8 – 14 May 2017 is Mental Health Awareness Week – 7 days – 7 blogs -7 Mental Health topics

Today – Anxiety

Although I’ve never had an official diagnosis of Anxiety, over the years the GP has often said things like “it sounds like you might have…” or “would you like some pills to try and ease what seems to be….” – I choose not to take medication for what may or may not be Anxiety, personally I feel my worries and stresses are so deeply entwined with my Depression that it’s not possible to define the two and by taking anti-depressants I can mostly keep on top of the feelings which may be Anxiety.

Many people struggle on a daily basis with a diagnosis of Anxiety and a few have been kind enough to share their thoughts on what is a very challenging condition to live with. All have asked to remain anonymous.

This is how Anxiety can feel –

Living with anxiety is like having a tiny person in your head constantly chipping away at you. You know the worry your anxiety has triggered is stupid, deep down the worry isn’t even a big deal and you know this, yet your brain won’t switch off. You think of nothing else. I feel happy when someone invites me out yet I know I’m never going to go, my head has talked me out of it already. What if I do or say something wrong?

 I wish that people would understand not all anxiety attacks present as a classic panic attack. Mine comes on as rage. I’m determined I will take control of this illness one day at a time, I want my head back. But more than anything I want people to understand mental illness.

 Just because you can’t see it, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

Anxiety doesn’t always show itself in the way which we might expect –

I’ve suffered from anxiety on and off since I was about 11/12 years old, triggered by the death of a grandparent. It took some time to figure out that was the cause as my anxiety didn’t show itself in the way that non sufferers would think it would.

From what I remember when I was young I wouldn’t eat anything and would drink very little, I remember my Mum being at her wits end trying anything to get me to eat. I lost so much weight, refused to leave the house, and when I HAD to leave the house it ended up in my having a complete melt down which I now know was vicious panic attacks. I still remember the feeling of my heart pounding in my chest and head, the light headedness, the numb and tingling hands,  fingers and nose, the walls closing in and the sound of ‘the hum’. I hated the thought that people were looking at me, I worried that I may be sick, I worried that people would see me being sick, I even worried that other people may be sick and I’d see it…..it was easier for me never to go out, I felt safer in my own home next to my own toilet (just in case).

This went on for years right up into my teens, my GCSEs went by in a blur and I’m amazed I actually passed them! I saw Counsellors on and off throughout this time and was medicated. Things began to improve just before my A levels and I thought that I’d finally got in control of my anxiety, which to be fair I had, until the death of my Mum.

Although I’m in better control of my anxiety it’s still there, waiting for me to have a day that I’m too tired to fight it and it rears its awful head again with the same feelings as I was when I was 11 years old. More often than not I’m able to fight it and paint on the smile, and get on with what ‘needs’ to be done, but come 8.30 at night I’m absolutely exhausted and it’s only when I really think about why that I realise how draining painting on the smile and pretending everything is ok can be.

 I know I’m not in the place I was when I was young, but it never leaves you, you never get totally better, you just get better at controlling it. What’s heart breaking is that my own daughter suffers from anxiety and OCD and her symptoms and worries present themselves exactly the same way as mine! She didn’t even know initially that I suffer/suffered the same symptoms but now we have talked about it and I think my experiences help me to support her and lets her know that she can gain control too.

Sometimes Anxiety and Depression occur because of a family history –

My family suffer with anxiety, it can be traced back to my grandparents but sadly as they’re no longer with us, we cannot trace it further. My Nana was in a mental asylum while my grandfather was away in the war, so my great grandparents looked after my Dad and Auntie. Our family have been described as ‘highly strung!”

My own battle with depression started in my early twenties. I have no one reason for why the cloud descended, it was a mixture of things which just all got on top of me. I was prescribed antidepressants on and off for several years.

I met my first husband who helped me feel ‘normal’ but the anxiety was still there eating away at me! Will this man leave me? Why is he with me? I’m not good enough? I’m not clever enough to join his super intelligent family!! All those doubts.

Living with Epilepsy, a serious neurological condition, leaves this Mum struggling with Anxiety too –

Anxiety doesn’t always look how you think it will. On paper I have it all, a loving Husband, beautiful son, a home and a job I enjoy. People are often shocked when they discover I battle anxiety because most people see me as quite pulled together. In theory I have no reason to be anxious, but social situations leave me panicking to my Husband, there are days I don’t want to leave the house. I can never explain the anxiety. There is nothing wrong as such, no problem to solve but there is the vice grip on my chest of fear. But to see me you’d probably never know.

 Be kind because you never know what people are going through.

Sometimes looking for non-medicinal ways to treat Anxiety can help –

I have suffered with depression and anxiety for as long as I can remember. Family illness and my brother passing away at just 36 have made my mental health worse. The anti-depressants I tried made me very dopey so I looked elsewhere for help. I know that the way I treat my condition is not for everyone but it does work for me. I meditate, practice gratefulness & mindfulness and send out positive thoughts/energy. I also walk a lot. The days when I don’t want to get out of bed no longer happen.

I and many people close to me have experienced suicidal thoughts in the past but thankfully we are all still here. I know now that whatever happens in this life there is ALWAYS hope and you can get help whether in the shape of a friend, mental health professional, medication or the methods that work for me.

My enormous thanks and love to those who have been so brave to share their experiences with me to help raise awareness. I hope that in some small way that by speaking out and finding your voice, that a little of the pressure has been relieved. You are so much stronger than your demons.

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