This is a post that I’ve been wanting to write for months. It is a post to create awareness and share my experiences to let people reading this that they aren’t alone. It is a post that may cause people to sympathise, but sympathy isn’t what I’m asking for. What I’m asking for from this post is that you think about what is said and want to make a difference to someone’s life. It’s a difficult post to write. In fact, this paragraph was the last paragraph written. It has taken me 4 days to write this. To pick my wording carefully, to make sure I’m talking about my experience without saying that someone else’s is invalid. Everyone’s experience with anxiety is different, so although this is mine it is not every person that suffers too.
Living with anxiety is one of the most common mental health issues that 4.7 people out of 100 deal with in their lifetime. There are many facts and statistics that I could write about in this blog post, but I want it to be a more personal rendition of what anxiety is really like for me, personally, to live with. I find that there is such a stigma, still, around mental health. Don’t get me wrong, people are a lot more understand now in 2015 than when they were in 2009 when I was first diagnosed.
School was tough because my anxiety came with many other things such as hearing voices and hallucinations of a cat figure following me around. It sounds so bizarre to talk about, but it’s how I knew I was having a bad time with it. I started seeing these figures and hearing things a few months before things escalated to the point of having a breakdown in the middle of an ICT lesson in school. I didn’t know what was happening, it’s the first time I’d experienced anything like it. It was after that I was diagnosed with my anxiety.
Anxiety comes with good and bad days, like any other illness. On good days, you probably wouldn’t know anything was wrong. Good days don’t mean that it’s a day that I don’t experience palpitations, or experience my anxiety. It simply means that it’s bearable to an extent. My good days tend to consist of many of the symptoms of anxiety still, but without the feeling of clingfilm covering my mouth and nose. On good days I am able to continue my day to day life quite freely, however, small things like going to queue in a shop may put me off actually buying anything because I’m worried I’ll be judged for what I’m buying.
However, on bad days, when my anxiety really gets in the way I will struggle to do usual day to day things. Things like answering the phone at work or simply texting someone. On my bad days, it feels like my mouth fills up with cotton wool as soon as I try to speak, and cling film covers my mouth and nose so I am unable to control my breathing again. I still see things every now and then which makes my mind fear that someone is following me, or that something bad is going to happen to me. I’ll often walk quicker in the street if it is dark no matter how busy the traffic.
Tiny things that have no relevance to being followed etc. sometimes trigger me and I begin to snowball. Sometimes the wind can be really strong living on the coast and simply hearing the trees rustling outside can often cause me to feel like I’m in some sort of horror film and some demonic character is going to get me while I sleep. This disrupts sleep which then leads me to be tired the next day and it’s a never ending cycle.
You know those dreams that you can have where you’re trying to run and scream, but you just can’t? When I have a panic attack, that dream becomes a reality. My body turns to jelly and it feels like spiders are crawling all over my body. If it gets out of control then it often feels like I’m choking and my windpipes have been blocked. It’s hard when talking about these things because I don’t want it to sound absurd or over dramatic when really this is the horrible reality of a panic attack.
Panic attacks aren’t always to that extent, and they can come in many variations. Sometimes it’s simple palpitations, sometimes it’s erratic breathing, sometimes it can be as simple as zoning out. Everyone experiences them differently, and these are just a few examples from my own experiences. If you are ever around someone that has a panic attack or suffers from anxiety in general, my only advice is to just be there for them and understand that some days will be tougher with others.
I had too many people in school taking the p*ss out of me, telling me I’m being silly or telling me that it’s just made up. It’s not. Never tell someone that they are silly for not wanting to go to a kiosk and pay for something and asking you to do it for them. Never tell someone to do something they quite clearly are feeling uneasy about. Most of all, never ever tell someone that you can’t be around them because of it. Doing this will cause them more pain, more anxiety and will make them feel like it is something they need to be ashamed of.
If you are the sufferer of anxiety, just know that you aren’t alone. I know it’s a lot easier to say than to do, but if you are to ever have a panic attack try the 3, 2, 1 approach. It worked amazingly for me and I am now able to control my panic attacks so much easier. It brings me back to reality and out of the bubble that begins to develop around me. The way it works is that you say out loud 3 things you see, 3 things you hear and 3 things you feel. You then say 2 more of each thing, then 1 more of each thing without repeating any answers. I also find simply sipping some water helped while doing this.
Please just remember that you will have better days. Things do get better. I promise.