I awoke in a blind fucking panic, excuse the expletive but that is exactly what it was. The tunnel walls were literally closing in and things became very claustrophobic. When I say tunnel walls, that was how the nightmare manifested itself, I was atop some sort of boat going into a tunnel, as I travelled along further into darkness the feeling of intense helplessness and lack of space was stifling.
A month or so before these type of nightmares became the norm I was in Egypt on holiday with a friend. Ancient Egyptian history had always fascinated me and it was a dream to visit the land of the Pharoahs, but something went wrong there, and it triggered a dark period of my life. This seems a particularly stupid thing to say but Egypt was bloody hot, too hot for this milk bottle skinned englishman and I can only guess that I got some sort of heatstroke, towards the end of the trip I was becoming anxious about my health, I remember sitting in Luxor airport on the day of departure thinking, ‘Get me out of here’. I was on edge.
Back home I went to the doctor and he could find nothing wrong on a physical level with me but I knew something wasn’t right. Before long I started having palpitations, now the first time you have one of these is bloody scary as you don’t really know what to think and have no real idea what is going on with your body. Dizzines takes over and you feel like there’s a bloody racehorse running the Grand National in your chest. Incredibly unnerving. I actually asked for an ambulance and I got taken into A and E, I remember the doctor who saw me exclaim ‘You got brought here in an ambulance!!!!!!’, as if to say ‘You time wasting, ambulance abusing moron’, I felt awful.
But why, why did this happen? Everything seemed fine, job – tick, homelife -tick, health until then – tick. What was causing this? It became incredibly frustrating and if you feed a demon with negative thoughts and anxious feeling he becomes a true monster and you become something else.
I certainly did change, the world now revolved completely around me, me and only me and my new ‘illness’. The darkest thoughts and nightmares entered my mind. A year or so earlier I had seen a former work colleague taken into a special unit at a local hospital because he had simply ‘flipped’, that visit there played on my mind, the vacant look on his face and some of the other poor people on the ward, I was worried I was going there.
My Doctor didn’t know what to do with me, he simply couldn’t see that I was now suffering from some form of high anxiety or depression. I was a regular visitor to him, I remember my medical notes started resembling a small paperback by the time I had finished my visits some months later. Bless his heart, he tried everything for me, I had all sorts of tests but once again, nothing physically wrong.
I gave up work for a period of two weeks, that was the worst thing I could have done. Sitting at home with your thoughts was torture and I didn’t really enjoy anything as my edginess put paid to that. Your senses go into overdrive, the tv is too loud and you can’t concentrate on a storyline anyway, that beautiful rock music you love so dearly now is too loud and complicated.
My family didn’t really know what to do with me, I must have really pissed them off and I was no doubt quite a burden. They were always trying to second guess what was wrong with me, if I had heard ‘You’ll be ok’ or ‘It will pass’ once I must have heard it a thousand times. I remember having to go into town one day, I went with my mum because I couldn’t face going alone, she was literally propping me up, the amount of people, the smells and noises was just too much, I remember her lying to a friend that I met that I had been ill with a bad stomach.
One night I recall asking (demanding) to go and visit my Dad, it wasn’t too late but it was not a time you’d want a visitor turning up. My thoughts that evening……I wasn’t going to make it through the night and needed to just see Dad before I went!!!! You really do get some quite dark thoughts.
One day out of nowhere on one of my regular visits to the doctor he suggested that I go and talk to someone, a psychiatrist. I remember the gentleman’s name to this day and I remember the change not long after.
The funny thing is, it was a simple talk, two people discussing life in general with a little bit of time put aside for me to air my concerns and feelings. The phrase he said to me at the end of the session was, ‘You’re on your way back’. Within a few weeks I was ‘back’.
Isn’t it strange? That session was possibly the first time in weeks that I’d heard anyone say ‘Are YOU ok Jon?
This all happened to me as a physically fit and happy person in the mid 1990s when I was in my mid 20s. Anxiety and Depression is truly terrible, in this age when you are force fed other people’s happy and successful lives through social media day in and day out it is no wonder that people lose their way if they feel low or worthless.
There is no simple answer, for those who are burdened with these feelings, speaking out is of paramount importance but it’s tough to do so but please do try, let someone know, as the slogan says, ‘it is ok to say, I’m not great, I’m not ok’.
These are just my very simple words on a very important subject. I still get to the edge of the dark places but my experiences tell me when I’m close or nearby. Not everyone knows when they are on the way to those places. Listen to the loved ones around you.