The breakdown hit me hard, it was manifested in a powerful wave of dread and fear that came inexplicably, but instantly rendered me almost crippled. Being in any closed in space was unthinkable - transport, impossible.
Depression followed, with an utter sense of hopelessness about my life, that this condition was deserved and was evidence that I was unfit for the world. I have suffered with anxiety all my life, but nothing as incapacitating as this had ever happened. I saw a CBT practitioner but I wasn't interested in listening to them, instead choosing to take 20mgs of Fluoxetine per day. I refused counselling because of the warped idea that all I would be to them was another pay cheque. Had I taken counselling, I now believe that my recovery would have been swifter.
During that year I accepted that I would have to live with it. It never really occurred to me that I didn't need to. Depression contaminates your mind and makes you think it's you against the world but really, you're only fighting yourself.
My situation had only slightly improved when I received an offer from a university in London.
I found the city alive with an intoxicating energy, but in my state, this energy poisoned me. When I arrived at my halls in central London, September 2013, having spent the year before almost entirely housebound, I thought that I could only cope by becoming guarded and distant, living in a tiny comfort zone the exact shape and size of my mind; one enforced by my rigid subconscious discipline, and avoidant behaviour. Where London could have provided an opportunity to be someone entirely new, I chose to retreat, and soon found myself utterly lonely. That first year, I scarcely spoke to anyone for weeks on end, save for my parents over the phone.
Things became far worse halfway through the year when I ran out of meds. I had requested more online, yet the idea of seeing a new doctor, or going to an unfamiliar pharmacy filled me with so much dread that I simply couldn't do it, so they ran out, resulting in dread, paranoia, and feeling fear and persecution everywhere. I could barely eat without thinking someone had poisoned it.
Do not do this, on any account.
This issue reappeared in my second year when I had to order medication (having gone on to 40mg Citalopram during the summer) and the health centre wouldn't prescribe them until the correct convoluted, bureaucratic procedure had been followed. I ended up having to call my previous GP at home to fax (really, fax) the required information before I was granted further medication.
Everything came to a head during exam season.
After mustering up the courage to take a tube to the exam hall, I had a panic attack in the station.
All the misery I felt came to the forefront. The quickest way to rid myself of all this pain and misery, I thought, was to throw myself onto the tracks.
I never wanted to think or feel that way again. Suicide is no solution, but an atom bomb that wrecks all the lives around you, just an opportunity to ditch the pain and pass it on. When I returned, to the street sobbing, neither I, nor the city, were the same. It would take me the summer to realise what had changed.
I had believed my sorry state was my lot in life but it was now a parasite to be destroyed (in practice: meditation, medication, and CBT).
On returning to London, I vowed to push myself, no matter how nervous I felt, to engage in every opportunity that presented itself. So like countless bookish neurotics, I got into theatre. It took me a long time to fully engage with people; they were all so welcoming yet I felt detached from the rest of the group. I still felt the anxiety, the odd sense that every conversation I had was like a kind of exam that was analysed and judged by them or unseen others, an exam that I'd always fail.
It was at this time that my life improved in strides. Progress was slow but definite and obvious. Whereas in my first year I never went out socially, by the end of the second year it was commonplace. The fears and pains were still there, diminished, but I was now capable enough to deal with them. I have had sorrowful moments since, times when locking myself away and crying was a solution. But I've had to fight every instinct to make any bit of recovery. This would have meant nothing were it not for the realisation that millions go through similar experiences and true understanding is easily found if you look.