I Was Battling With Chronic Anxiety Attacks And My Husband's Death Was The Last Straw

"I cried day and night."

Cover image via VirginRose

She's used to panic attacks, insomnia, shortness of breath, and regular heart palpitations. She lost her appetite and she certainly had no zest for life.

Her days and nights were filled with fear - the fear of death, fear of going mad, and fear of being alone.

It was a dark time but those were only some of the things that Nazihah Iryani (also known as VirginRose) endured for more than a year.

This is her story.

Image via VirginRose

At the end of 2012, Nazihah was going through one of the most stressful moments in life. She was on the verge of breaking down.

"Pressured to complete my studies at university, getting married at a young age, divorce, barred from meeting my own child for six months, discovered that my pregnancy with my second husband was a molar pregnancy (an unsuccessful pregnancy); all of these made my life increasingly depressing," Nazihah recalled.

Although her second husband had been very kind towards her child from her previous marriage, she had hoped to have a baby with him.

However, things did not go quite as planned. "When the doctor confirmed that my four-month-old pregnancy had no heart and did not develop into a fetus, I was utterly disappointed and was depressed."

That was it. That episode pushed her over the edge.

"I began to be quick to worry and tend to think negatively. I suffered from chronic anxiety problems continuously. I felt afraid and anxious over little things," Nazihah said.

Her work performance dropped drastically, causing her colleagues to feel dissatisfied as she often took sick leave and left her work undone, thus burdening them with her duties.

"I felt like a walking corpse and neglected my duties as a wife and mother. I was too lazy to care for myself, let alone my husband and child. I lost interest in doing any activities due to the fear of death and I felt suffocated. I lost my true self!"

After she took a few tests at the medical centre, the doctor confirmed that she was suffering from anxiety disorder

She was advised to seek psychiatric treatment and to take medication but she refused.

"But I refused to accept the treatment because I realised that the problem lies in the soul, and no one is able to restore my own soul except for myself."

"I started looking for my own understanding of anxiety disorder and read inspiring stories of individuals who have successfully overcome their mental illnesses."

Just when things started getting better, she hit rock bottom when she received news that her husband died in a fatal accident

Image via VirginRose

"At that time, it felt like a stone crushed all the spirit that is left of me. I was depressed and refused to see anyone. I cried day and night."

To make matters worse, some people began to forward cuttings of newspapers about her late husband's accident and death on WhatsApp. She had so many questions on her mind as she questioned her own fate.

"Why is it that God took my husband straight out of my life at a time when I needed him most? How could I live the days ahead of me without him by my side? Will I lose my mind in the end? How do I want to raise my own child alone?" those questions kept playing on her mind.

However, who would have thought that this would be the incident that brought the much needed strength for Nazihah to overcome her mental illness

She did not want her and her son's life to be burdened by allowing this mental problem to be a source of suffering.

"I know that I could bounce back from this situation and walk the road of recovery, just as how I did a few months earlier."

"I realise that this the cure does not come from the presence or absence of my husband but from myself. Only I have the power to help myself to recover with the strength from God."

Since then, she had a different outlook at life.

Image via VirginRose

"Life and death, joy and sadness, sickness and good health, meeting new people and farewells are just cycles in life. Like how day and night come alternately, it's all a cycle."

That moment, she made a constant decision to change her life and quit complaining.

"I put the past behind and keep them as memories. I left the sad picture of the future as a mere imagination. I live life by taking one second at a time. I give meaning to my life in my own ways."

She admitted that there are times when she still suffers from panic attacks that would cause her so much difficulty in breathing that she almost fainted, but she constantly trains herself not to pile up her anxiety and fear during those frequent attacks.

She was learning how to let go and cope.

She struggled with her condition but she did not allow it to paralyse her like before

"After almost a year of going through the healing process in isolation without psychiatric medications, I have finally reached a real sense of relief," Nazihah said.

She said that she was slowly freed from physical symptoms and chronic anxiety.

"I managed to live a life more beautiful and extraordinary than before. Those were the things that I enjoy after I changed my views and perspective on anxiety disorder, thus changing my whole life."

Seeing that she is better than before, Nazihah has been reaching out to help others who are suffering from anxiety disorders

"I'm comfortable to meet other people who are suffering from anxiety disorder face-to-face to share and exchange our understandings about these mental illnesses," she said.

Nazihah has been invited to speak about the topic of anxiety disorder by various organisations. Her list of experiences includes speaking to a group of participants at the National Population and Family Development Board (LPPKN) Johor Bahru.

Nazihah Iryani (centre) speaking to a group of participants at LPPKN Johor Bahru.

Image via VirginRose

"All that I do is an effort to stop the negative stigma attached to anxiety disorder to view it as 'insanity'. I admit that this stigma arises because the patients themselves have little knowledge on this issue."

"As such, the public is not communicated with the right understanding, thus inviting ridicule and various allegations that those suffering from anxiety disorders are 'hungry for attention'," she added.

She stressed that patients tend to suffer from depression which may lead to other mental illnesses if proper treatment is not given

"I would like to point out that understanding the patterns of attack of the anxiety disorder is important when walking on the road of recovery."

"It must be known that those suffering from anxiety disorders can be well again iif we get the right treatment methods that are appropriate for our bodies."

Image via VirginRose

"I often remind myself, 'Peace and happiness is not something to be achieved. It's something that is felt and comes from within yourself. Appreciate this life and enjoy it to its fullest because you only have this one life.'"

Living in the city ain’t a piece of cake but it could also be exciting and adventurous. How are you coping? How are you making the best out of things? Do you have a story or experience to share?

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Previously on Malaysian City Life #45, Muhammad Adib Mohamad Ali shared about he achieved his dreams of owning a cafe business despite failing in his first attempt:

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