Stories of our Survival: Exercising 'cured' my anxiety

Opanka Workout2 File photo

Wed, 9 Sep 2020 Source: Dorcas Efe Mensah

I’m Joel, a medical lab practitioner. My mental illness started one day when I was reading the bible in church.

I was the bible reader in church since childhood but that fateful day I struggled to breathe and read well; I was gasping for breath and even started stammering out of nowhere. I couldn't read the bible that day. But I brushed it off thinking it was nothing.

The following day at work, I realized I was having some fears for nothing, even fearing the people I was working with. I couldn't do my work that day because I was having shortness of breath, hot flashes in my body and was overreacting to everything.

The days that followed were absolute hell and torture; I could hardly speak, I was overreacting (Change in normal attitude), shortness of breath, worrying, severe hot flashes, restlessness, and the rest.

I started withdrawing from social activities, friends and family and I had to quit my job as well.

I didn't know anything about mental illness then so I really didn't know what was happening. I tried to work things out but I couldn't.

Then after six months, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) set in. It was really difficult for me. I was having Intrusive thoughts and unnecessary and uncomfortable negative thinking.

At this point I felt very hopeless. It was about a year and half and I was always living in my mind. I decided to google my symptoms and that was when I realized I was in a very serious trouble.

At this point I had lost all friends and some new friends thought I was even crazy. I sought help at Korle-Bu and I was diagnosed of Anxiety/OCD but I wasn't in Accra then so the cost wasn't easy.

I went to a Psychiatric hospital in my regional capital and I was prescribed some drugs. After one week of taking the drugs, they made me bloated so I stopped taking them and then decided to exercise to lose weight. So I bought a scale to track my results.

Well I will say this was when I started seeing light. About one month into the exercising, I realized something surprising: my symptoms were improving, so the exercise was actually treating me as well. This boosted my confidence and zeal to continue and after two months, my symptoms had really improved.

Though it wasn't easy, I continued the exercise seriously and after seven months, thankfully I felt my old self again (for the first time in 4 years).

Joel’s story was shared by Dorcas Eve Mensah, a Mental Health Advocate and founder of OtherslikemeGH which is an online platform creating a community of persons with lived experiences of mental health problems to share their stories and experiences while providing support for members to live the best versions of their lives irrespective of whichever hard place they may be. Contact her on otherslikeme27@gmail.com

Columnist: Dorcas Efe Mensah