I grew up in a loving home with great caring parents who told me they loved me every day and took really good care of me and my sister. But growing up, I was very shy and insecure and at around aged 16, I developed a phobia of death which brought on panic attacks, depression, and other mental health issues.
Many people develop issues because of some sort of trauma they go through. But I had it all, a great family, a nice house, financial stability, a good education. There was no apparent reason for me to have these kinds of problems but depression isn’t fussy – anyone will do.
I will never forget the night I had my first panic attack. Only someone that’s been through it knows how awful it is. I was left shaking uncontrollably and screaming for dear life. After that night, I started to have panic attacks frequently. I developed so many complexes and at one point gained a lot of weight and hated the way I looked.
My poor parents tried to help me as best they could. They took me to my GP who said I was too young to take anti-depressants so I was referred for counselling. But I didn’t get much out of it at the time as I felt my counsellor didn’t understand me and couldn’t offer me the solution I so desperately needed. So I lied and said I was better so I wouldn’t have to go anymore.
My journey to find happiness continued. I tried all sorts of things – clubbing to have ‘fun’, religion, candles, incense, and more. When all that didn’t work, I threw myself into weight training and spent a lot of time pushing weights and doing aerobics classes, sometimes one after the other. I did feel better while I was training but as soon as I left the gym, the dark cloud would return. On the plus side, I became super fit, the extra weight dropped off, I had no shortage of guys asking me out but inside, I was the same depressed, insecure person.
One of my worst moments was when I had a terrible panic attack and burst into the living room where my parents were watching television. I ran straight into my father’s arms, shaking and sobbing uncontrollably. My dad held me, sighed deeply and said: ‘I don’t know what to do anymore. I don’t know how to help you.’ His voice was so sad, so desperate. I thought: ‘If my own dad who has always protected me doesn’t know what do to, I’m doomed.’ I knew I was causing my family a lot of pain and though I loved them so much, I withdrew emotionally; I became distant in an attempt to protect them.
Through college and university, I didn’t tell anyone about my issues apart from a close friend. I would look at the other students and actually be jealous that they would be smiling and laughing – yet my smiles were fake. Inside I was a mess.
When my friend told me her brother who was twice my age was in love with me and wanted to marry me and would treat me like a princess, I was actually quite tempted. I wasn’t attracted to him but I thought that perhaps if I got married and had kids, it would ease the depression as my focus would be elsewhere – on a husband and children. That’s how desperate I was to feel better. Thankfully, my sister made me see sense and I turned him down.
I met my husband Michael at university. I wish I could say it was great. There were some good times, but most of it was a combination of obsessive behaviour, arguments, and eventually physical fights instigated by me. Because I felt a little better when I was with him, I clung to him for dear life and was extremely needy. It was like I depended on him for a little bit of happiness because I had tiny glimmers of feeling normal. I didn’t realise, however, how destructive I was becoming to our relationship. I was very jealous and wanted his full attention. I didn’t value myself whatsoever and would go to any lengths to get his affection.
But despite all the arguments and fights, we still loved each other and I moved in with him and his family. Things got even worse and we would sometimes be up until the early hours fighting with no regard for his mum, brother or neighbours.
So that was me. Seven years of hell with depression and panic attacks and all sorts of deeply-rooted issues and now with a difficult relationship.
So how did I recover? I found a charity called the UCKG Help Centre and it was truly a lifeline for me.
I walked into the Brixton Centre for the first time still shaking from a panic attack the night before, and I was welcomed and made to feel at home immediately. I spoke to one of the advisers and just one sentence was about to change my life forever: ‘Chris, don’t worry. Your life is going to change.’
Up until that point, no one had ever offered me any hope – hope that my life could be different, or that I could recover. Unbelievably, those few words were enough to stop my panic attacks in their tracks from that day onwards.
I continued getting help and combining the practical and motivational advice with the spiritual help was a winning formula for me and I continued getting better week by week, Within a few months, the depression had completely lifted too and that had an impact on my relationship. Michael and I started to get along better. Instead of shouting, swearing, and screaming at each other and lashing out physically, we learned to listen and to communicate in a positive way. We now have a beautiful relationship. He’s my best friend and we love each other’s company.
And what’s life been like for me since? Well, I learned to value myself and my confidence and self-esteem grew. I got into TV, which is something that I had never seen myself doing before. I used to hate speaking in front of people and presentations at college and uni were a real issue for me so you can see the turnaround. I was offered my own show which is called The Chrissy B Show. It’s all about reaching out to people with mental health issues and inspiring viewers to be happy and go for their dreams. I never ever imagined I could ever be this happy and I’ve made it my life’s mission to pass that on to others through my work.
Please never, ever lose hope. Ignore those loud voices that tell you it’s over, that there’s no way out and that it’s best to give up. Hold on to that tiny little voice deep inside you that tells you that you can be happy one day. It’s this hope that can change your life!
Christoulla Boodram (known as Chrissy B) is a multi-award-winning TV producer, TV host, author, writer, and inspirational speaker. She is the executive producer and host of the UK’s only TV show on mental health and well-being, The Chrissy B Show.
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