Now, this is a story all about how my life got flipped-turned upside down and I’d like to take a minute, just sit right there and I will tell you about how I became ….. anxiety-ridden… (not quite the fun ending you hoped for? Same).
So, on a serious note, I thought it would be best to start off with when and how I first started to experience anxiety.
For 2013, I spent a year traveling alone, around Asia, Australia and then moved to Paris for 6 months; the world is my oyster and all that. I took it all in my stride, nothing phased me. I threw myself into meeting new people and created an amazing group of friends, I partied, I jumped out of a plane, I was going on blind dates, I moved to Paris with never having visited before. I was pretty brave, I was hardcore, right?!
However, another very significant thing that happened to me around this time was that I was personally exposed to mental health issues for the first time. I wasn’t sure whether or not I wanted to write about this or include it in my blog – but at the end of the day, I write this blog so I have something to look back on in the future to remind myself of different times and periods of my past – and I cannot forget about something that has probably been one of the biggest aspects of my life over the past few years. At some points, it took over my whole life and I felt like nothing else would ever matter.
It all started in October 2014, just before I was due to move to Cardiff. I had to have about a week off work. I’m not sure what triggered it – but I just felt terrified constantly. Terrified of everything. I lost my appetite and my stomach was in constant knots, so if I did ever manage to eat – I would throw it back up. I was constantly dizzy, I felt like there was a ping pong ball in my head going back and forth and I was shaking. It would sometimes feel like something would click in my head and I would come around and feel like I hadn’t been there for the last minute. I just wanted to sleep because that was the only way I could escape all of these feelings. I had no idea what it was, I genuinely thought that maybe I had a bug, or that I had some sort of illness such as epilepsy and that would explain the dizziness, so my mum booked a doctors appointment for me & drove me there that day (I couldn’t drive myself because of the state I was in). I explained everything to the doctor & burst into tears while telling her how I felt. She was lovely, and very understanding, asking how I felt about moving to Cardiff and if I was worried about anything. Long story short, I was suffering from anxiety. I have no idea what brought it on, where it stems from or what triggers it. Since this day I have been on medication for my anxiety. I was put on the lowest dosage possible but it helped, it helped so much. All of the weird physical feelings went away for the most part which made it easier for me to function. I’m not saying they went and didn’t come back, but on a day to day basis it was a lot easier to handle. Sometimes I would wake up in the morning and feel sick to my stomach and be shaking over something I had no idea about, and sometimes I would wake up and I would feel completely normal.
For anyone who has suffered from anxiety, you will know that there is no way to control it, you can only manage it. I have been lucky enough to have very strong and knowledgeable people around me who have been able to help me manage it. Practicing mindfulness techniques, yoga and meditation before I sleep are things that I still do now – 5 years later! Yesterday I was out clothes shopping and I was in the changing room when I got this wave of anxiety, I felt sick, dizzy, hot and then cold. It almost felt like I was about to faint. I sat down and focused on my breathing and did some techniques I have learned in yoga and within a few minutes I was calm again – this may sound like the smallest thing to anyone who isn’t aware of how anxiety makes you feel – but to me, this was a huge accomplishment. Don’t get me wrong, there are times when my anxiety is passed a point of return and I just have to ride it out & this is the most terrifying part of it.
Anxiety doesn’t pop up when it’s convenient, it pops up whenever it wants to and there is nothing you can do about it, apart from identifying it and try to manage it. It has ruined plenty of special days for me. It’s cropped up when I have plans with friends and I have had to cancel as I am a shaking leaf and physically can’t put one foot in front of the other, I have had to go home from work on occasions because it has hit me in the middle of the day, just out of the blue. On holiday in Prague, anxiety took over while enjoying dinner out one evening & all I wanted to do was go back to my safe haven (the hotel at the time) so I spent my last night in Prague in a hotel room, huddled in a ball, shaking and scared of life.
Sometimes it stops me from functioning, other days I walk around a bit like a zombie, not really able to make full conversation or really take in what people say. It really does get in the way – and I am so thankful that I have people around me who are so understanding when it does happen, and I can’t stick to plans. Anyone who knows me well, knows I like a plan… so ditching plans are NOT my thing. It does get better though! You learn about your body, you learn about your mind. What is your anxiety trying to tell you? Be kind to yourself, there is only one of you and you’re bloody damn special!
The reason I think it is so important that I write about my anxiety is that I often go on about how there should be no stigma attached to mental health anymore and everyone should be talking about it and addressing it – so, here is to practicing what I preach. I can only urge anyone else, my family, my friends or just anyone who comes across my blog – to reach out to others and talk about it if you have any concerns at all. The biggest thing for me was identifying the anxiety & then being able to address it and manage it. I started reducing my medication two months ago and with the CBT techniques that I have learned, I have been able to do this and when anxiety does try and rule my day – I put these to practice and the majority of the time – I can put it aside and get on with my day.
Lastly, all I can is – TALK TO SOMEONE. This is so important. Talk to a person you trust, talk to someone you are close to or talk to a doctor. The best thing I ever did was to see a doctor.