Home News My Battle: Laois man opens up about his 14-year struggle with anxiety

My Battle: Laois man opens up about his 14-year struggle with anxiety

A Laois man has opened up about his 14-year battle with anxiety. 

Noel John Tuohy, a 36-year-old civil servant from Portlaoise, has written a deeply personal and brave account of what it is like to live with chronic anxiety. 

He shares his account in the hope that it may help other people to understand the condition and also help those who suffer with it to know that they are not alone. 

With Noel John’s permission, we have replicated his story in full below:


I was asked some time ago if I would consider writing about my struggles with anxiety and I said yes of course I would be happy to share. However, when I put pen to paper, on my soon to be futile first attempt, I blanked.

Chronic anxiety and panic attacks are things that in my almost 14 years of experiencing I have described in every fashion – albeit using metaphors, similes or literal explanation but which of these would I pen?

Today I have decided to just speak from my own experience and leave the interpretation to you.

From my first panic attack where I was certain I was having a heart attack I have been on edge. Every second of the day I am just trying to keep it together.

Never go on holiday – how could I trust I wouldn’t die on the plane? Never leave the county even – I may be too far from a hospital should my heart start to fail.

So I just get through the day and keep it together so you can get home and have a drink and try to relax.

Like a guard dog I scan my body with hyper vigilance for every tweak of pain, which could be a catastrophe and every flutter of my heart a potential for another hospital visit where a myriad of tests tell me I’m in good health but in my mind I know better, I know I’m living on borrowed time.

This becomes your lenses and your filter. It is the metric by which you see the world. It is the reason I can’t sleep. It is the reason I am always at least a little sad.

It is the reason I seek escapism until one day you wake up after a night of jumping awake, chest pains and nightmares and realise it has taken centre stage.

I have tried to fight mind you. Medications, Pieta House, therapy, group therapy, EMDR, spiritualism – perhaps everything but prayer because I don’t seem to be on speaking terms with anything that would allow a mind to poison itself so cruelly.

I have found plenty of sympathy but perhaps a shortage of empathy.

This is not a criticism because when I am told of a loved one having a difficult birth or being told that they have cancer I am filled with sympathy but I cannot fully understand what that must truly be like, it is outside of my understanding, chronic fear is no different if it is outside of your experience.

Perhaps the part I judge myself for most is what I feel are the poor decisions I have made that may have contributed seeds for my condition but mostly it would be my jealousy.

I feel anger and avarice of those around me, getting away for the weekend or a sunny holiday in the Maldives, that voice I wish wasn’t in my head reminds me that it isn’t fair. Why them and not me?

I feel the world passing me by and I resent it. I am not living, I am existing. I’m scared and I am so very tired.

If there is somebody in your life that has anxiety my advice is not complicated, just be patient and understanding. We are all fighting our battles and they don’t all look like the opening scene of Saving Private Ryan.

I don’t know how to get better but I know first-hand how far kindness can get you. If you are suffering from anxiety you are not alone.

SEE ALSO – Fundraising run organised for Laois nurse injured in Australian car accident

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Stradbally native Alan Hartnett is a graduate of Knockbeg College who has worked in the local and national media since 2008. Alan has a BA in Economics, Politics and Law and an MA in Journalism from DCU. His happiest moment was when Jody Dillon scored THAT goal in the Laois senior football final in 2016.