‘My Fear Of Dying Consumed Me’ Confessions Of A 20-Something With Anxiety

A huge 75% of people experiencing mental health issues being still reluctant to seek the help they need - why can't we talk about what's going in our heads?

'My Fear Of Dying Gradually Consumed My Life' Confessions Of A 20-Something With Anxiety

by Katie Oldham |
Published on

Mental health issues have never been so prevalent among young women, with an average of one in ten young adults suffering, and a huge 75% of people experiencing mental health issues being still reluctant to seek the help they need?

Thankfully, there has been somewhat of a social media breakthrough, with bloggers and YouTubers creating vital platforms to raise awareness , and even Zoella becoming the digital ambassador of mental health charity, Mind. But for me, I found this sigma was not in the admittance of having problems in the first place, but whether mine really mattered when there were people - giving detailed accounts of their struggles online – who had it just so much worse than me.

Slowly I've come to realise that anxiety manifests itself in all different forms. Only now can I pinpoint the exact moment I fell apart.

He was 22. A friend of a friend and just your average nice guy – he didn’t smoke, didn’t drink too much, had no history of mental or physical illness and worked full time in a coffee shop where he was happy.

I didn’t know him and he didn’t know me. We were strangers, although I’m sure Facebook would have told us we had a surprising amount of mutual friends.

Our lives had no effect on one another’s, until one particular evening, he switched out the light, snuggled under the covers, and for absolutely no reason aside from the universe just deciding it was time, his was taken.

The only conclusion that could be drawn was ‘Sudden Adult Death Syndrome’. In short, no analysis could figure out how or why it had happened, he just… died.

The whole town mourned for the incomprehensibility of his loss, but for some inexplicable reason it disturbed something even deeper and darker within me, an omen I have carried ever since.

It began, I suppose, as a morbid curiosity - a frustrating need to know why. My mind just could not fathom it, and the questions would plague me day and night – When he woke up that morning, did he feel a bit odd? Did he have a particular headache or feeling in his gut that something was wrong? When he got to work that morning, did any part of him know this was the last day he would ever have?

It gradually consumed my life, but I breathed a word to no-one, not only embarrassed at how ridiculous I knew it was, but also because I felt I didn’t have the right to be so affected by his death – after all, we’d never even met. His family deserved to be hurt. I didn't.

READ MORE: How These Celebrities Deal Their Depression And Anxiety

I sank into an incredibly dark and lonely place, becoming obsessed with my own mortality and increasingly convinced that I myself had very little time left to live, until I reached the point of believing every single day was my last on Earth.

I’d refuse to drive on the motorway believing I’d be involved in a car crash if I did, I’d stand with my back against the wall while waiting for the tube, convinced someone would push me in front of a train if I didn’t, I’d even hear the faint rumbling of a distant aircraft soaring above and be convinced there was a plane falling from the sky about to flatten my house.

Irrational? Of course. Avoidable? Impossible.

The moment I realised it had gone too far, was one evening I was so sure I wasn’t going to make it through the night, that I wrote a post-it note saying ‘I’m so sorry you had to find me’ and stuck it to my forehead before I went to sleep, for my housemates when they inevitably found my corpse the next morning.

Waking up and finding that crumpled yellow sticker beneath the covers, I knew I’d become very ill, and I finally realised that I desperately needed help.

To this day, I don’t know whether it would be classed as a phobia, anxiety, or obsessive compulsive disorder, and to be honest, I don’t need to or want to know. Because a label doesn’t validate how much you suffer.

Part of the reason I’d never sought help in the first place, was because I believed I didn’t meet a certain criteria or wasn’t ill enough to fit into one of those categories to be genuine – regardless of the fact I was suffering so much.

I’d googled these illnesses to see if perhaps this was what I was feeling, and felt almost like a fraud when so many people had it worse off than me, like I didn’t deserve to put a label to what I was feeling, and shouldn’t bother Doctors with my tiny problems.

I just wish I had understood that you don’t need to tick a certain amount of boxes to prove that you deserve help. The human mind is complex and baffling, and no two circumstances will ever be truly the same. The moment you deserve help is the day you wake up and realise you need it.

And finally seeking help was the best thing I ever did, something I wish I had done sooner.

I began a course of anti-anxiety medication and weekly therapy sessions, and gradually began to improve, until I reached a point where life became manageable again. I may not have been categorically defined as depressed, having an anxiety disorder or OCD, but something had got better. I had got better.

I’ll never be free from it, and it will always lurk in varying degrees of severity beneath everything I do, but opening up and talking about it has allowed me to see his darkness in a whole new perspective – as a light.

Death and I have an understanding now.

Because living every day like you're going to die has a certain way of allowing you to see what really doesn't matter in life, and the people, the places and the things that really, really do. Hell, if you ever want to know exactly what you're about, convince yourself you're about to die and see what you'll miss most, and make a to-do list of all the things you'd regret never having the chance to do.

And I know that if it were not for the people willing to listen without judgement and provide an honest open space to discuss these darkest, most consuming fears, then I don’t think I would ever have been able to operate normally again.

Mental health is just as important as Physical Health, but the dynamics are so very different. And while the characteristics between a bruised leg and a broken leg are obvious, it is a common and dangerous misconception that this criteria can also be applied to mental health issues.

It is fluid and ambiguous, not a numerical scale from okay to not okay. And the sooner we are able to grasp and understand that notion, the more people we can save from suffering in a silence they can so readily be freed from.

***Mental Health Awareness Week runs from 11-17 May. For more information visit Mentalhealth.org.uk. Check out more of our content around mental health, depression and anxiety. ***

How To Cope When You're Dealing With Depression At Work

Why Exercise Is Good For Your Brain As Well As Your Body

Why Are More Girls Than Ever Suffering From Emotional Problems?

Follow Katie on Twitter @katieoldham

Picture: Li Hui

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

Just so you know, whilst we may receive a commission or other compensation from the links on this website, we never allow this to influence product selections - read why you should trust us