I have struggled with social anxiety disorder my whole life. This has been the catalyst in my current situation. My current situation being complex ptsd, agoraphobia, sleep anxiety which is causing severe insomnia and clinical depression. I have been through a series of bad situations and stressful traumatic events which I think I could have handled better had I not had social anxiety disorder. These all happened over the time frame of the last seven years. I will explain all of this in more detail so that you can understand what has lead me to be where I am today.
My mom was first diagnosed with COPD (emphysema) and about a year later (give or take a month or two) she was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis. Her COPD would have been very managable and she would very well have still been alive had she not been diagnosed with RA. She passed away in August 2013 because her lungs just stopped working. Most people get confused and tell me it’s from the COPD, however, it was not the case. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that not only attacks the joints but the internal organs too. It causes widespread inflammation which can develop in other parts of the body such as the lungs. This caused her COPD to progress aggressively. She started to experience rapid weight loss, which could not be remedied with adding more protein to her diet or eating more carbs or sugars. She was in and out of hospitals with pneumonia. They kept having to put her on a drip because her blood pressure was dangerously low. I had eventually left the job that I had at the time to stay at home and take care of her. I had no help from any other family members or friends of the family. I knew that not working would cause a world of problems but I could not leave my mom to fend for herself being in the condition that she was in. My mom was getting a disability pension as she was unable to work so at least it was something. We had no car and it was difficult to find lifts to the hospital and back especially in an emergency, and in South Africa it’s not like in the UK where you can go stand across the road and take the bus. By this stage it started to take a toll on my mental health. I was so stressed and could barely handle all of this. Struggling and begging people for lifts. We were eventually kicked out because we were unable to keep up with our rent payments so we had to borrow a couch here and there and sleep in the car most of the time. Being homeless added to the stress I was already feeling. My poor mom. I got in contact with people who had known both of my parents when they were still married and they helped raise funds to pay for a deposit for a place to stay and for some groceries for the first month. I decided that I had to get another job in order to keep staying in the new place otherwise we would be out on the street again. I got an office job and was doing everything I could to get to work and back since I had no car or money for a taxi. So, basically I would either walk or hitch hike. On August 23rd 2013 I got a phonecall from the hospital asking me to please come to the hospital and that it was not good. I kept begging people on my facebook if someone could please give me a lift. No one even replied to my pleas for help. I got another phonecall to tell me she has passed away. I was unable to see her one last time. I was unable to say goodbye. I left my job because I couldn’t handle what I was going through at the time. I went back two months later because my rent was overdue by two months so I had to make some money, it was also to keep myself busy so that I could recover from all of this. I decided to get help and go see my doctor who referred me to a government hospital to see both a psychologist and psychiatrist. I went to see them once a month for the next three months and it was helping me alot. My psychologist was teaching me social skills and cognitive behavioural therapy. But, things at home were not so good. Because of those two months that I had missed work I was still behind on my rent and even more so now because some months I had to use some of my rent money to buy food and toiletries (my salary was only able to afford one or the other and not both). My landlord at the time started to threaten me and even tried his luck with me telling me to become his whore in order to pay my rent. All of this became unbearable for me and too stressful. Ofcourse, I said no, just incase you are wondering. He told me I had a few days to pack and move and with nowhere to go I was in a bind. On the last day that I had left a friends mum came to see me to see how she could help. She knew I had a british passport and asked me if I had the option to go to the UK to make a better life, would I do it. I said yes I wish I could. I was on a plane the very next day, bless her. She had organised me a place to stay with a friend of hers for the first couple months while I job search and sort myself out. I got a job at a local Subway withing two weeks which was great and I was very excited because I would be earning pounds and this is a fresh new start.
It went really great for a while, I had rented a room in someones house (it was the norm for starting out here), another South African lady. I had the house to my self every second week which was great. But then, my boss started making me work more hours with less breaks and I was slaving away on my feet for ten hours a day six days a week. I started going to the gym as a way to destress because I could feel I wanted to quit as it was all becoming too much. I was made to work opening shifts all six days, so was on my own in the mornings pretty much until my boss decided to show up which on most days was after ten (I started at 7). It was always very busy in the mornings and was quite stressful on my social anxiety. Asking for help didn’t work. Asking for less hours didn’t work. ASking for someone else to open the shop a couple days of the week didn’t work. Eventually it got to a stage where I had to work lunch shifts on my own, and before you say it couldn’t have been that bad, it was bad. Lunch time was our busiest time of day and I had to serve a line of people going out the door for more than an hour, sometimes longer. You can imagine how stressed I was by the end of the day, even after working out. After working there for two and a half years I hit burnout and couldn’t do it anymore. I was starting to lose it at the customers and I just quit. I know that it was a stupid thing to do because I should have stayed until I found another job but when you are in that kind of position and burnt out to the max, legs so sore, feet so sore, mentally and physically exhausted, so much so that you are crying every day then it’s time to quit in my books. Ofcourse, I did not think of the consequenses at the time because I had a little money saved and thought I would be okay for a while.
I ended up isolating myself and unable to find another job because I am so scared to go to interviews because I always hit a blank and never know what to say. I had to apply for universal credit and housing benefit. But, my landlady started spending more time at home because she and her boyfriend were having difficulties and she started getting annoyed with me being at home all the time and she started to lash out at me. Keep in mind that my rent was still being paid so it wasn’t like I was living there rent free or eating her food because I was still paying my own way. She started to do things like slamming doors really loudly and having two hour baths. If I needed the loo I had to wait. She stopped allowing her cat to visit me and got very possesive over him so if he was in my room she would get angry and would stand outside my door calling him for as long as it took for him to go to her. She became very nasty. By this stage I had already started feeling the depression grab a hold of me. I decided to sit down with her and tell her what I was feeling and what was going on with me so that maybe she could give me a break and stop being so nasty. I felt like it was a good thing but that just made things worse for me and she then started to tell me that everybody gets depressed sometimes and that I must just get on with things and get over it and that I am just making excuses to be lazy. I just thought what does it matter if I’m paying my rent and buying my own food and toiletries? But anyway, she eventually told me to move out because she couldn’t handle me not working and always being at home.
I was able to get a small studio flat with a housing association within the two weeks I had to move out (I was very lucky). When I moved my doctor had started me on antidepressants (citalopram) and I started to feel that I would be okay because I was in my own place and I would have the freedom to do what I wanted. The medication gave me such horrible side effects aside from the initial first two week side effects. I started to get really bad insomnia, and I mean severe. I could not sleep at might no matter how hard I tried of what I tried. And that meant that I would sleep during the day. I would also get night terrors and terrible vivid dreams. This only made my depression so much worse. I was unable to find a job because of this and it went on for months. I stopped taking my medication but guess what? I still have those side effects, they haven’t left me even after being off the medication for about three months now. My depression has got so severe that I have thought about suicide a few times. My social anxiety is no longer just social anxiety, its agoraphobia too.
I am still on universal credit and housing benefit but the money barely covers what I need and sometimes I have to use some of my rent money to make sure I can eat and not run out of toiletpaper which I have had to do a few times already. The depression has changed my personality, and i’m sure it has changed my brain chemistry so drastically that I forgot who I am. I no longer enjoy doing all of the things I used to. I can barely function as a human nevermind have a personality. My social anxiety causes me to feel like I have no sense of self, now add depression and agoraphobia to the mixture. Alot of people do not understand why I am not working currently and why I am struggling so much with my mental health. It has all just been one big snowball effect. Unfortunately here in the UK I cannot see a proper psychologist unless I pay for one. And the only help available to me with the NHS is an eight week CBT course which I have already done and my case closed. I have, however, made a promise to myself that I will do everything I can in order to recover from depression because my social anxiety is managable if there is no depression. I have also come out to my brother and sister as well as my dad and step mom about my depression and anxiety so I feel like I have love and support which is enough to keep me going and to have a reason to want to fight this and get better.
I have already started to do things that are making a slight difference in my mood such as yoga, meditation and EFT tapping. Thanks to these three things I am able to leave the house and go for a jog or a walk in the park. I have a very long way to go and I am very hopefull that recovery is possible and that I will eventually not have depression anymore.
NB: this blog post was written a few months ago and was posted to my previous blog(before my trip to Australia). I have been here for about 3 months now and will be returning to the UK next week. As mentioned in a previous post my depression has lifted somewhat and I am also sleeping a bit better which has helped a great deal. I am looking forward to starting a new life. As they say you are never too old.