Unspoken Conversations are the topics that are often swept under the carpet, whispered amongst the closest of friends and bitched about by many. I want to create awareness about difficult things that people face in life; grief, mental health, money, illnesses, family troubles, relationship difficulties and putting yourself first. I want to tell the truth about things that really matter.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Guest Blogger Recounts Living With Anxiety

While the majority of the experiences that I have shared with mental health have been based on my Depression, it all really stemmed from my battle with anxiety. Anxiety is something easily brushed aside as a natural feeling and emotion that your body produces when it feels threatened; you know, the good old flight or fight mode. But what happens when your body is constantly in flight mode and you're not even sure what it is that you are worried or scared about? 

Just imagine for a second that thing that you are really scared of; it might be a giant sized tarantula so big that you can see the hairs on it's fat squishy body, and it's beady eyes burn into you so much so that you are stilled by your fear, your heart starts to race and you lose all control over your thoughts and rational behaviour. You feel sick. Now imagine feeling that all day everyday - that's what generalised anxiety is like. But you must function. Unlike the spider, you can't run out the door and leave it behind. You can't have someone squish it for you, and you certainly can't kill it. It follows you around and makes thinking and behaving rationally a living nightmare.

I was so superly excited when Samantha answered my Facebook request calling for someone to share their experience with Anxiety I was so excited, because I knew just how difficult it can be but also how empowering it is to share your story.

So take it away Samantha.

Anxiety, is a word that is often frowned upon. At least this is what I believed when I first started to suffer from anxiety. At the time I was 19 years old, in my first year at university, and working as a disability support worker. I started having anxiety attacks after having a bout of gastro, and would panic over being sick. To me I was weird, not normal, sick, crazy and anything along those lines. I just wanted to be my old self again. After a month or so my parents talked me into going to see a local doctor who specializes in mental health. I was put on medication and referred to a psychologist. This just fueled my thoughts about being weird and not normal etc. While I would talk to my close family, the doctor and my psychologist, I would refuse to talk to others in fear of them judging me.  I, in essence, bottled up my feelings and blocked them to most people around me. This was until, I would not be able to cope any more, and have a massive anxiety attack. I clearly remember ringing my parents, sister and boyfriend many times asking them to come and get me from somewhere, and them saying no. I would think they were absolutely horrible and get even more upset, but what this actually did was teach me to manage my anxiety myself. They were just trying to help me by not allowing me to use them as a crutch.  You may notice that I use the word manage and not control. My psychologist taught me this from very early on, as he is of the view that managing anxiety is about how you deal with and respond to attacks, compared to control when you try and stop attacks and not think it through.

There are three occasions that jump out at me in my anxiety journey. The first was telling my work that I suffer anxiety. Unfortunately, it came out when I had an anxiety attack at work. At the time I was really upset about this as I thought that they would look down upon me and not let me keep working. Thankfully this assumption was wrong and my work have been an amazing support in my journey. I have even called one of my bosses on a few occasions just to talk when I have been struggling.

Another occasion was at a friends 21st birthday party and I had an attack. A long term friend was with me, and much to my surprise I found out that she too, suffers from anxiety. All of a sudden I was not so weird! Being close like we were (and still are) was an amazing support to me, as I could talk to someone close to me that understood what I was going through.

The third occasion was at university. I had a presentation due, and had been stressing out about it, and talked myself into an attack, so much so I got through the presentation in tears, but with amazing support from my friends, other class mates and lecturer. One positive to come out of this was me deciding to get an access plan for university. What this means is that I do not have to explain why I need an extension or why I want to go first. I just need to go through my plan with the tutor/lecturer and tell them that I need to do something as per my access plan, and they are okay with it. This has been a god send to me, and while I have not used it, just knowing that its there, and people understand has been amazing.

Throughout my journey I met more and more individuals who suffer/ed with anxiety and it dawned on me that I was not alone. The more I started to talk about anxiety, the more I realized that a number of individuals suffer from anxiety.

Overall anxiety is manageable. You just need to know how to manage it. I have learnt the signs of when an attack is starting, and how to deal with it. My calls of panic to others have lessened, and I am seeing that no matter how hard something seems I can get through it. One big thing I have learnt is not to keep feelings bottled up as it does more damage than good! Another thing is that some people seem not to understand, but this is always going to happen if they haven’t been through what you are going through. But the more open you are, the more likely you are to find someone who is or who has gone through what you are going though, and these people as I have already said are amazing supports!

My parents, particularly my mum struggled with my anxiety to begin with, especially when I would call in a massive panic, but she talked to people and stuck to her guns, and while in the short term I felt that she had hurt me, in the long term what she did was completely right and extremely helpful! It’s often termed “tough love”.

During my journey I have faced situations at work where I am helping people who suffer from anxiety. My experience has enabled me to help them, as they knew about my anxiety and can see how I have managed it. Sharing my experience with them was hard at first, as I wanted my personal life to be separate to my work life, but that just was not possible, and telling them has been an extremely good thing.

Overall, if I could know something back when my anxiety started, that I know now, it would be to talk to everyone about it. Most people are amazingly supportive, but some struggle to understand what suffering from anxiety is like, and the rollercoaster ride we are on. Just last night, I was talking to a personal trainer, at the gym I have just joined, and mentioned my anxiety. He looked a bit surprised and then said, I totally know what its like as I suffer from it too. This just shows that no matter where you are someone suffers from anxiety, it is just not something spoken about regularly, and many people do not know the affect it has on people.

This is the first time I have written about my anxiety, and while I have told a number of people, its been people I have gotten to know and feel I can trust, or out of desperation when I have been having an attack. I hope by sharing my journey more people will become aware of anxiety and the difficulties people with anxiety face.

With thanks to my amazing parents, boyfriend, sister and friends, for their support through out my journey!

Love Samantha.

Have you ever experienced anxiety?

How did you overcome it?

Did you seek help?


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