A happy ending
My memories of my early childhood are dark, lonely and sad. I was constantly reminded of my differences by my failure to make friends and crippling shyness in social situations. I found peace with myself in the company of my animal friends which I was lucky to be able to keep in plentiful supplies.
I was 100% driven by my conscience which i knew then as only 'good and bad'. I felt guilty most of time and couldn't sleep at night unless I had given a confession. I hadn't done something wrong then I made something up.
My parents did notice there was something wrong with me but didn't dare seek help because the stigma attached to mental illness during the 80s when i grew up. Instead they kept me active and offered me all the love and endless patience a parent could offer.
I reached the beginnings of puberty at the early age of 7 at which point curious physical symptoms began to appear. Mainly extreme nausea and vomiting leading to blackouts. My mother assumed that i was low in blood sugar as i my body was growing so fast and fixed the spells with biscuits and sweets.
It got so bad for a couple of years that I could not even get up in the mornings without a sugar hit. Although I ate like a horse I was seriously underweight extremely socially underdeveloped. My fingernails were bitten raw. I was extremely unhappy and cried most days
My memories of this stage of my life closely resemble how one would see looking out from the inside of a fish bowl.
In my early teens I began to dread leaving the safety of my home as it was getting increasingly hard to hide my symptoms from others and put on a brave face. Confused by my behavior, my parents sent me to boarding school to try a new environment. At boarding school I matured and found a real sense of happiness amongst my select, very small group of friends and for the first time I got to stretch my social wings and although i found it extremely hard I found pleasure in the company of others. My physical symptoms eased remarkably but i was always aware of a certain sense of fragility which kept me on edge in an eternal state of self protection.
After I finished school I got a job which was extremely emotionally unsuitable and i slid back down into a pit of depression. I was a robot for 6 months, working, eating, sleeping. I had no friends. I had no desire for friends. Then one day I woke up and realized that I could either do something about it or end it. I chose the former and plunged myself headfirst into a what is known as a 'party flat' where there was constant social stimulation. I quite my job and found more suitable employment. I jumped from flat to flat right through my late teens and early twenties learning the do's and don't of life. Generally growing up, spreading my wings and learning to enjoy who I am. Unfortunately by the age of 19 by curious physical symptoms were back in full force and expanding. I could not take the bus as I would experience nausea so severe that i would pass out. I stopped going to social functions as i was sick and embarrassed of having to leave. I constantly felt faint and dazed and was blacking out regularly. I couldn't drink more than a couple of glasses of wine with my friends if i wanted to get out of bed the next day. I suffered shaking hands and cold sweats. I was extremely irritable and I took the whole worlds worries into my hands. I cried often and the worst bit of all was the overwhelming loneliness. I could be in a whole room of close family and friends, people i love and trust and still, i would feel completely alone. For the first time in my life i started to experience heart palpitations and chest pain. I started suffering panic attacks in situations which were unfamiliar to me. My behavior during these panic attacks was unsettling and confusing for my friends as they understood as little about them as I did. Most of my friends became wary or drifted away. I owe my last grains of sanity to the few friends that stayed. For the first time in my life, it occurred to me that something might actually be wrong and that what i was experiencing was not normal and I went to a GP. Throughout these years i was bounced from clinic to clinic being poked and prodded and jabbed. I was tested for everything from Diabetes to Addisons disease with my results always coming back as perfect. After 4 years I stopped seeking help. Deep down I now truly believed something was wrong but the professionals who know best argued otherwise. I felt like a hypercondriact and a time waster.
I accepted a life of struggle and illness. Although i never stopped trying every day was a struggle.
When i was 23 i ended a particularly destructive relationship and moved into a place by myself where i could focus only on my own needs without the stresses and distractions of others to bring me down but it was to late. I was broken. Broken by nothing other than my own internal demons.
I met a person, a person in a wheelchair which struggles of this own, in both a physical and emotional sense. He saw something in me that others didn't. He saw that behind the cold blank barrier that hid the mess within, there was a person. He brought a side of my personality out that I had forgotten existed. I had more fun in the few weeks we spent together than in my whole life. We went our own ways and in a desperate attempt to grasp onto what i had found I one more time, sought out a GP.
A luck would have it, his area of specialty happened to mental health. He knew the moment i walked in the door what i was there for and what i needed. He gave me hug before i even sat down. Over 6 months we worked through various cognitive therapy techniques and he finally talked me into trying an antidepressant called Lexipro. It wasn't government funded and I wasn't convinced so he set me up for my first two months free of charge. At first I was prescribed 10mg. If it has been 20, i would have killed myself. Receptors in my brain that had never before in my life been activated where suddenly swamped and i completely flipped out. I dreamed up that I was part of a conspiracy theory in which drugs were being trialled on me against my will. I had panic attacks like i've never known possible. There was no way out and no-one to call as I was so ashamed of what i had done. I didn't sleep at all that night, or the next day, or the next night. I was completely wired. The doctor advised me to that what i had experienced, although extreme was a very good signal that we had found the main cause of my life long string of ailments. He advised me to drop the dosage to five mg and give it a week to settle in. I did exactly this and i swear i will never look back. Within a month I was just a skeleton of my former self, growing with confidence every day. I didn't need the cognitive therapy anymore. The physical symptoms all but disappeared and in my new found body my mind was free. I still felt a broad range of emotions but for the first 6 medicated months, I did not cry once!! I now feel strong and confident and I'm proud to say I live a happy, normal life.
It took a long time for the denial to reside. I did not believe that my physical symptoms were simply just a manifestation of an imbalance of chemicals in my brain. But the proof is right here in my story. Half of one little pill taken daily, in the morning with breakfast, is all it took to fix 22 years of debilitating illness. In the two years that I have been medicated I have not once passes out. I can enter a crowded room and exit the other side without developing sweat patches down to my waste. I cry only occasionally with good reason. I no longer worry about the little things that don't matter. I can even sit down and read a whole book from beginning to end and most impressive of all.......my nails have grown. For the first time ever, my nails reached the tips of my fingers and my cuticles are no longer raw and bleeding. It wasn't a conscious effort to stop biting.....I just did.
I don't intend to stay on the drugs forever. The doctor says just a few years is all it takes to get back on the right track and if i really am as healthy as all those tests proved that I am, when i wean off them, my body should take take over and continue producing all the right chemicals in all the right quantities.
If only it had done that from the beginning!!