By Nelson Vinod Moses
Forty-two year old Bob, has been an anxious person from the time he was a young kid.
It all started when he was 12 years old. “I came back from school one day and saw my neighbour’s dead body who had died due to a heart attack. Since that day, I somehow worried that the same thing may happen to my dad, and I worried about my dad’s death,” says Bob. That worry is unfounded, as his father is still alive, at the age of ripe age of 82 years.
Looking back, he says, that worry didn’t cause him anxiety, but it was anxiety that made him worry. Up until a decade ago, he didn’t know or understand the feeling that ate him from inside out, shook him up and made him worry. He slowly began to find out after he was hit by torrent of anxiety two decades ago.
Around 2000, he again started worrying about health, but this time it was about his own. This anxiety became so stifling, that Bob would be scared to be alone in the house, or a hotel room. “I used to think: What if something happens to me, nobody is around,” says Bob. While this new worry tormented him, he discovered that exercise was antidote to this new scare, and he used physical exertion as a way to keep his worry within manageable limits. Bob believed that as long as he exercised regularly nothing would happen to him.
This belief was rudely shaken up in 2006.
“I read a news article in 2006 about a marathon runner in the US collapsing and dying during the marathon, my last hope of exercise was taken apart,” says Bob. In 2007, he was hit with dengue, which left in a very critical state. After recovering, even after assurances from the doctor that he was fine, he just couldn’t stop doing blood tests, because he feared his platelets would be dropping. All his joy was sucked out from time-to-time, due to a plethora of different worries, but he would bounce back after a bout of worry and anxiety.
“Looking back, he says, that worry didn’t cause him anxiety, but it was anxiety that made him worry. Up until a decade ago, he didn’t know or understand the feeling that ate him from inside out, shook him up and made him worry.”
However, the anxiety reached a crescendo in 2009, and knocked the wind out of him. He could not anything and lost his zest for life. “I lost more than 10kgs of weight. I lost appetite. But the worst, I lost sleep. I had little or no sleep for close to 50 days. That was the worst. I just could not handle the fact that a blessed natural sleeper like me was now sleepless,” recalls Bob. On March 5th, 2009, he had a panic attack, which made him think that this was the last day of his life.
Thankfully, for Bob, God, he says, blessed him with a great wife. While it was challenging for everyone in the family to see what he was reduced to, his wife didn’t allow it to affect her, and remained strong. Initially, both Bob and his wife were clueless about his condition, but with time, she understood what I was going through. “She was my strength and God used her to restore me. Thankfully, at that stage, my first daughter was only 3-years old. She was therapeutic and helped me in my recovery,” adds Bob.
Bob’s worry and anxiety affected him professionally. He couldn’t work anymore. From being one of the high performing guys in his office, and he says, he was reduced to an absolute zero, unable to even go into work. His low came when when he went back to office. His wife drove him because Bob was unable to even drive. His wife requested his boss to come out of the office because he didn’t have the confidence to step into office. Bob broke down and cried helplessly in front of my boss and surrendered his laptop. Thankfully, for Bob, his boss was extremely supportive, and today, after more than 10 years, he’s still with the same company, with the same boss and in a very good position.
“Bob’s worry and anxiety affected him professionally. He couldn’t work anymore. From being one of the high performing guys in his office, and he says, he was reduced to an absolute zero, unable to even go into work. His low came when when he went back to office.”
To deal with the worry and anxiety, Bob sought help, from mental health professionals. He was relieved when he realized that his condition was not abnormal, had a name (anxiety disorder), and that there were many others suffering just like him. He was prescribed anti-anxiety medication, which helped him, and he continues to take it even now, albeit in a much lower dosage.
Bob’s interest in spirituality from around 2006, coupled with his new-found interest in reading, from 2009 onwards, has helped him greatly. He also credits his recovery to making an effort to be an outgoing person and having interests beyond work. “All these things help me cope. Actually, I’m not coping, I’m thriving, by God’s grace. It was really tough from 2009, I can’t articulate how tough because it was that excruciating, but I’m glad I came out of the hole,” says Bob.
Millions of Indians suffer from anxiety, and experience the pain for years in silence, without seeking help. If you suffer from anxiety and excessive worry, don’t wait, speak to a Seraniti Integrative Therapist now.
Disclaimer: Bob preferred to go with only his first name.
About the author
Nelson Vinod Moses is a Bangalore-based, award-winning mental health journalist, and Founder of Suicide Prevention India Foundation. His writing has been featured in Fortune, Quartz, The Times of India, HuffingtonPost, and many other publications. He is on a quest to bring mental health conversations out in the open, improving mental health literacy, and talking about the importance of mental health self-care.