Anxiety: What It Took Me A Long Time To Learn

I’ve suffered with GAD for as long as I can remember. I remember realising I had something odd going on with my mind when I was in about year 5 or 6. I was having OCD tendencies, which I knew I wanted to stop and made a mental note to do the opposite of what my mind was telling me to do.

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Members of my family suffer from OCD so I knew it was something I’d been exposed to, but it still surprises me to this day that as a child I knew this was an issue and something that needed stopping.

It wasn’t until many many years later I was diagnosed with GAD and found out that this was something another member of my family suffered with. And it wasn’t until a few years after that, that I read a blog post online that really helped to change the way I dealt with anxiety.

I honestly don’t remember where I read the article. I was doing research for a blog post in my job and happened across the post, with relation to something else. But the post struck a chord with me.

Simply put, the author noted that she’d been trying to suppress her anxious feelings. They’d been weighing her down to the point where she was saying no to meetings, new business and opportunities. She’d been allowing her anxiety to define her and it was preventing her from moving forward in a business sense. Until one day she had a breakthrough. She decided she would greet her anxiety – acknowledge it. She moved forward knowing that she would have this reaction and instead of causing herself more stress trying to fight it, she described herself moving forward with the anxiety walking alongside her.

She soon found that it wasn’t there as much. Because she’d decided not to pay attention to it so much, not use up her energy analysing it or fighting it, that it wasn’t getting the attention it wanted and so it didn’t seem as important as it once had.

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This idea was really powerful to me. I hope it is to you, too.

Anxiety is a big snowball of horrid. You have it, you analyse it, you feel guilty for it, and then you have more of it. It’s a cycle that seems so unnecessary and is very tiring. It can debilitate, numb, paralyse. It’s in no way fun.

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It’s different for everyone, but I hope, if you suffer, that by reading this you might find some sense of relief. It won’t work every time, it doesn’t cure, but it might offer a little respite on occasion.

 

Mental Health: A New Trend?

Trying to explain an anxiety disorder to someone who doesn’t have one is nearly impossible. It’s kind of like trying to describe a migraine to someone who’s only ever had a headache.

And it’s not the person to whom you’re talking’s fault. It’s no one’s fault. It’s just really hard. In fact it’s even hard to explain your kind of disorder to someone else who suffers.

Personally my anxiety disorder presents itself in lots of ways. It can be triggered by many things, and it’s so inflicting that it can make all my muscles seize so I can’t even move. My brain can switch off, everything goes slow motion and I sometimes won’t even know until after it’s happened.

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But this blog isn’t about that. We now live in a time where it’s more common to speak out about mental health. And as much as there’s still a HUGE way to go and reducing the stigma attached to mental health issues, people are still going for it, and trying to make others aware of it.

But I have a few concerns. There are so many people who will just fling terms around. “I’m so OCD I have to keep all my shoes in pairs” or “That ugly sweater gives me anxiety”. No one can tell whether these people really suffer, and who am I to say that they don’t. But it is starting to appear that a select few are wearing mental health issues as if it will make them more interesting. Something to add a little drama into their life.

Even Jennifer Lawrence, whilst being interviewed on The Tonight Show alongside Jessie Eisenberg recently, flippantly said ‘You’re the most interesting person’ and ‘I want weird quirks’ just minutes after he had opened up about his severe OCD. No one who has OCD *wants* OCD.

And in an episode of Veronica Mars (if you don’t know what that is, you seriously need to Google it and watch!) students were claiming GAD (Generalised Anxiety Disorder) to get out of exams. It was so normalised that it penalised any students that really did have it.

My fear is just that, that people who really suffer from it are being washed away by those seeking attention. I hope I’m wrong.

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My second concern is one that I have zero basis to believe will happen – it’s merely a fear (heck, it’s an anxiety). I love how much anxiety and mental health disorders are being talked about. It’s fantastic that people are trying to end the stigma surround them. I myself don’t openly talk about it to my colleagues or even really bring it up to friends unless it’s relevant. I know, not with friends or family, but in the work place mainly it can alter how people treat you. I’ve seen it happen, not so much in my current job, but in past places, where I feel like your capabilities are questioned. Luckily if ever I’ve had to mention it at work to my direct boss I’ve been met with support and understanding. But I do have a concern that if having a mental health problem is normalised too much, it won’t be taken seriously.

I’ll go back to my headache analogy. If someone tells you they have a headache you expect them to take a pill and carry on, but you have no idea how it’s affecting that person. Their head might be splitting, it might have gotten so bad they need a dark room or a sleep. It might even be a migraine. You have no idea how it’s affecting that person. But headaches are normal, they affect so many people and they’re so common. Anxiety is common, affects so many people but you have no idea how it’s affecting someone at that time. My fear is that I tell someone I have really bad anxiety and because it’s so normalised they tell me to sit quietly or take a pill and expect me to carry on as normal. They just brush is off, and don’t realise how seriously it’s affecting me at that time, because it’s ‘just anxiety’. Sometimes with a migraine you need to take days away from normal life to recover. Sometimes with anxiety you need to remove yourself for weeks.

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It’s selfish and hopefully wrong, but for that reason I almost don’t want GAD to be normalised too much. I guess I just want it understood. I don’t want to feel brushed under the carpet, because my struggle is real, so so real. And I really don’t want it to become the next fad, like veganism or yoga.

I think for now, I’ll leave it at that. I don’t really want to go into my own experiences in too much detail. I still find talking about it, and even reading other people’s experiences, a bit of a trigger. I just wanted to put words to ‘paper’ and put them out there. I also don’t want to offend with anything I’ve written, so hopefully this hasn’t. I can’t control my fears and in this instance, this is just how current events have made me feel.

I wonder if anyone else feels the same as me?

Learning About Myself

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At the tender age of 32 and a half, I feel like I’m just starting to understand myself. They say you can’t be loved until you love yourself. I think that’s true in part, but who truly loves themselves at the age in which they’re finding love?

As I head towards 33 I’ve been reflecting on the things I’ve learned about myself up until now.

I’ve learned that I can’t stand the sight of my own blood without literally passing out, and that I have ZERO control over it. I know it’s going to happen, I can rationalise with myself all I like, but it’ll still end badly. And there’s very little I can do to stop it once it starts. Yay for my brain!

I’ve learned that it’s okay to live with anxiety, and the worst thing to do is be anxious over your anxiety. Living with GAD isn’t great. Very few people understand it and so I don’t tell many people about it unless I feel safe in their space or unless it necessary. I’m learning that it comes and it goes, and that no matter how other people feel about it (and even though the opinion of others sometimes makes it harder to get through) my feelings come first in those situations.

I’ve learned that I have a lactose intolerance, and my love affair with cheese was ill-fated. I’ve also learned that people are intolerance intolerant and just think I’m being picky or fussy when it comes to dealing with it. I’m learning to simply tolerate those intolerant of my intolerance 😀

I’ve learned that I can read people rather well, and that if I take my time and consider all the parts of a story I can usually put myself in another person’s shoes and work out the motive behind their actions. Or at least create a multitude of different scenarios to explain why someone might behave in a certain way. I find it very interesting. As an uber over-analytical person it’s nice to put this obsessiveness to practical use. I’ve found it’s enabling me to give other people factual advice on their problems. Being on the outside of a situation, along with this kind of perspective is very interesting. I sometimes start speaking and by the end of the thought have discovered a solution I didn’t even know was possible, through reasoning. None of that probably made any sense, but there you go – welcome to my brain!

I’ve learned how to let my friends in. I never used to hold onto friends too tight, simply because I assumed I wasn’t worth their time. I didn’t see my value in their life, mainly because I didn’t see my value full-stop. But during the process of helping my friends see their value in MY life, I was able to see the other side. And now I have a heap of close and amazingly wonderful friends, who I couldn’t live without.

I’ve learned that you can be in a long-term relationship and not get bored of the other person. I didn’t think it was possible, when I first started seeing Gary, that you could be in a long-term relationship and still keep interested in the same person. But 14 years down the line and things are better than ever. We still have fun. Still talk in depth about anything and everything and still adore each other.

I’ve learned I’m a massive bitch, and that I should be a bit kinder when it comes to first and quick impressions. I default to dislike of things out of the norm or different than me. But to be different, individual or confident takes a brave person, and who am I to judge? It’s not so much what I say or how I act, but more how I think, and that’s what I’m working on. I want to be a pleasant person, kind and nice. I think I am all these things, but let myself down sometimes and this is what I’m working on.

I’ve learned so much, and so much more than these few things over the years. I really enjoy working on myself, and making this Erin the best Erin I can be. I’m looking forward to how much I change and learn about myself over the next 10 years. Life is darn exciting!

Allowing the Storm to Pass

The last two weeks have been particularly volatile. Storm Abigail and Storm Barney have hit the UK and we have seen really strong gales and gusts. My drives home from work have been difficult mainly due to me driving a very light car. When being hit with 30 mph gusts I find I have to concentrate very hard – I’m a fairly new driver and this is my first experience of this!

I’ve also been dealing with stormy weather in my personal life. Hormonal changes and my crazy brain put me into a fairly dark place for the past couple of weeks. It’s lead to me stripping down my calendar, cancelling a lot of long standing plans and dealing with the present. I find in times like this that if I simply deal with what’s in front of me I can calm my nerves and start to feel much better.

I had a lovely long Skype call with my friend Tash last weekend. We chatted and chatted and I caught up with what she’s up to in Vietnam. It was wonderful to see her face and touch base with her. She’s only been there 7 weeks but I miss her a lot!

I’m also waiting on the imminent birth of the second Book Club baby. Hayley’s baby boy isn’t due until 27th November but people keep telling her she’s going to be early. She’s having baby twinges but no contractions yet. I can’t wait to meet him!

Christmas season is upon us now, and the TV is full of Christmas adverts. John Lewis have come up with another cracker, about the Man on the Moon – though their ads are becoming increasingly tenuously linked to Christmas. The Coca-Cola advert was shown for the first time this year, last night. It prompted me to YouTube their The Holidays are Coming advert because I always seem to remember it slightly different. Originally aired in 1995, the advert was much longer, had a longer song in it and in my opinion had a much greater build up. More exciting and prettier. But over the years it’s been shortened. I wish they’d debut the advert each year with the longer version and then show the shorter one after that, if they must.

I’m starting to feel a little more Christmassy, and since it’s only 34 sleeps until the big day I think it’s about time. Next weekend will most likely see our annual tree putting-up session, whilst we watch people squealing on The X-Factor. And speaking of the X-Factor…. Last year’s almost winner has released her first single ‘Sax’. It’s being played, ad nauseaum and even features on the new Christmas Asda adverts. But one thing is really really bugging me about the song (other than it’s Uptown Funk’s inferior cousin) – there’s no obvious saxophone in the song. In a song where she demands you ‘Play that sax’ repeatedly, you’d expect some obvious saxophone action – or at least a Baker Street-esque saxophone riff. But no. The song does have saxophone in it, but it’s an un-obvious muddy bass line and totally missable. Bad form Fleur, bad form.

Anyhow, I digress. I can foresee the next month being full of Christmas plans, babies (or one baby!) and hard work. Gary and I still have to plan some of our trip to New York, which is one of the things getting me through this difficult, cold and dark end to the autumn. I’m hoping some festive lights and festive activities will help me along.

 

Raining, Running & Raving

I’ve been a little quiet on the blog this week for a number of reasons. The main one being that I just didn’t feel like blogging this week. The weather’s been humid and rainy, I’ve been putting a lot of pressure on myself for various reasons and it all kinda came to a head midweek last week. I felt like I was losing control and was very overwhelmed.

You’ll be pleased to know that with a lot of support from a close friend and my husband, I’m feeling a lot more like myself today.

So this week there’s been some massively heavy downpours mingled with humid temperatures and strong winds and it’s made it hard to choose what to wear! One of the days this week was 14 degrees and today is 22 as I sit in my garden typing this.

Midweek Gary managed to get hold of Secret Cinema’s latest venture, which is bringing Back To The Future alive and building Hill Valley in a secret location. Ticket sales smashed records for length of time to sell out. We got tickets for August 2nd so we have some time to think about costumes. I really can’t wait. We watched the movie last night so we could get some clothing inspiration!

We also got tickets to an event in July that we wanted to go to last year but only found out about it last minute. Hot Dub Time Machine is a dance party event where the DJ plays music from the 50’s all the way to present day, chronologically. It looks amazing from the video on their website, so I can’t wait to see what it’s like in person!

Today was a rather special day as I got to run the Race For Life with three great friends. It was one of the girl’s first race ever and another of the girl’s first race for life. With a batch of supporters there to cheer us on we battled the heat and hills and really earned our medals. And it really was a hot one AND annoyingly I lost part of my run when my watch paused and I didn’t notice it until who knows when! I measured 3.01 on my Garmin so thankfully I only lost a bit.  I had to walk much more than I would have liked – the heat effects me really fast! But we made it nevertheless and each enjoyed our brioche and bottled water at the end!

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We even found the energy to sport our running kit around a vintage fair that was trading from the shopping centre, so way too many people have seen my short clad legs today 🙂 (including you lucky pups!)

It was a lovely end to a really tough week. I’m really lucky to have such amazing friends around me, and words can’t explain how amazing G-Man is.

Next I’m training for the Women’s Running 10k in exactly a month, which is taking place in MK this year and I definitely have at least one of my lovely girlfriends running it with me. Bring it on!

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Another Step Forward, and No Steps Back

Yesterday I took a huge step forward. During an extremely long and frustrating shift at work, which was in the progress of lasting 2 hours longer than it should have and meaning that we didn’t get out of the shop until almost midnight, I began to have a panic attack.

For those who follow my blog, or for some who know me in reality, you will already be aware that I suffer from GAD. It’s not severe, or at least it’s not as severe as it used to be. But occasionally I suffer from these attacks. Sometimes they come on for no reason.

This time I started to feel a little odd and just figured I was feeling tired and shaky due to having missed dinner. So I took a break and realised I was either low in sugar or about to have a big panic. So instead of sitting on it, I decided to tell the people I was with.

Thankfully I was with friends, one of whom is diabetic and took a reading to make sure I wasn’t low in sugar (I wasn’t) and one of whom knows I have panic attacks and knows how to talk me round. But this was the first time I have preempted the attack by telling people I felt like I was about to have it, before it actually set in. I knew it was down to a feeling of lack of control. I didn’t feel stressed at all, but I guess it all manifested in a different way. Funny what the mind does to the body without you realising it.

Anyway, it was super hard to admit to other people the way I was feeling – again this was admitting a lack of control. But boy am I glad I did. Everyone just started talking about planning and next steps and I started to feel better. No one judged me or thought I was being stupid (- or at least if they did they didn’t show it!)

I’m not very good at sharing my weaknesses or allowing other people to help me. I took a baby step forward yesterday. Obviously I’m not going to start telling everyone when I start to feel out of control or anxious, especially people I work with, but I knew these people would understand, and it felt like the right thing to do.

I’m still exploring GAD and I’m learning to deal with it. This has definitely been progress and I don’t mind telling y’all.