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?

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.