I think that everyone at some point in their lives will have felt anxious. It’s a natural feeling to have, but to suffer with an anxiety disorder is quite different. Anxiety affects people in different ways, so here I am going to be talking about my anxiety and things that help me.
Living with anxiety
Normal anxious feelings will crop up when you are nervous, when giving a speech, getting married etc. But when you live with an anxiety disorder, as so many people do, it can take over your life!
I have spoken in a lot of detail about my diagnoses of BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder), depression and anorexia, but not really about anxiety. I suppose it’s because my anxiety’s what I am most embarrassed about. But I shouldn’t be!
Anxiety for me can vary hugely. I have times when I am fine, that is to say I can open the front door to people, say good morning to people I pass in the street, run errands and do the shopping. However, there are times when things change and become very different. Most of the time I don’t really know what triggers it, but when anxiety peaks for me it can be debilitating!
Keeping all curtains and blinds shut at home, I isolate myself. I will not answer the door, even to the postman or someone I know. I have no choice but to take my son to school, but I will avoid eye contact and conversation as much as possible.
My insides will be squirming, my heart pounding, my breathing gets faster and shallower and I even shake or at times pace up and down. It’s like I am about to jump out of a plane, when in reality it’s something as simple as opening the front door.
I don’t know what I think is going to happen. There is just something inside me, warning me, preparing me for something awful! What?? I have no idea!
I do get so cross with myself; I hate feeling like this over the simplest things. I’ve been in therapy, but it wasn’t specifically for anxiety, and I have tried self-help books, which again have helped a little but never seem to rid me of it completely.
I know I am a worrier, I worry about everything, over-analysing to the point where I can waste hours and hours thinking about the worst case scenarios and the dreaded ‘what if’s’. Things that will probably never ever happen! It can be crippling and prevent me from just getting on with day-to-day life. I just can’t help it! The mind is a powerful thing and once it starts it’s like a snowball being pushed downhill. It gets bigger and bigger and gains more and more momentum.
Again, I do try to manage this. I use some of the skills I have learnt over the past few years. I often will question myself, acting like a detective or investigator – ‘Look at the evidence, is this really likely to happen?’ ‘If it does happen then could you cope?’ ‘Will you survive?’ etc. etc. And this does quite often help.
I do try!
I am a positive person and I always try to see the positive in every situation. It is difficult at times, but being as positive and as grateful as I can be always seems to bring about calmer and happier feelings. My anxiety seems to shrink away. I do try to incorporate a gratitude list into my daily routine as I know it can help me focus my thoughts.
I also find mindfulness, meditation and yoga helpful, when I am disciplined enough to do them. They don’t all need to be done together. Just 10 minutes of mindfulness can be enough to centre you and bring you back to the here and now, stopping your mind from wandering and running away with those worst case scenarios!
Things that I get anxious about really do vary hugely. From paying at the tills in a supermarket – especially if I have to use cash! To walking into a room of people, even family members or friends, asking for the bill in a restaurant and – a big one for me – answering the phone! I hate that I have this anxiety about answering the phone. I have no idea where it comes from but I literally cannot stand it. My heart starts beating out of my chest and I feel like I hold my breath until it stops! This is something I am determined to conquer!
When I used to work in an office I struggled hugely with anxiety – not that anyone knew – but it was a struggle every single day! I couldn’t go to the photocopier without giving myself an hour’s pep talk. I would email everyone so that I didn’t have to speak to them on the phone or, worse, get up and walk through the office! There were times when I couldn’t even get up to make myself a drink or go to the toilet because I was so full of anxiety. It really was a very difficult surrounding for me.
Anxiety affects so many people in so many ways. It is still misunderstood and not taken as seriously as it should be. I’ve had a whole host of unhelpful things said to me: ‘Oh calm down!’ ‘Just do it!’ ‘Why are you being so dramatic?’ ‘Why are you being so stupid, it’s just ….. or ….?’ I have had many an anxiety and panic attack and I can tell you they are not nice. They are so frightening. They do, at times, honestly feel like you are going to have a heart attack, or worse – die!
Going through this is horrendous enough, let’s not make people feel shame and embarrassment on top of that!
Things you could try
I have included a short list of things that you might want to try if anxiety is affecting you. Or perhaps you know someone who is suffering with anxiety and you can show them this list or offer to do them together?
Things can only improve by first talking and then by taking informed action. Let’s work together to help people and end the stigma!
Anxiety, and things that help me:
Playing with blutac or Playdoh
Making a to-do list
Mindfulness/guided meditation – Headspace is amazing!
Writing a gratitude list
Being creative – knit, draw, paint, colour
Writing down how you are feeling
Doing something physical – exercise, housework
Listening to music
Speaking to someone you trust, friend or family or even an organisation such as Anxiety UK, Samaritans, Mind
Getting outside – even for 10 minutes
Complementary/alternative therapies – reflexology, aromatherapy, acupuncture
Remember, if it does start to get too much then always speak to your GP, CPN, therapist or psychiatrist.
I really hope some of this has helped. Remember you are not alone.
Lots of love,
Reproduced with permission, originally posted on amysboarderlineworld