Anxiety is an interesting thing to live with.
I liken it to those nights where your brain is working in overdrive and you can’t get to sleep. Your brain feels foggy, head achey but the thoughts in it are filled with clarity but they run on and on and on! Where you’re on edge because know you’ve got to get up early in the morning for something important so your body feels jumpy, your heart is racing, you feel like you’re ready for some thing to happen. Like that person that jumps out at you, the drop in a scary movie or that phone call informing you that something bad has happened to a loved one and you’re close to tears because the feeling of dread is high.
Anxiety is this for me but all day every day. Some say that it’s like a full time job as you don’t get a rest or a break. It never goes away fully because strangely a little anxiety is good. Healthy even. It makes you vigilant, it makes you care and it’s part of life. It’s when it reaches the high levels like this that it’s difficult to deal with and you know something needs to change.
I haven’t spoken about this much to people outside of my close circle of friends and family but I have two long term conditions that have anxiety as a possible side effect. Hypehidrosis or severe excess sweating, something I’ve lived with since I was a small kid. The second is Trigeminal Neuralgia better known as severe facial pain and something that is more of a recent thing that I started to have symptoms of around 5 years ago.
Anxiety as I mentioned before can be a side effect and what comes with anxiety is often depression too. For me, though I’ve always had a little anxiety that I would say has been higher than other peoples, it’s still been manageable until recently where there’s been a definite accumulation to higher levels. It suddenly washed over me and I didn’t quite know or understand what was happening.
Social anxiety is one of those things that I started to be effected by. When I’m around people my stomach gurgles loudly even if I’m not hungry. I feel sick, heart beats loudly, head swims, and I suddenly become aware of everything and everyone around me. Things travel through my head at a hundred miles an hour even if they don’t settle enough for me to even think them fully. What are people looking at, what they’re doing, do I look okay, have I got things in my teeth, etc etc.
Something like going into a cafe that is a normal thing, a treat became difficult. I order, sit down and start writing blog posts. Stuck in a world that I love. The food arrives, I start eating, eating is loud and crunchy and difficult to eat and I worry about what people are thinking. I start getting anxious and take large inhalations of air. My chest tightens and now my stomach is a little bloated. I try and catch my breath a little, calm myself down as I know a panic attack is in tow however slight. My stomach pops, and makes noises and it’s painful. I continue eating due to my stubborn self. The experience isn’t enjoyable but I eat and I calm slowly. Really slowly.
I used to be such a confident person, I studied Performing Arts, always talking to people, happy to be caught off guard. Now I find every event, menial task involving people, a hen night, a family event, a small girls evening, even a quick meeting with friends takes stubbornness and inner strength to get through. I often go to things for a small amount of time to show my face and I leave before my anxiety gets too bad to cope with. Things that wouldn’t have any effect on someone else will play on my mind for days, weeks even months later. I still think about conversations that I had at my wedding, cringing at the reasons I said or did something and wishing I could go back and change it.
I get through every day using a series of techniques. They’re second nature these days because I do most of them without thinking. I try and fit in Meditation often, exercise regularly as it keeps the depression away. I love to run, to dance, to sing, review, write – write a lot and to travel and discover, to do what I love and immerse myself in these things to allow creativity and feel normal. I try and have a positive mental attitude. I often seek space especially while I’m eating as I know this is an issue for me for what ever reason, I take time away from noise. I use distraction a lot to help my racing mind and I write down a lot, write lists when I need to especially at work, especially when thoughts continue to swirl. I’m also not ashamed to say I go to CBT counciling and combined it all really helps. I also found that changing my diet to a vegan one really made me manage my symptoms especially my Trigeminal Nueralgia.
Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t supposed to be a pity party. I realise that I’m lucky and that things could be much worse but under the smiles and the facade of confidence you never really know what people’s personal struggles are. Suffering from anxiety has made me realise that even though I’ve felt alone, a lot of people suffer from mental health issues and anxiety is more common than you think. It’s one of the most common mental health conditions in the UK with a staggering 3 million people suffering with it. One of the biggest problems around anxiety is that people don’t talk about it enough. It can be seen as a weakness and is often misunderstood but with mental health issues being more common, it’s not something to be ashamed of and I’m thankful that people like Fearne Cotton and Ruby Wax are voicing their experiences. By talking about our individual stories and experiences with anxiety, people become less isolated and won’t suffer alone. This post is my way of talking about it.
Do you suffer from anxiety or know someone that does. Hop on twitter and share your stories.