I’m stood on the tube on my way to work. I am breathing in the stifling warm air that wafts through the carriage. My chest starts to tighten and my breathing becomes staggered. My eyes go blurry and my hearing becomes muffled. I feel my heart race and within those few seconds I feel like I am dying. After ten seconds of fear I start to calm down and tell myself that it’s ok – it’s just another panic attack!
I have roughly 7 anxiety attacks a day – sometimes more depending on my stress levels. Since I can remember I’ve suffered from anxiety. It was only until I was 11 that I was diagnosed with the disorder. I don’t know where it came from or why it doesn’t go? But I’ve now accepted that it’s part of me and my life. Its something that I’ll always suffer from no matter what I do.
In fact, anxiety will affect all of us at some point in our lives, whether we want to believe it or not. Apparently 1 in 6 adults will experience a neurotic health problem and 1 in 10 will suffer from a disabling anxiety disorder.
There are many factors as to what triggers anxiety, the most common link being depression. However stress, environment, health and chemical imbalances in the brain are also common causes. Sadly, knowing where our anxiety comes from doesn’t make our panic attacks go away!
There are lots of treatments for those who suffer with anxiety. You can do hypnotherapy, counselling or even take calming medication. However these treatments are a short term solution. I should know – I’ve tried them all! Unfortunately the best treatment, but the most difficult to obtain, is actually by controlling oneself and starting the road to recovery on your own. Of course this is easier said than done.
I think the worst thing about having anxiety is constantly explaining your behaviour to others. There’s been plenty of times I’ve had to cancel on my friends because of my panic attacks and times where I’ve just wanted to lock myself in a room and hide. Passed partners have been annoyed at how quickly my mood changes. I’ll go from my bouncy-loud self to a neurotic-quiet mess within minutes. It doesn’t matter who I’m with or where I am, my anxiety can pop up at anytime. Including family dinners where my dad will often tell me to,
Pull yourself together!
Which funnily enough is exactly what I try to do every single day! I forgive people for their lack of sensitivity to my anxiety. It must be odd for someone who’s never suffered, to see someone act so irrational. But for me, the one suffering; it’s the worst feeling in the world!
I describe my anxiety as an evil beast who will pop up at anytime and try to ruin my day. It’s hard to control this monster because it is so strong and convincing, that I often feel over-whelmed by its presence. I often let the creature win because it feels easier to just live by the rules it demands.
Often my anxiety appears when I feel pressure or when I can’t leave a situation. Or it can creep up on me whilst I’m in Sainsburys getting my weekly groceries! It’s unpredictable and annoying. My conscious knows that I’m being silly but my brain will tell me that I’m having a stroke. It’s ridiculous but so crippling to constantly experience it daily.
I’ve learnt to manage my attacks over the years, although I wouldn’t say I’ve cured myself. I have definitely learnt to stay calm and think rationally. So when I do feel a pain in my left arm, even though my brain tells me that I’m having a heart attack, I’ll now talk to myself like an adult does to a child. I’ll tell myself that I’m being silly and that there’s nothing to worry about. I often find that asking myself for proof as to why I could be dying can also calm me down once I rationalise my thoughts.
At times my anxiety will make my breathing become awkward, that I’ll start to feel faint and sick. It’s been so bad before that I have collapsed into a heap on the floor – Embarrassingly that actually happened at my last job! Now if i feel my breathing is rapid I’ll go somewhere quiet to calm myself down. If I can, I’ll do a bit of yoga or meditation. Exercise is a great treatment for anxiety. Some doctors believe it’s because fitness uses all the adrenalin that our cortisol hormone builds up when we’re stressed. Although the irony is I’ll often tell myself that I’m dying when exercising. It’s only until afterwards that I feel so much better and my panic attacks go away. I also think sleep, eating well and listening to music helps me to stay chilled.
If you suffer from anxiety I think it’s important to tell those around you, including your colleagues and friends. People are getting a lot better at understanding mental health but of course there is still a lot more that we can do to help those who suffer. I think the main thing for us who suffer, is to understand that you can’t just cure yourself from this monster – it takes a while to know what works for you. Everyone is different.
There are plenty of charities and websites who are fantastic at helping those who suffer with anxiety. It’s good to know that you’re not alone and that in time you will be able to tame the beast that thinks it can control you. Check out: