One of the biggest lessons I have learned through being diagnosed with anxiety is, a lot of people struggle to relate to mental health as it is an ‘invisible illness’. There’s no plaster cast or pack of medication that screams ‘I’m not well at the moment’. You will come across people who genuinely can’t grasp the issues that you are going through.
My journey with anxiety was a result of many years of unsolved trauma. I began to notice my behaviour changing, however I always dismissed it as personality changes as I was getting older. I was such a spontaneous person growing up and was always up to take part in most social events etc. But when I reached 23, I found myself declining almost every invite that was given to me. ‘I just prefer chilling at home’ I would tell myself. And as a result have missed out on major occasions that I still regret today. I didn’t even understand Anxiety at that stage let alone saw the symptoms within my own behaviour. I begun to feel numb emotionally. I remember describing it to my friends as feeling as if your trapped in a glass box inside your own body. You can smile and laugh on the outside but it’s as if the emotions don’t reach inside of you.
After a couple of years of experiencing those problems, I went through a break up (yes I know I’ve mentioned this before lol). On top of dealing with that I was made redundant from my dream job and my friends and I had decided to give up our house that we was renting and move back in with our parents. During this time, I started to feel so uncomfortable within myself. I would wake up and feel worried for no particular reason, I couldn’t put my finger on it. Then came the physical symptoms…. waking in the middle of the night with heart palpitations, my arms would go numb and tingly and I begun to clench my muscles subconsciously.
I’ve always been a bit of a worrier with my health so you could imagine I was freaking out at this stage. I decided to go to the AnE department (dramatic I know). After many hours waiting to be seen. The doctor on duty explained to me that all my tests where normal and that he believes my symptoms where a result of stress and anxiety. To hear that… honestly it hit me like a ton of bricks. I’ve always felt that I was a strong person (whatever that means) but hearing the doctors discuss my options. I couldn’t help but feel like I had failed myself.
The weeks following the diagnosis I visited my GP to discuss options to help relieve my symptoms. Luckily, a friend of mine had recently gone through Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and recommend I give it a try. So walking into my GP office I was already equipped with the information about the CBT. The first thing my GP said to me was ‘okay we can put you on a course of anti-depression tablets’. This really bothered me as I felt I had to deal with the route cause of my Anxiety rather than the symptoms so I pushed for the CBT and was able to get a referral. The therapy helped me a lot and I will write another post explaining it in more detail.
That diagnosis was 4 years ago now and I have since learnt to manage my anxiety. I’ve summarised my go to methods for coping with anxiety below:
Breathing: Once I learned how to control and manage my breathing I was able to prevent anxiety attacks from occurring.
Meditation: Similar to the breathing techniques I use meditation as a way to process my emotions and to unwind when feeling stressed. There are many guided meditation apps available that will help you out if your new to the process.
Communication: I am very lucky that I have very supportive friends around me. Talking to them about my feelings helped me to process my emotions. They didn’t laugh at me or dismiss my irrational thoughts, they helped me explore them and talk myself out of the anxious feelings.
Anxiety is something that you may live with for the rest of your life. But don’t lose hope, there are so many ways that you can manage the symptoms and feel in control of your life again. I will go into more detail in future posts about the specific type of anxiety I suffer with and how that affected me.
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