Anxiety isn’t a walk in the park. It can be like the monster from under your childhood bed coming out to follow you around the streets. Invited he was not.
I was told I had anxiety at the age of twenty-one. This unfolded due to what I now understand was a severe panic attack on the day of my twenty-first. Medication and recommended CBT therapy was the prescription. It would fade. That it was not permanent. This gave me some hope, which can only be a good thing. I’d have thought.
Seven years down the line I’m bumping along rather calmly. I still take medication, plus a new additional medication which I started two years ago, and things are going OK. I’m no longer housebound, which is an improvement.
My anxiety started, I believe, when I was a young child. Feelings of being unable to breathe would follow me around. One evening I was sure I could feel my lungs getting smaller and smaller, my throat tightening, so we headed to A&E. A Doctor checked me over. I was sent home shortly afterwards. From sweaty palms, throat clearing, headaches, not sleeping enough, refusing to go to school, sleeping too much, staying up until the following morning and sleeping through the day… the recipe for it all to come crashing down a few years later practically wrote itself.
So I can easily say I have some experience when it comes to dealing with Anxiety. No, I don’t know the ins and outs and I certainly don’t claim to know how everyone else reacts, we all have a unique experience with our own illnesses. But here are just a few things I think everyone should know about living with Anxiety.
It was my ‘thing’ as a child that I would often comment that I felt like I could not breathe. Even now if you were to ask my Mum or sister what the most common thing for me to say as a child, it was probably this. It’s even laughed about. I smile at it too, don’t get me wrong. They laugh because as they all say if I can scream “I can’t breeeeathe!’ then I can very much indeed. I never understood what I was going through, so I do understand that others who haven’t been through it wouldn’t understand it. Trust me when I say that we are not going on this anxiety hell ride for fun, we haven’t asked you along for the ride because we’re bored. We’re struggling.
We don’t need you to flannel us down, tell us we’re stupid or Google our symptoms but we do need to feel that if we were to panic around you that you’re not going to ignore us. The last thing someone having a panic attack wants is attention. When I’ve felt attacks coming I’ve tried to seclude myself. From hiding in the toilets at the movies to making it home from work with fully-body pins and needles to then run to my room for a half hour, my inner organs fighting to win this one over. You can genuinely feel like death is upon you.
Don’t pressurise people.
Depending on where you are with your anxiety, or whether those around you have known you long enough, it can feel like a constant exercise to prove yourself. After my anxiety was revealed to my loved ones it became a whole new thing. Most understood, in fact, a couple even told me how they themselves had struggled with it. However, there were a couple who didn’t take it that easily. During discussions or arguments, they’d throw insults that it was all for attention or an excuse to not do anything that I didn’t want to do.
It took a long period of time for those people to realise it wasn’t any of the above. That, in fact, quite a lot of things I would have loved to have done were placed on the back burner. Trips to the cinema to see movies, something I used to love doing. Eating out at my favourite restaurants in town – that too was put aside. A couple of years ago I went through a period that even going by my driveway brought me out in a cold sweat, my chest would go tight and I’d almost feel like I was unable to move my legs. Now, thankfully, I enjoy the odd day out at our local pub, walks to the local shops and going to see my Gran.
Sometime’s we just need a day at home.
Facing the day ahead can be tough for anyone, with or without anxiety. As an anxiety sufferer, I know I need to get out when I can. Staying in for days on end isn’t the wisest thing to do. Worried that it could start the negative cycle of feeling safe only at home I do try to get on lots of dog walks and trips to the shops numerous times a week. I work from home (self-employed) which thankfully means I’m not having to contend with an office, for now. But sometimes it’s important to realise that a day at home, isn’t all bad. A few hours curled up on the sofa, catching up on television shows or reading a book. With or without anxiety these types of days should be cherished and if someone wants to do it, let them. It’s not a personal attack on you.
But XYZ can do that…
We’re not all the same. Just like no one is. So many times I have heard the beginnings of, “my friend had anxiety but he could do XYZ, why can’t you?”. These phrases were most likely said during heated moments but none the less. Where I may feel anxious over going to the movies someone may feel anxious only in supermarkets. It’s important to realise that not all sufferers suffer with the same typical symptoms you find on Google.
We’re not all on medication
Not everyone who has anxiety is on medication. In fact 2/3 of adults don’t even receive treatment. That said going back five years, in the year 2013 there were 8.2 million (yes, million) cases of anxiety in the UK. Up until I was prescribed medication I would have been in the 2/3 of adults group, it’s quite possible all the people you know are too. There should be no shame in taking medication to get you to where you need to be, so if you do feel you need help then visit your GP.
So that’s it. Five things about anxiety that perhaps you didn’t know or maybe you can relate. Just like everything else in life each person with anxiety will suffer differently. Those who may have panic attacks once a month and those who may suffer from them on a daily basis. Each of us is all different but the one thing we all have in common is the struggle, if and when it hits.
Do you suffer from panic attacks or anxiety? Be sure to leave a comment on your thoughts!