I’m not sure if I am going to post this, but I wanted to start writing it, and fresh from my first CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) session, I felt I could so here goes.
I am now almost 9 months from when this unexpected, unknown and unwelcome ‘journey’ started and know its still a long road ahead. If you suffer from anxiety and/or panic, you will know the suffocating feeling of utter dread, the need to escape, the isolation, the sick feeling at the pit of your stomach, the room shrinking, the tingling fingers and numbing sensations, the overwhelming tiredness, the feeling of failure, of letting people down, the all-encompassing feeling of helplessness, of struggling to do those things you once did so easily and to enjoy the things you once loved. You feel a constant sense of guilt, constantly battling your mind and feeling you are losing every day.
Anxiety and Panic Disorder aren’t always so easily identified at first. I had all sorts of tests done because I didn’t think i felt stressed – I didn’t feel panicky – I didn’t feel anxious – so why was my body doing the exact opposite to my head and falling apart – physically making it so I was unable to leave my house. Shaking, feeling faint, a dodgy stomach, I felt physically ill and thought I had something seriously up with me. I was put on Beta blockers, which for someone with low blood pressure already, was a disaster. I was let down by my doctors, left waiting for answers and never getting anywhere. I was referred to a specialist who promised all sorts and never delivered. I got worse and worse and was bed bound. I couldn’t get into work, and when trying to do reduced hours, I was eventually told that unless I got a diagnosis within a week that’s easily fixed with a tablet – then I would be let go. I made the decision to leave before I was pushed.
So here it really began, unemployed, feeling I was letting down my other half, my family, my friends. With social things stacking up and the feeling of utter dread thinking how I would possibly do any of these things, I felt lower than I ever had. It didn’t matter who it was, what kind of social event, I just didnt feel I could see anybody. I felt so different, I knew people thought of me as chatty, as confident, as sociable and I felt I couldn’t be that person anymore – I felt I wanted to shut myself away, I felt embarrassed, my anxiety had gripped hold of me tightly and I even struggled with my loved ones visiting the house, I didn’t want to be seen like this – I felt self-conscious, I felt worried I would upset people and felt my body physically couldn’t take the stress. I felt I would just spoil things for people if I was around as I felt constantly upset and panicky.
I felt I couldn’t deal with any criticism, in-fact any pressure at all, and any negativity. In my mind I was useless, I had let people down and felt there was no return from that. I felt I would never be able to get another job, something I am still feeling currently. I was embarrassed to bump into anyone I knew in-case I would have to explain my situation. It stopped me from going out, so when I did need to pop to the shop, it started a panic attack.
Mental health has such a stigma attached, and people do not openly talk about it. You are as poorly as you would be if you broke a leg, it is so debilitating but unless you have suffered from this – I don’t think you can fully understand the impact. Having known friends before who suffer/have suffered with anxiety and depression, I sympathised and thought I knew how they must be feeling. I didn’t – I know this now from experiencing it first-hand. It’s not a case of not wanting to do something, being scared to do something, it feels as though you are physically unable to do it. Your whole body screams at you to not go to that café, to not invite people over, to not pop to the shops, all I wanted to do was stay at home and stay ‘safe’. In the short term this is great, no panic, no anxiety, just staying wrapped up in cotton wool – but in the long term it is damaging and made it feel like a bigger mountain to climb when I did have to go out and do things.
I am currently in the throes of trying to manage my anxiety. I live with it constantly, there isn’t a morning that goes by without me waking up with the butterflies in my stomach, the worry, the dread, the want to stay safe in bed. I felt guilty, my other half was going to work and here I am at home but unable to get myself to look into other jobs without feeling nauseous, telling myself I would never fit in anywhere and wouldn’t do a good job. I can’t even handle other people talking about their work, I feel terrified of the general work place and feeling trapped. My mind tells me i’m not wanted, confirmed by the actions taken by my previous work place.
I wanted to write about this in my blog, because it was the reason I started it. I love photography, I love writing, I love travelling and I have found a few new things that make my day a little easier with something to aim towards. I wanted to try and find myself again, find pleasure in doing things again but that wouldn’t trigger my anxiety.
I adore travelling, and for a time the anxiety had spoilt that, and still does affect it at times. Currently it’s a big deal for me to get in my car and go somewhere alone, but writing my blog gave me the push to do just that, to take photos, to have a purpose. I love doing research before a holiday and helping others if they visit those places. I love seeing different countries, different cities, different cultures. I love seeing the good parts of the world, thats how to word ‘Yūgen’ stood out to me, an awareness of the universe and finding the beauty. One day whilst practising Yoga (more on that next), I just had a thought about writing about my travel, past and present, it was something I knew about, something that boosts me and I just grabbed the laptop and started writing and didn’t stop until my partner arrived back home. Even if nobody reads anything I write, I wanted to create a happy space for myself to just be myself and write and be creative.
I wanted to add a lifestyle section as I feel that’s the area that I have been working on, mindfulness and a happy healthy lifestyle. It began with Yoga, which is now an incredibly important part of my life. It was the only time of day where I felt my mind wasn’t occupied with worrisome or negative thoughts towards myself, I felt strong for once, I felt empowered and at peace. I cherish the time on my mat, and have seen how strong I have become from my moves improving and it is something I feel good about – which is a rarity these days so I hold onto that time. It is like a mini-holiday from my constant thoughts. I will be doing a post soon solely on Yoga.
Another equally important addition to my life is my gardening. Having had a growing obsession with indoor plants, this year I moved that love to the outdoors. I volunteered in a gardening position within the National Trust a couple of times after I lost my job which was great, but then anxiety struck me again and I felt unable to return. Instead I practised in my own garden, and again I saw my strength grow and I began reading gardening books to become more knowledgeable, learning soil types and plant names. I know that’s where I want to exist now, within nature and the outdoors.
I guess I wanted to write this post to make a bit of a diary of my journey through this time and dealing with anxiety. I know it helped me to read others talking more openly online about it and I hope this finds someone that can relate and can come on this journey with me.
I am in no-way there yet, I have had quite a few phone call CBT sessions, which have now become face to face sessions with a new therapist (which I had just attended before I started to write this). CBT is such a safe place to get your thoughts out on the table, to really delve into the archives and see why your mind is feeling the way it is, it’s a place to not feel guilty and worried about upsetting anybody. It helps to talk and its scary, I was feeling sick at the thought of having to leave my house this morning, to drive, to sit in a waiting room. But I did it and I feel boosted enough to write this now.
This is a very personal post which I am still not sure if I will post or not, I have a long way to go, things I need to overcome, thoughts I need to change, but knowing I have taken the first steps feels really good and if this openness can help even one person then it makes me writing this worthwhile. I was thinking of doing a few posts updating my journey and mentioning things that help me along the way.
Be kind to yourself, and a quote my lovely mum told me that I always remember now and have written on my phone reminders, is that every day may not be a good day, but there is good in every day.