A bit about you:
I have lived in Adelaide my whole life with my mum, dad and big brother. I’m currently studying my Bachelor in Paramedic Science and also hope to complete my pre-registration for nursing. I spend most of my time pole dancing, playing with my guinea pigs and watching House or the Office (the US version, of course). One day I would love to travel to Europe, eat pastries in France and see the Berlin Wall.
What is your experience of depression and/or anxiety?
I was diagnosed with panic attack disorder when I was 12 years old and have experienced periods of depression in relation to this.
Looking back, what were your first signs and symptoms?
Every time I try and think back to when I started having panic attacks I have to think back further and further, however the first time I had a defining panic attack that made me think, “Hey maybe this isn’t supposed to happen all the time,” was on my year 7 camp. I was sitting talking with my girlfriends and then had this strange cold sensation on the back of my head and down my spine, like someone was running there fingernails down my nerves, I felt short of breath and like I had something crushing down on my chest. After trying to rationalise this (which is hard to do as an 11 year old who has no idea what was happening) I began to panic even more and vomited all over our midnight snacks… Yum.
When I was 14 I started to feel socially withdraw and that nothing could make me happy, after a few months of crying every night I began to wonder if this was just 'teenage blues' or maybe something more.
Who was the first person you talked to about it?
My mum was the first person to notice my symptoms and consider that my mental health was not what it should be. Luckily, my mum and I are close and she had some knowledge of mental illness and anxiety and suggested we go and see the GP.
How did you go about getting help?
After doing my own research online about anxiety disorders and depression and reading stories about other individuals sharing similar experiences as mine I felt more confident about going to the doctor to discuss how I was feeling.
What was important to your recovery?
It was and still is really important for me to have a strong support network in my life. Having friends and family who were understanding and encouraged me to seek help really helped motivate me to want to work towards recovery.
How do you keep healthy and active?
Keeping an active mind has helped my mental health so studying and making sure I enjoy what I’m learning is important to my wellness. I make sure I train with my personal trainer at least one a week, this keeps me accountable and gives me something to look forward to. In addition to this, I do pole dancing and practice meditation that helps me to feel focused. Furthermore, if I'm having a particularly ‘bad’ day I find going for a run to burn off extra adrenaline helps calm me down.
What’s your piece of advice to someone who is worried about their mental health or has just been diagnosed?
Don’t be afraid to voice your concerns to someone you trust or your doctor, they have probably seen 10 other people in a similar situation to you this week and won’t judge you.
How can I help a friend who I am worried about?
Speak to your friend and tell them you’re concerned, if you’re not sure how to approach them have a look at the beyondblue check-in app.
Any final words?
The road to recovery isn’t straightforward and it’s not always easy, but it is worth it. Having a mental health condition can be a blessing, you just have to learn how to own it!