In 1993 I attended the University of Queensland and undertook a degree in social work. In the beginning I loved the lifestyle that university afforded me, I found the study to be rewarding and challenging in a very positive way. I have always been at my best when I’ve been learning. Just when things are going well, the dark demon of depression rears his ugly head and life comes crashing down around me. This time it was the cold hand of anxiety that destroyed me.
Life had been going along just fine, I was attending classes, submitting assignments, participating in tutorials. Gradually paranoia slowly crept in. I became aware that people were looking at me in class and I started to get nervous. Then I started to feel that they were laughing at me. I’d hear someone laugh at the back of the room and I just knew they were laughing at me. To be fair the lecture hall had 200 people in it and I knew about two of them, yet I was convinced beyond any doubt that they were laughing at me.
Then it escalated, I though they all wanted to hurt me. Every time I stepped foot on campus I felt under attack every time. Everyone I saw, every face I looked at meant me harm. Heaven forbid one of them should talk to me.
By now I was panicking all the time. Each time I’d step foot on campus, my heart rate would increase, feel tightness in my chest and couldn’t breathe. I felt physically unwell.
Anxiety is a funny thing isn’t it? It tricks you into believing that you are in mortal danger and you will be attacked. You believe you are about to die and there is no convincing you otherwise. It would have been easier to convince me that the sky is purple than it would have been to convince me that my classmates were not trying to hurt me.
I became crippled with fear. I stopped going to class, participating in uni life and the one friend that I had managed to maintain introduced me to alcohol. Oh, in alcohol I had found a friend. A friend who would build me up, make me strong, confident and attractive. A friend who was always available and ready to help. I leaned on this friend an awful lot.
I spent most nights of the week at a nightclub called Mary Street in the city. My friend alcohol and I took on the world at Mary Street. We got to know the staff and became friends with regulars. It was the only time during these years that I wasn’t crippled with anxiety. When I was sober, I was mess, but drunk I could take on the world. University had fallen by the wayside, I was too anxious to participate sober, so I quit.
One fateful night at Mary Street I had a truly miraculous moment. Something happened that would change my life forever. I met Scott. Acquaintances introduced us and from the beginning we were inseparable. It was an all-consuming love right from the start. I have no doubt in my mind still to this day that Scott and I were destined to be together.
At first, as with everyone I kept my anxiety and depression a secret from Scott. I couldn’t let him know that I was broken, that this demon was controlling my life. Yet little by little he began breaking down the dungeon walls. He found it cute that I couldn’t make him a Slurpee at the seven eleven store because I was terrified of going inside. Scott thought that I was premenstrual when I listened to Nirvana at 10 decibels and couldn’t get out of bed for a week. He found it interesting that I was strong and confident and carefree while drinking and a broken, quiet, mess of a person when the alcohol was gone. None of it scared him away which to this day I still don’t really understand that. I don’t know why he persisted with me. I don’t know why he stayed, but he did.
Twelve months later we were engaged and twelve months after that we were married. This was the first time since I was thirteen years old that I was happy. My depression was at it mildest and anxiety was mostly under control (although I still couldn’t make Slurpee’s). For the first time in my adult years I felt almost normal. Sure I still had some quirks like an insatiable need to put full stops on the end of my sentences, but for the most part I could function in the world.
I had started working as a dental assistant so I was learning again which suited me. Scott rolled with the punches of my odd dysfunctions. I think I knew right from the beginning that Scott would always be my safe harbour. No matter what the future would hold, Scott was a constant. Never judging, never scared, never rattled by my dysfunction.
I am so eternally grateful to whatever force sent him my way, because I know without a shadow of a doubt that I would not be alive today if it weren’t for his presence in my life.