I’ve been wanting to right this post for a while. It’s never been the right time. You see, I have depression and anxiety. There’s been periods of up and times when everything has been down, so far down it’s turned black. Since the middle of June I’ve been off work with anxiety, it’s October now and things are getting better. So much so, I’m going back to work soon. This is a good thing!
There have been a lot of people who I’ve spoken to, some in real life and some online who all suffer with this. Believe it or not, there’s still a lot of people who don’t understand what anxiety is. After writing my last post about September – I thought I would share my experiences, for two reasons:
- To help others
- To help people gain a better understanding of it
Here’s my guide to anxiety:
What is anxiety?
First and foremost anxiety is normal. It’s an inbuilt ‘fight or flight’ response to a situation. There are stressors such as traumatic situations, a significant life event or even that everyday situations have simply built up and you can’t get back on top. Research has also suggested it could be down to overactivity in areas of the brain involved in emotions and behaviour or an imbalance of chemicals in the brain.
For me, last year was traumatic the death of my wonderful (step)dad and moving house both of which score high in stress scales. I don’t talk about my feelings easily, and I won’t go into the situation which has lead me here, but these were my triggers.
The realistic side of it, essentially is, I didn’t pay attention to my feelings. I didn’t grieve. I kept on going until everything built up until I couldn’t cope. The inability to cope then manifested itself as a full blown anxiety attack.
What are anxiety attacks?
These attacks aren’t ‘in your head’, they manifest themselves physically, psychologically and behaviourally symptom wise.
The main feelings I had felt like everything was collapsing around me. ! wanted to run away. It was like people knew I was going to explode and panic. The main thing I felt was that I was going to die.
There were the crushing feeling that I couldn’t move. I hyperventilated, couldn’t breathe properly, my heart was racing, I was dizzy and shaking with the feeling that I would pass out. I felt sick and then vomited. It was impending doom, that however I try and describe it, it never sounds as bad as it felt. This also happened more than once. It still happens now, I can just control it better
How to alleviate an anxiety attack
This is the hard bit. You need to speak to someone, a family member, friend, your GP and seek help. I’m lucky I have close family and a few very close friends. I have also been this before and am able to spot (albeit slightly late) the symptoms. Don’t be scared, help is available.
There are simple things you can do to help the anxiety attacks. Focus on your breathing, find somewhere quiet to sit. tell yourself this is only temporary, remind yourself that you are safe. Get in touch with someone you are close to, they will help. There are plenty of online tools that can help with moments like this, I’ve put some onto a Pinterest board that may be of use.
Management of Anxiety
I’ve been on Citalopram for my depression for as long as I can remember, so when this happened my dose was increased, my GP also added in Propanolol to help with the physiological symptoms of anxiety. I was referred for therapy, I have had CBT before so I tried to channel what I’d learnt in that to help me before my assessment.
Endless List Making
I made lists of things to do to try and push myself into getting back into a normal routine. Essentially I’ve locked myself away, fearful of going out. My lists included basic things like doing the washing, going into the garden, having a walk. I would plan everything, what I would wear, what time I’d have a shower, what time I’d start making tea. Everything.
If I needed to go out I’d see who was free to come with me, someone needed to hold my hand. I had to have an exit plan, just in case I couldn’t cope – I still do this at times.
I was cancelling appointments, catching up with friends, missing out on all the things I loved to do. So I started going out. I documented times with friends. Good friends, the ones who understand and love you no matter what. I also felt bad for putting photos on Instagram, but I couldn’t drop off the face of the earth. To be this is a documentary of life, regardless of what I put in each square.
Photography is one of the things I love to do, so I did it, especially because it’s easy and I had a huge block inside me that wouldn’t let me write or blog. It gave me purpose.
People saw the pictures of happy smiling me, out and about but what they didn’t see was the fact I’d cancelled things more times than I’d gone out or the fact that I puked 10 minutes before leaving the house, double dosing propanolol so I could actually leave the house, having to be held by my best friend when I was crying with panic and couldn’t move with fright. They didn’t see this. It was the worst feeling in the world but something I had to break. They didn’t call or write, yet, they talked about me and I’m glad they did, because while they were bitching about me they were leaving someone else alone. I don’t need those people, they don’t understand and this is part of the problem when it comes to mental health.
I’ve found writing this hard, because it’s personal. I’m not bothered about people judging me, or talking about me, I’m too old for all that shit. At the end of the day, mental health issues affect 1 in 4 people, I’ve had this for years and I’m simply me.
I still suffer with anxiety, it’s up and down at the moment. As my mood improves so should my anxiety, there’s also the fact that I am managing it better. You need to find what works for you. Push yourself without exerting yourself and get help.
- Seek help – family, friends, GP
- Look at mindfulness techniques, a lot of it is a bit hippy for me but they do recommend colouring in which is so much fun, write lists, read a book, do something you enjoy.
- Have quiet time. Some people meditate, others have a long bath, some people just sit. You need time for you, you need to ground yourself, calm down and realise how strong you actually are.
- Exercise – it doesn’t matter how, something as simple as dancing around the kitchen can help.
- Remember you will get through this, this is only temporary and it will pass.
- Don’t hide your feelings, don’t be ashamed or embarrassed – this is you at this moment. You will be surprised how many people are going or have been through something similar.
- Don’t use drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism, the only way to get through this is to be true to yourself and look after yourself.
- Don’t skip meals, you need a full balanced diet. Your body and mind need to heal.
- Don’t isolate yourself, plan little walks or invite someone round for cake and a chat.
- Don’t let your anxiety take over, remember you will get through this, this is only temporary and it will pass.
If you are struggling and need urgent help, as well as your GP, there are the Samaritan and MIND who can give advice although if you feel suicidal or could self-harm you need to call 999.
Good luck on your journey, there is always someone to listen you only have to ask.