Stories, skills, and positivity- to anxiety sufferers from anxiety sufferers.
I think a lot of my problems started when I was young. Growing up my parents got divorced when I was still a baby, and twenty years ago not too many of my parent’s friends were divorced, so not only did I develop a sense of abandonment, but I felt looked down on by other kids at school.
My dad dated and married a variety of women, some were actually amazing, some were gold-diggers. My mom got together with my step dad when I was young. He has two daughters very close in age to my sister and I, and we haven’t always gotten along the best, but I love them like sisters. I always felt pretty spoiled growing up, but that doesn’t nescesarily mean I had the best life. I think I got good at hiding my problems when I was young. Experiencing childhood trauma makes you develop really good skills to repress your thoughts and emotions.
My first step mom was actually diagnosed with bi-polar type 1 and my dad would say extremely degrading things to her about her mental health when they would argue. My sister and I loved our dad but he was hard on us growing up. I was always the “smart but ugly daughter” and she was always the “pretty but stupid one”. My dad was raised by two abusive alcoholics who likely suffered from mental heath problems themselves.
People still don’t understand mental health and sixty years ago they didn’t believe it was even real, so growing up I developed other skills to deal with my anxiety, depression, and mood swings because owning up to having anxiety or depression made me feel weak. So, I decided I would play games with myself. When I was young I would abuse laxatives or starve myself for days at a time, it was a game I would play for a couple days and for every pound I lost it was like “there you go dad, screw you, I won”. However, I would still turn to food and binge as a way to cope. I also cut myself, I would only do it on areas people wouldn’t see and I didn’t like leaving deep scars, but there was nothing better than the sweet release of endorphins to forget everything I was angry and frustrated about.
As I grew up, my games changed and my emotions got worse. I also always had a difficult time maintaining close relationships with people, especially girls. I always had friends, but I definitely wouldn’t consider myself someone who was popular. In fact, I still think I was probably one of the most hated people at my high school. In general, I don’t think I was the nicest person. I had such low self-esteem, and I hated myself so I didn’t care how I treated other people.
My dad also let me throw parties at his house. Over the year’s hundreds of people came to these parties but it’s not like any of these people were really my friends who I hung out with on a regular basis. They made me feel popular, but deep down I knew all it was, was a place for people to drink. In February 2011, I was feeling really down after one of these parties, and I was anxious about a vacation I was going on, so I decided to down three half bottles of pills and go to sleep. I woke up two hours later and started vomiting, but by the time my mom was helping me I wasn’t throwing up capsules so she never knew what I had done.
The problem with suicidal tendencies and suicide attempts is that once you make the mistake of crossing that line, your brain always wants to take you back there as a way to deal with your problems. My depression, anger, anxiety, paranoia, and mood swings got worse in high school. I continued to cut, but as I got older I realized how useful alcohol and drugs were to escape reality. I started smoking weed everyday in grade 11, but I still managed to only smoke it once or twice a day. In grade 12, my English teacher came to me with essay on The Great Gatsby circled because I had said I could relate to Gatsby because I threw parties for all these people all the time but if I died no one would come to my funeral. She said, “Megan, if you really feel that way this is very concerning to me, do you want to talk to a guidance councillor?” and I said no, I was fine. Graduating high school, I didn’t feel like I had a ton of close friends I was leaving behind and I traveled all summer before university so I really grew apart from people in my hometown.
I was so excited and happy for the first time in a long time when I started university, but that high crashed pretty hard when I didn’t really make any close friends the first semester at school. Second semester, I decided to join a club at school which started to keep me busy and motivated me to try harder in my classes. After I was done exams in first year, my dad sat my sister and I down and told us he had cancer. He had been waiting for us to finish exams to tell us. I kept my composure and tried to believe and buy into the hope my dad had. When I got back to my mom's that night I cracked and cried like a baby in her arms for hours. After she left my room I googled my dad’s cancer and knew everything the adults in my life were saying was a lie and it would be a tough battle against an extremely aggressive rare cancer.
That summer was the worst summer of my life, my dad married a woman I didn’t like, and I didn’t feel like there was anyone in my hometown I could reach out to about his cancer. I only really talked to two girls from the club I had joined about his cancer but I was so lonely and depressed all summer. All I did was work and spend time with my dad. On my days off, I would go to the LCBO as soon as it opened and buy a 40oz of wine and drink it all day alone, and I would get drunk every night by myself to cope with what I was going through.
In second year, I decided to live with five girls I didn’t know in an apartment. Some girls were already friends and some girls knew each other from residence but didn’t like one another so there was drama in the apartment from the beginning. My father passed away September 6, 2014, but I decided I wanted to do a full year of school and try and cope. Since I hadn’t talked to anyone about my dad the only person who showed up to my dad’s funeral from my hometown was my childhood best friend who I had grown apart from over the years. I got so many condolence messages but I still felt very alone during that time, that this one friend's presence that day really meant the world to me. When my dad passed away I started smoking a half ounce of marijuana every two weeks and as the school year went on and my tolerance built it was becoming a half ounce every nine days. On top of that, I was doing almost two grams of MDMA depending on the week.
When my dad died, I felt dead inside. When someone close to you passes away your connection with that person and everything you had with them dies too. I felt like a walking corpse, I was so numb to everything and the only emotion I was capable of feeling was anger at the entire world because I lost my dad. One of my roommates and this guy she was seeing started bullying me. She just always referred to me as the ugly roommate, she put oil in my face wash, gum in my hair and Nair hair removal cream in my shampoo. This guy made up a whole bunch of lies and said my dad and his dad were really good friends. He told me my dad had been his dad’s AA sponsor as a way to get close to me and it was a very strange way to manipulate someone. This girl and my other roommates would joke about putting rat poison in my protein powder to kill me. During this time, I was never eating or sleeping and I was going to the gym and doing drugs to cope with my life. I didn’t talk to anyone about what was going on. My sister and I are very close but she was six hours away and I didn’t feel like I had anyone else I could talk to.
I was literally getting high all the time so I could live in my own reality in my own fantasy world where everything was okay. These “games” I had always played with myself just turned into riskier and riskier behaviour. I felt so dead, and suicidal but I didn’t have the motivation to kill myself, I would just put myself in riskier and riskier situations not caring about the consequences. Partially because of the drugs and partially because of what this guy had told me I was hallucinating conversations with my dad I know now could never have happened. I did so much damage to my body physically and psychologically. I lost over fifty pounds and when I came home for the summer my mom said I looked like I was decaying.
In May of 2015 I finally had an appointment with a psychologist I had been waiting months for, I talked to her for three hours and she diagnosed me with high-functioning transit borderline personality disorder. In June, after not having slept for 72 hours and being very confused about what was actually reality in life, my mom got me admitted to the hospital. I was so angry at my mom for getting me admitted to “prison/rehab” but it turned out I really needed that stay. I was diagnosed with Bipolar type 2 and was finally prescribed medication. The psychiatrist there told me I was high functioning but unless I seriously changed my lifestyle I’d be back in six months. I continued to do an outpatient addictions program for people with mental health problems and kicked my MDMA habit.
I’ve been seeing a female psychiatrist for about a year now who has confirmed both diagnoses and I’ve been seeing an addictions councillor for five months. Writing this post and looking back on my life I honestly can’t believe I’m still alive or how far I’ve come. I can honestly say living a healthier lifestyle, as in eating properly, sleeping well, spending time outdoors (especially dog walking), and being active really does help. I can say I really don’t have that many friends, but the few friends I do have are amazing people. Not only would they never treat anyone the way my ex-roommates did but they motivate me to be a better person.
I can honestly say I regret spending so much time high out of my skull, I honestly feel like it was a waste of my life I’ll never get back. Once you start using substances to escape reality you realize how much easier it is to stay high than get hurt by the world, but trust me when I say it’s not worth it. Since I didn’t deal with the death of my father or any of my problems the way I should’ve I need to do so much more work on myself as a person, but I’m willing to do it.
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Katie McLean holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, and bases her anxiety aid in personal experience, as well as techniques that have been passed on to her by counsellors, friends, and fellow anxiety sufferers.