One of the most common mental illnesses people struggle with is anxiety. Anxiety disorders are not just about feeling ‘nervous’ or worrying about life; everyone experiences these. However, with anxiety disorders, these feelings are so great that they impair your ability to function optimally in daily life, affect your relationships and even cause intense physical manifestations.
Here’s a personal account of living with an anxiety disorder from this 24yr old Nigerian female, who will we will refer to as Amina.
Question: What does anxiety feel like for you?
Amina: I just start to panic about everything and anything. The first thing I notice is my heart rate, and when I’m anxious, my fuse is very short. So I get really upset in meetings or like physical interactions, and I realise it’s because I was worried about something or that thing was making me nervous. Worry just turns into anger, I can’t really explain how. Then after anger comes with lots of tears and crying.
Question: When did you first notice symptoms of an anxiety disorder and when were you diagnosed?
Amina: I think it’s something I’ve always struggled with. I have High-Functioning Anxiety, so when I go for presentations in school or have exams, I get very nervous beyond normal nerves. I start shaking, get nauseous and I really thought it was normal. Previously I had a colleague who had to hold my legs during exams, just to calm me down telling me ‘it’s okay’ and things like that. I always thought it was normal until I got officially diagnosed in 2020.
Question: Were you ever on medication?
Amina: Yes. But even though it’s unethical, I stopped. I went to the clinic and told them that I just couldn’t be on meds for my whole life. It had been 6 months since I started taking them. The doctor maintained that I still needed some medication but I just didn’t continue.
Question: What’s your experience with therapy?
Amina: Therapy is hard. Because even though I like to talk about my problems, looking at them objectively and trying to figure out solutions, getting critical and all that is hard. At a point, I hated my therapy days because it was just frustrating. Like why am I even having these problems in the first place?! I would cry in panic before therapy.
Eventually, it wasn’t bad. The meds helped a lot. In general, I’d rate it 7/10. One of the key things I learnt is that not everything has a direct cause and effect relationship. The trigger that produces an effect may not really be the thing, but like your perception of it.
Although, therapy is ridiculously expensive! If I didn’t have health insurance I don’t know where I’d be.
* To be continued
** Esohe, a DHI volunteer, contributes this piece from Lagos, Nigeria