A common struggle: Living with the fear of fears
I suffer from general anxiety and panic disorder; what is generally referred to as ‘the fear of fears.
On the hindsight, I have always had issues with enclosed places growing up as a boy. As early as age 6, I used to wonder several kilometres away from home just by myself. I always preferred outdoors to indoors.
I recall having encountered my first episode of fear of heights as early as primary two when our class was moved from the ground floor to the first floor.
But it was much later in life when I realised I have fear of small spaces. A few scary incidents of elevator malfunctioning made it all so clear.
Generally, I had lived my life for more than 30 years without any major incidents.
My struggle began in early 2017 when I lost my mother. I got my first panic attack the night of her burial but I didn’t know what it was then. I woke up in the middle of the night in cold sweat with intense fear.
I was deeply affected by her death and I thought leaving Ghana in September 2017 to further my studies in South Korea and pursue my life’s vision will help me deal with the loss. But it didn’t.
Dealing with oriental Korean food and harsh weather has not been easy. Combining that with studies, rigorous work schedules, and unfavourable architectural layouts have all been stress factors for me.
In November 2017, I experienced my first full-blown panic attack. It happened in the showers after a stressful day at work. The next few days were the worst. I had about 10 – 15 panic attacks in a day. I couldn’t stay in my apartment and every enclosed space. Coming home from school or work was a nightmare.
When I couldn’t bear it anymore I asked friends to take me to the hospital. I was diagnosed to be suffering from panic disorder with claustrophobia. I was given Xanax and other antidepressants to suppress the attacks.
The side effects of the medication are probably as terrible at the ailment itself. After months of struggle and determination, I feel much better now but I know I am not completely healed.
My name is Duke. I continue to deal with withdrawal symptoms and occasional attacks which I manage much better now. I have devoted the rest of my life to help #otherslikeme find the path to a better mental health.
NOTE: This story was shared by Dorcas Efe Mensah, a Mental Health Advocate battling chronic, recurrent depression. She describes herself as a ‘millennial girl boss’ striving to empower people with the difficult diagnosis like her to be the best version of themselves irrespective of whatever hard place they may be. For more information about her work, visit her Facebook page #Otherslikeme or @otherslikemeGH to learn more about the struggles of persons suffering different kinds of Mental Illnesses in Ghana and what they are doing to make their survival less stressful.