Can anxiety and depression turn an 18-stone weightlifter into a frightened wreck? The answer is yes – and it can happen to anyone and faster than you think.
As a child my mother suffered with mental health problems. I would often hear her crying and she’d tell me she might not be alive or around when I got home from school. This was the starting point of my anxiety and I used to pretend I was ill most weeks so I didn’t have to go to school. One reason was I was always bullied and picked on for not being very bright the other was I didn’t want to come home and find my mother lying dead on the floor.
I was diagnosed with depression at age 16 and I was prescribed Prozac. The years passed and I was on and off the prescribed drugs until I was 28. That’s when I hit a low point in my life: I had married and had three fantastic children but my job was getting me down and I started having panic attacks.
I hated my job and the people who worked there. How could I change? I couldn’t see any way out and it was making me ill. Then in 2003 I was made redundant.
Yet things started to look brighter so I went to college and became a qualified gardener and went self-employed. Life was ok until I had a few panic attacks and I could feel the anxiety and what came with it all creeping back.
I was back at square one but it became much worse when I hit my biggest low. I was a nervous wreck, was having thoughts of “what do I do now?”, “I cannot cope with this”, “what do people think of me?”, “am I going mad?”, “I’ve let everyone down”, “what a failure”. I hated myself. This time I contemplated taking my own life. Thoughts and feelings got too much that one day I found myself in the car with blood running down my arm – I had self harmed, something I’m not proud of but it happened.
But I’m one of the lucky ones as I got help from my GP and the volunteer centre at Chelmsford in Essex and I also completed group therapy.
The centre gave me a leaflet about volunteering and it took me a month or so to ring the number, but I did. I went along for a coffee and an informal chat about what we could do to get me up and about and doing something. I started the work by just doing one-off jobs such as putting letters in envelopes with a group of other volunteers. It’s a great way to meet different people and it really does build your confidence.
As a volunteer we have a group meeting every month. We have a coffee and a chat and also hear about other news. It’s nice to see people and to hear about how they are getting on.
So far things are good. I am currently helping with the Essex Wildlife Trust and I am looking forward to doing more volunteering in the future. I’ve started training back at the gym and seem to have more confidence so the future is now looking brighter.
Scott Everitt is a volunteer and uses mental health services