did.I always liked having someone I knew and someone I trusted around, but because I was shy it seemed to be more because of that reason.

It wasn’t until I was around sixteen that I started getting panic attacks, but back then I didn’t know that that was what I was suffering with.They didn’t happen all the time at first, it could be going out somewhere with people I didn’t know well which would set them off.When I was that age, mental health wasn’t something talked about at all, it was more like a forbidden subject.

As I got older, the panic attacks got worse and when I was about twenty I decided to go to the doctors about it.He was the least helpful doctor I’d ever seen.He said that I shouldn’t be suffering with anxiety at my age and to go and try yoga or something.He made me feel like there was something wrong with me, that I shouldn’t be having these panic attacks and I felt that I shouldn’t have ever gone to the doctors about it.After that experience, I never wanted to go back to the doctors, never wanted to get help, so I just kept everything to myself, which was probably the worst thing possible to do.

From then on, everything just seemed to go downhill.I was constantly quiet, my mood was up and down, I stopped doing everything that I loved, my mind was permanently on overdrive.Something then happened at one of my jobs which made my anxiety a hundred times worse than it already was, to the point I was constantly crying, I was being physically sick and I would lock myself in the bathroom at work.That was when my boss stepped in and got me counselling as they didn’t know if I was fit to work or a danger to myself.I was given the most amazing counsellor who completely understood me.I seen him for just over a year before I had to leave because of getting a new job, but I was getting less panic attacks and I was starting to feel like the old me again.

For just over a year everything was going okay, I still got a few panic attacks over that time, but I felt like I was coping alright.But slowly I felt like I was going backwards again.I still felt like I couldn’t go back to the doctors, so I just tried to carry on with everything.It got to the point where I didn’t want to leave the house, let alone go to work, and I felt exhausted all the time because I was having constant panic attacks all day.Eventually I did make myself go back to the doctors, and the lady was so helpful.She got me to talk about what was going on, how I was feeling and how long I had felt this way.She did offer to prescibe me medication to help, but I didn’t want to be taking tablets.She ended up giving me leaflets for two different counselling places and asked for me to go back in a months time so she could see how I was doing.I contacted both counselling places, one didn’t end up getting back in contact with me about seeing anyone, and the other place, the counsellor made me feel really uncomfortable and like what I was saying was wrong.After a couple of sessions, she didn’t get back in contact with me about another session, so I felt like I was back at square one again.

It wasn’t until nearly two years later in 2016 that I spoke to a doctor again.I went to the doctors for a completely different reason, but the nurse picked up straight away how anxious I was.My anxiety was so bad at that point that it was affecting my blood pressure and I was feeling faint most of the time.She asked me what was going on, how I was feeling, what I was feeling and loads of other questions.She ended up getting me referred to a counselling place which is for severe mental health which only doctors/nurses can refer you to.I got an appointment with a counsellor just over two weeks later.I seen her weekly for the first month and a half which was to test you for different things.It was just after then when I was diognosed with anxiety, depression and bipolar.

This lady is the counsellor that I still see now, and I honestly couldn’t ask for anyone better.She understands me a lot and does so much more than she has to.She helps me with my mental health, but on top of that she’s been trying to help me with insomnia, vivid dreams and flashbacks.We have weekly counselling sessions, but I also have someone to contact anytime of the day if I need to.It’s been nearly five months now since I started having weekly counselling sessions, and very slowly I’m starting to feel like the old me again.Maybe if the first doctor helped me, or maybe if I didn’t give up and asked for another doctor instead, maybe I wouldn’t have got to as bad as I did.I still struggle, I still get panic attacks and feel low, but it’s not as bad as it was this time six months ago.

Mental health can affect any age, so don’t think you’re too young or too old for it to affect you.Mental illnesses can also affect your health.It can affect blood pressure, your heart, your muscles, you can get insomnia, you can constantly feel like you have no energy.

My advice to anybody who is suffering, feels like they need some help or feel like they want to hurt/harm theirselves in any way is to go and talk to someone.Whether that’s a family member, a friend you trust or even going to see a doctor.If you go and see a doctor and they don’t help, book an appointment with somebody else.Just keep going until someone will listen to you and will help you.I know it can feel daunting having to go and see somebody, but the sooner you get help, the less it’ll affect you and the quicker you’ll get back to feeling somewhat okay again.Nowadays they usually try counselling before giving people medication.There isn’t a right or wrong choice with them.Some people find that counselling helps more and some people find that medication helps them more.Not all counsellors are the right ones for you.You might have to see five or six counsellors before you feel like you’ve found the right person for you.

Over the last few months I have also found writing helps.Write down what you’ve done that day, write down how you’ve felt that day, write down how you felt when you woke up or how you felt before bed.You can write poems or songs, anything at all.I’ve found listening to music helps too.Try catching your negative thoughts and turning them into something more positive, leave positive notes and quotes around, everyday try and say something positive about yourself.Give yourself little tasks to do, so if you struggle to leave your room, maybe try and go downstairs for an hour, or if you struggle to leave the house, try and go for a walk for ten minutes.Give yourself tasks that aren’t too challenging at first and then keep pushing yourself to do harder things every couple of weeks.Find a hobbie that you love to do and make sure you’re doing that once or twice a week.I’ve also been told about an app which I find really helpful if I’m having panic attacks or feeling low.It’s called ‘Virtual Hope Box’ and it’s where you add music, photos and videos, and it has games, breathing exercises and yoga exercises to help you.

It’s not always easy, you’re going to get bad days, but keep on going because I promise you it’ll be worth it and you will get to where you want to be.And always remember that you are never alone.


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