Bay woman Sarah Jesson's anxiety got so bad she thought she might die.
Blogging about it helped her through. She is sharing her story for Mental Health Awareness week.
After living through the Christchurch earthquakes, where she was involved due to her job in the city council, followed by an eventful time where she moved several times as well as having two young children, Jesson suffered frequent panic attacks — "feelings of suffocating and like my chest was on fire".
"I had a lot of difficulty breathing and I felt like I was going to have a heart attack, I truly thought it might kill me. For four years it was a daily battle and created a fog in my brain that caused me to be on edge and irritable, constantly lashing out at those closest to me over nothing at all.
"I hated feeling so insecure, so paranoid, so fearful and so stressed a lot of the time. I could never fully relax and had awful thoughts of not being good enough, guilt, shame and sometimes wondered if everyone might be better off if I wasn't around."
While things seemed well on the outside, she said internally she was a mess, feeling like she couldn't handle everyday life. She prided herself on being well put together but her husband encouraged her to seek help.
"It was a total humbling process to admit defeat and go and see a doctor because I wasn't coping with my life."
After a visit to the doctor she was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, OCD and Generalised Anxiety Disorder. After intense counselling, she also tried breathing and mindfulness techniques, but still struggled. About 18 months ago she started a blog.
"I started really proactively fighting back against my anxiety disorder. From here I started blogging, sharing my journey with close friends and family, I quit coffee, cut back on alcohol, embraced minimalism and started saying 'no' to things more often, increased my faith and hope in life. I just decided my mental health was this important resource for living well and have made a real point of placing it front and centre in my life."
She also values getting out in nature, "letting nature in" is the theme for this year's Mental Health Awareness Week.
Jesson still thinks there is stigma for talking about anxiety.
"It took me a long time to be able to talk about it with people and still makes me nervous to. I think there is an urgency around depression as it is potentially more closely aligned to suicide and I'm sure everyone would like to see the statistics around that improved in this country. But I wonder whether anxiety is a bit more subtle ... maybe it flies under the radar in our rushing, busy society."
WHERE TO GET HELP:
If you are worried about your or someone else's mental health, the best place to get help is your GP or local mental health provider. However, if you or someone else is in danger or endangering others, call 111.
If you need to talk to someone, the following free helplines operate 24/7:
DEPRESSION HELPLINE: 0800 111 757
LIFELINE: 0800 543 354
NEED TO TALK? Call or text 1737
SAMARITANS: 0800 726 666
YOUTHLINE: 0800 376 633 or text 234
There are lots of places to get support. For others, click here.