It is 8:00am.
You wake peacefully, feeling groggy, your eyes slowly adjust to the brightness emanating from your bedroom window. You feel tired, in need of a few more hours of shut eye. You roll over to face away from the light. You notice you heart beating. Slowly its rate increases and you start to feel a small bead of sweat appear on your forehead. Lying on your bed staring at the roof, you begin to wonder what’s wrong with you. “Why can’t I just wake up, relaxed, refreshed, and ready for today like my friends seem to do?” As you’ve done many mornings before, you wonder is there a problem with your heart, or some other underlying illness. You know there isn’t - you’ve done tests and gotten the all clear, but still the thought returns, day in and day out.
You reach over to the bedside and grab your phone, tap the home button and are greeted by a merry list of notifications. Rows of pixels perfectly aligned with tiny blips of information that somehow draws you back in every day. You read them, methodically, the same as you did yesterday, the day before that, and damn near every day before. You wonder when was it you last took a time out from all of your technology and social networks. Same as yesterday.
A half an hour passes and you’re still lying in your bed, now almost staring through your phone as though you expect some divine wisdom to spring from within. Routinely pulling down to refresh the news feed, you notice your heart still beats higher than normal, and your clammy hands make holding the shiny phone that bit more difficult.
Eventually, you haul yourself out of the bed and waddle your tired ass to the bathroom. A short while later you emerge, waddle back to your room and sit on the edge of your bed. You look at your phone for further notifications and begin to get dressed.
Your day whizzes by, each moment feels tense, and that tension leads to even more worries.You begin to doubt yourself, to wonder why you are this way - clearly you are inadequate and undeserving of a normal day. You move forward through the day, going about your daily tasks, but always on edge. At times you forget the most basic of things, only to lash out at yourself later when you remember them. “Why the fuck do I keep fucking this up!?”
Evening comes around and you head for home, finally sensing an end to this constant tension in your day. Soon you can sleep, and forget about all of this.
It is 2am.
You got into bed 2 hours ago. You lay staring at the roof, physically and mentally drained, but unable to switch off. Your mind is still racing. A single thought never ends, it always connects to another, and that in turn connects to another thought. A never ending loop. You look over towards your locker and notice the little LED notification glow on your phone, or that light glow from your lock screen. You reach for it, your heart still beating heavily. 30 seconds later you’re back to refreshing the news feed, hoping something interesting pops up. Something life changing. Something that isn’t the thoughts in your mind. You feel more awake, more agitated. Your breaths are short and frequent, as though you’d just completed a strenuous workout. You wonder why this is still happening, why you can’t just relax and switch off anymore?
It is 2:45am.
Your eyes are heavy now. Though your thoughts are racing, you can’t keep your eyes open any longer. Finally, it’s time to sleep.
It is 8am.
It is 2am.
Your phone sits flashing by the bed. You reach for it.
It is 2:45am.
Sleep, please, now?
It is 8am.
This was my life for the better part of 2 years. This was my life when anxiety ruled my days. Some days were worse than others. Some nights took the piss. Nights where leaving the company of friends to walk home to my own place wasn’t possible without a detour to the night doctors (South Doc). That happened 3 times, as well as one time where I got home and into bed, only to have to call upon a dear friend to carry me to do the doctors at 4am, following a big panic attack. Each time a different doctor, each time the same results. “You’re anxious, Jerry.”
So many of us face challenges with our mental health. So many of us go day to day not realising that we are struggling.
I had no idea that I was anxious until one day in the summer of 2014. That day I was all set for meeting my friend, Sarah, who’d kindly offered to come and collect me to go hangout. I got into the car and told her I wasn’t feeling well. Reluctantly, I asked her to drop me to the doctors. We arrived and I promised her I’d “be like 10-15 mins, at most.” I walked in and asked the receptionist if I could see the doctor, as I described my symptoms. Her face looked concerned and she asked me to take a seat in the waiting room with a promise to be seen as soon as possible. I sat for no more than 3 minutes in the waiting room before I began to feel very dizzy and weak. I got to my feet, my hands and arms tingling, my vision blurring slightly. I reached for the door and staggered out into the hallway, and pleaded with the receptionist to see the doctor straight away. She called the nurse who immediately took me into her room, where she quickly realised that my blood pressure was spiralling upwards. I was struggling to breathe. She rushed me down the corridor to the doctors room, where he immediately began to test my blood pressure, blood sugar, and more. Concerned and seemingly unsure of what was causing it all, my doctor told he could either call an ambulance, or if I had someone to drive me asap, that would be preferable as time was of the essence.
Whether I like to admit it or not, that day changed my life.
I still remember the worried look on my father’s face as he rushed me to Tralee to get to A&E at Kerry General Hospital, as I sat beside him, dizzy and struggling to breathe. I still remember going into A&E to be greeted by the triage nurse, who rapidly set about setting up an ECG test on my heart. As the results came through I saw her relax, and calmly remove all of the pads from my body. She told me it was fine - no anomalies. I didn’t realise it too much at the time, but that made me feel better. Next, she turned and asked me if I’d been smoking any weed. I immediately responded with a no, and she said “okay, I just had to ask… the doctor will see you shortly.”. With my father by my side I walked out to the waiting area of A&E in KGH. An hour or more passed before I heard the name “Jeremiah Lane” uttered behind me. I went through with my dad and met the doctor, who asked me to lay down on a bed as he drew the curtains the bay. The first words he said to me were: “So Mr Lane, you are anxious?” I was both shocked and confused, and queried with a barrage of questions that he equally quickly dispelled with concise answers. After a precautionary x-ray it became clear that the only issue was in fact anxiety. I walked the hallway towards exit after meeting the doctor again, a few Xanax tucked into my pocket, and a prescription for a weeks worth of the same. “I’m anxious?” kept on repeating over and over in my head. I was indeed very anxious.
Time passed, I completed my prescription for xanax as well as a subsequent prescription and I felt okay at times for a while.
As time moved on I felt myself having many days like the one at the start of this piece. I felt drained, unfocused, and on edge, day in and day out for what felt like months. I loved my time with my friends, and they were, of course, a huge support. Yet, any time I found myself alone, things spiralled downwards rapidly.
At the start of 2015, I found myself once again at the doctors, this time it was South Doc in Listowel, faced with another doctor telling me that I’m ‘just anxious’. At the end as I got up to leave, she informed me of services offered through the GP’s, called the Mental Health Liaison Officer - a full-time mental health professional that comes around to local GP offices once every two weeks to offer counselling services and support to those struggling with their mental health. I made an appointment to see her through my GP, and to this day - on a personal level - it’s the best decision I have ever made.
Counselling changed my life. Counselling helped me realise a great deal of the shortcomings I served myself through the actions I took every day. It helped me to know that it’s okay to not be okay, to talk about it, and to express how I really feel about things that make me upset. It helped me to know that while I may still have a bad day, just like those above, I can deal with them, that I can give myself outlets. It taught me that I can learn and grow as a person, and to do the things I set my mind. 2015 has been the most life changing year of my life, in what to many may seem like a tiny way, but to me is a huge way.
All of this paints a clear picture from me, when I look back on the past 2 or so years. I have struggled a great deal at times, and I know I have rare days where all doesn’t feel right, and I will have days where I struggle with such things again, but, I know I can get on top of them and take control of my life. I wasn’t okay, and it took me a long time to realise I really needed help to get through it. I took that step, and it helped me more than I could have imagined. If you’re struggling, talking to your GP, or your friends, or anyone that’s willing to really listen to you, can be a huge help. Know that you deserve to be happy, to be free of these worries, and to live the life you really want. Do not be afraid to ask for help.