Pianist Joe Ordish tells us why it’s so important to never stop asking for help.
I’m 22 years old. I grew up in the West Midlands and I’m still here currently studying for a bachelor’s degree in the performance of classical music. My love for classical music started when I was around 13 when I began to play the piano. It was only a year or two after this that I began to notice that I wasn’t feeling myself. There wasn’t anything going on at the time, maybe I had a few exams but I was never the type of person to get stressed or feel anxious about things like that. Even to this day I can’t tell you what brought on the issues I began to face.
I remember the first panic attack I had and it seemed completely out of the blue at the time. I was travelling from home to school on a crowded bus in the morning, a daily routine, but I couldn’t stay on it. That suffocating rush of panic and nausea made me feel something I’d never felt before and had to quickly get off at the first stop. I suppose in a way after this the first real person I reached out to was my biology teacher, I admired the passion he had and I trusted him deeply. After quite a few more panic attacks on the way to school and in some classes (which for me was very embarrassing, I was this confident outgoing young guy who was now running out of classes so that people could see my fits of terror and hysterical crying) I finally stayed behind in class and asked him about some of the things that were happening. He seemed surprised, he said that it sounds like anxiety but he couldn’t imagine that kind of thing affecting me and that I should go to the doctor to analyse the situation properly to check for any physiological issues. There were no obvious problems other than issues with anxiety. I began taking lots of time off school and fell into a cycle of depression in which I wouldn’t leave my room, I would barely eat and I was generally not a nice person to be around.
The next step, after more time off school wasn’t an option, was counselling. My parents became aware of what was happening and I was put on a waiting list. I was seen to quite quickly, however these sessions didn’t seem to help me much. After a while I began to feel myself again, it became clear that it was more of a cyclic thing rather than the counselling working when the anxiety and depressive moods quickly returned. I became a recluse and extremely irritated by everything spending days and even weeks alone in my room at university. It started to ruin things quite severely in my life, I was unprepared for coursework or any exams and lost my girlfriend who I was very much in love with at the time. I had pushed everybody away and had absolutely no motivation to do anything about it.
After some severe outbursts which were destroying not only myself but the people around me, I decided to get some help again. I went through lots of different therapy but I just wasn’t interested and really thought that these people couldn’t help me. I then found a new counsellor and started CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) which was a way for me to learn how these cycles of depression, anger and anxiety were working and ways in which I could break them. Although there was some progress, there were still some heavy dips and it was suggested by my new counsellor that I started medication. I was so reluctant to do this as I believed that it wouldn’t truly be me that was happy, that I was cheating and this was a ‘quick fix’. However, I had run out of options. I decided to go with it, take all the advice that was given to me by anybody who was trying to help as I truly believed I could never be happy. After some years I’m proud that I took the courage to do so.
There’s a point when your mental health issues completely take over, you become so low that there’s really no place to go. It comes down to either letting it ruin your life or looking for help and really growing the mental strength to go through with the advice. Something I realised is that only the individual can make the change. The best advice I can give is to not be scared of asking for help or even just talking to people about it. You are the only person that can make the choice of making your life better. Take yourself outside of your comfort zone (as painful as it can be) and let your well being become the most important thing and shape your life. You can go through hundreds of different therapies and methods of dealing with your issues but don’t make giving up an option.