Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Mental Health Diaries | All About Anxiety & My Experiences.

I thought I'd write about my experience with mental health & anxiety and what it did to my life. 
This is very long and VERY personal so if you're not comfortable with personal posts head on over to a different post on my blog! I didn't know if this would sit well on this blog but who cares, I think it affects everyone from interview nerves to full blown panic and it can happen at different times in our lives, this is something we should talk about, I'm writing this to let others see my journey and hopefully relate to it so they know they aren't alone.
 There is a massive stigma connected to the word 'Mental health' and everything surrounding it and it's very upsetting that some people are so narrow minded about these things. If you're here to judge me don't bother, I've heard it all but if you're going to read this please leave your judgements here and open your mind.

There are different types of anxiety, some things that happen to me may not have happened to others and vice versa, before I knew what anxiety was I thought people were just plain odd, I wondered how someone could be so scared of nothing that they would actually let it affect them but my life changed drastically about 6 years ago.
There are different types of anxiety, I'm not sure if these are all of them but these are ones I've had experience of.
  • Generalised anxiety is the most common and usually people feel constant worry or tension, lethargic and obsess over negative things. 
  • Panic disorder is very different from generalised anxiety,  it's not about worrying about normal things like losing your job as these are normal, it's severe and causes feelings of utter distress and doom, it strikes without warning and can last 10 minutes, in this time you usually have a panic attack. 
  • Social anxiety involves overwhelming worry and self-consciousness about everyday social situations. People usually worry about what everyone thinks of them and making even getting on a bus a hellish experience.
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is something I never thought was linked to anxiety but it can be very destructive to peoples lives, obsession is a thought based process and compulsion is a behaviour so they usually link and people who suffer then link things like having to switch the light off 10 times before bed with getting very sick and it can be very confusing to people around you and to yourself when you have this.
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a condition that can develop following a traumatic or terrifying event, such as a physical assault, the unexpected death of a loved one, or a disaster. People with PTSD often have lasting and frightening thoughts and memories of the event.
  • Agoraphobia is the fear of going out in public or unfamiliar places, lots of people have panic attacks when they go out so then eventually develop a fear of leaving their house or visiting anywhere that they don't know. 
  • Specific Phobias are intense feelings of fear because of objects, scenarios, animals, etc. Phobias generally bring about disaster thinking (believing that the worst will happen) or doing whatever it takes to avoid the phobia.
 This is my personal experience with anxiety, It may be a bit hard to read but I've tried to condense it down and add examples without going off on a massive emotional tangent! 
I remember the first time I had an 'anxiety attack' I was around 13 and admitted to hospital, they kept happening and the hospital actually thought I had asthma, it progressed until I was around 19. I was in a shop with a friend, I looked at the queue and thought 'wow, that's a lot of people' (Obviously I was in Primark..)  my chest got a bit tight and next thing I know I 'woke up' and had no idea what had happened to me. I thought I'd passed out randomly as I was hot and my heart was racing, I plodded home and just put it down to being unwell.
The next few weeks I noticed I didn't want to really go out and was finding getting out of bed really stressful. I'd cry at the thought of leaving my bed, I began to then worry something was wrong with me and it all just made it 100 times worse. 
I just tried to get on with it and I didn't know this was what anxiety and depression was all about. 
I was having some problems in my life with some people I'd surrounded myself with, I was living in Southend so I was miles away from my family and I was starting to feel very down, However I was working a job I loved but my boss got sacked, it really bummed me out as he was helping me into management so then when the new boss started it threw everyone off course and my pleasurable work life got really hard and unfulfilling. I think this was where the real problem started as my work became a very stressful place.

I developed a massive addiction to energy drinks around this time too. I was starting to fear going to work, even walking past used to make me feel sick, I remember once walking in the front door and straight out the back in a flood of tears and I didn't even know why, I was petrified of the place and I couldn't face even being near it. I continued to cry and run home when I got a bit scared or nervous about things and had these waves of panic.

I quit work eventually, I just stopped going, the thought of calling my boss to explain myself made me almost have breakdown, I hid in my flat not answering my phone or door.
 I then became scared of going out for a while. I knew I would have to leave my flat and if I did I'd go to that one place I needed, I wouldn't ever detour and in my head I'd plan where I was going and what I would say to people if I saw them and if anything got in the way I'd turn around and go home to my safe zone, my room became the only place I felt I was safe, safe from what? I have no idea. 

I was starting to worry about what I was posting on my tumblr and twitter, wondering what people thought of me, I was so paranoid I just thought it was safer to stay in my flat with the people I knew and I'd be forever safe. The only time I'd go out was to get something to eat from Mcdonalds (and I'd eat one thing) or with my flatmate and boyfriend. I hid this really well, made up reasons why I couldn't go out or just ignored people because I thought they'd judge me.

This is where these attacks started to get really severe I'd be just doing a normal day to day thing and I'd feel like warm waves coming over my feet and bam instantly the terror would flood me, I would feel all tingly and start sweating, my heart would be in my mouth, I could just hear my heart beating in my head, I would then genuinely believe something was going to happen and I would die. I would run to my room, curl up in the middle of my bed, scream, pull my hair out and sob and cry until I was physically sick. To stop myself from being sick I'd hold my breath so I'd nearly black out, I don't know why or how I did it but it was the scariest thing I've ever been through. I felt like it wasn't me, I was watching me do it and I didn't know how to make it stop.
My boyfriend and flat mate thought I was utterly insane, I think they were genuinely scared of me and my actions I became very abusive and angry because I was scared, ashamed and embarrassed of what I was doing and the fact I had no idea how to stop it.
At this time some people made fun of me and I was made to feel 'crazy' and like I'd lost the plot, it's bad enough this happening to you let alone people you call friends calling you names and mocking you for being this way. Luckily these people are no longer in my life and I'm much better for it.
I decided it was time to get help, I took a huge step I went to my doctor through the tears I managed to get some of it out and she decided to put me on medication and refer me to a therapist. 
I thought this may be the end for me but it just threw up new obstacles, I began getting anxiety and obsessive over these pills they gave me, what if I couldn't get them one day? What if I overdosed? Would I get addicted to them? How would I get off them?

However my therapist was really nice and she helped me open up about some of the traumatic things I went through as a child, I think anyone who knows me will know a bit of what happened to me but there was an awful lot. I was given no therapy or help as a child or young adult and I was never asked 'how are you' or 'how do you feel' in relativity to what had happened and thats when I began suppressing everything until it manifested into what it had become. I had to go through some really strange and scary things like being admitted to a psychiatric hospital, this is one thing that I find really hard to admit as the word itself leads people to think I infact was 'crazy', I just had a series of tests and some helpful advice and was released.

From then on I decided it would be best to move back to my mums house and get away from the place that was a prison for me. I still sought help and was given different antidepressants, beta blockers to help with the heart palpitations and physical side of the anxiety and I was also assigned a crisis team as I was a high risk person (this is more the depression side) who put me in contact with Health In Mind I haven't had a big attack in a while and I've stopped taking medication, I have some that I keep handy for tough situations and for when I feel the familiar waves at my feet feeling, I felt mentally drained for a very long time but I do feel I am on the road to recovery, I was last hospitalised in September and I don't want to go back to where I was, It was a terribly dark place and I'm glad I got help and made it through. I do still get social anxiety most days even though I can talk to anyone in the street I constantly wonder how others perceive me and if everyone hates me but that's something I'm sure I'll get over in time.

I urge anyone who's suffering any symptoms of anxiety or depression to contact their Doctor as soon as possible, even if you don't want medication there are people who are there to help for a reason, seeking help isn't something to be ashamed of and admitting you need it isn't either.
The stigma around the whole mental health issue is almost laughable now as its estimated that 1 in 4 people have mental health issues each year thats a lot of people, you should never feel alone or alienated for feeling that you need help.
The problem won't go away itself and if you feel you need it, take it, my anxiety ruled my life,  I was lethargic, paranoid, constantly fearful, it ruined some friendships, affected my relationship with my boyfriend, cost me my job & went from feeling a bit panicky to wanting to die in a very short space of time. I cannot stress enough the importance of speaking out about mental health. 

Apart from seeking medical help I found that these things helped
  • Go for a walk, yes it contradicts the agoraphobia side but if you don't suffer with this it's a brilliant way to get some fresh air, listen to some upbeat music and just zone out. 
  • Breathe, relax, take a big breath in through your nose, hold it and then out through your mouth while thinking about something awesome like Disney World. Or donuts. Or even how fine Channing Tatum is.
  • Reward yourself for overcoming things. You got rid of that terrifying spider in your room so you definitely deserve that dress or Xbox game
  • Eat and sleep well, eating junk is like being addicted to crack, even if its one fast food meal a week that you change, do it and cut caffeine and energy drinks! This will also help you with sleep. A good big of grub in your belly and a settled night sleep is a winning combo, if you like me have trouble sleeping grab a hot water bottle with a case and pop some get some lavender in the case and keep it under your pillow or use a sleeping mist! It really works.
  • Tidy, you probably don't want to but honestly tidy room, tidy mind, nothing beats tidying up then a hot bath and clean sheets. And a hot chocolate. And maybe some more chocolate.
  • The Anxiety UK website has some helpful links on it too!
If you made it all the way here congratulations, you're a trooper, I hope to write about a few different mental health topics especially how other people treat and perceive mental health and I really hope this was in some way helpful and if you'd like to contact me just email me :)
Take care of yourself 

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  1. Proud of you for being so brave and posting this! I got diagnosed with social anxiety and panic disorder and have recently found out I've got 'agoraphobic tendancies'. I really hope everything has been okay for you lately and I'm always here if you ever need a chat! Such helpful advice too. <3

    Rachel. xo

    1. Thanks doll! It's so nice to know you're not alone isn't it! Sending lots of love! xo

  2. Great post, sorry to hear about how hard it was for you. A couple of years ago I suffered from Agoraphobia real bad from working in a tiny shop by myself, my first attack was in Birmingham and it sucked I often went into panic incase I did something embarrassing (such as throwing up) it used to panic me even more the thought of these people telling others about me doing the embarrassing stuff , my now ex boyfriend didn't get it either and just thought I was being over dramatic, a lot of people did but my friends, they would help me out and go into shops for me or make sure we could sit outside if we was eating anywhere! I recommend the doctors, they put me on anti depressants and within months I started to feel better and stopped taking them, since then I've been able to go into a super market, ride a bus, go for meals, to gigs, without me freaking out massively. Great advice too, I also found carrying a plastic bag with me helped, it made me feel safer incase I felt sick!

    Wishing you the best!
    Lucy xx

    1. It's funny how people don't get it when it's so real to you, I think doing something like taking a bag out or with me planning a route seriously helps if we don't obsess over it. Thank you for reading :) I hope you're well xo

  3. I often wonder how much the dramatic increase in mental health issues in recent years is largely due to the way we live our lives in the western world. The things we value and the sheer amount of subtle messages in the media constantly affirming a very material value proposition, all born out of years of social conditioning from the perspective of an industrialist agenda.
    I see people, friends, family taking refuge in all manner of things believing that will provide them with a long lasting happiness all the time, until only recently I was too.
    And then, through a chance encounter with a very old friend, I ran head first into Buddhism, and almost instantly the message of the difference between pleasure and happiness made a big difference to the way I viewed life, I honestly believe that for most people, adopting just a few of the messages from Buddhist teachings could really help them in their daily lives. I think the big myth to debunk of it, is the fact it is NOT a religion, they don't talk of a god, or a higher being, there's no doctrine or dogma, it's a hypothesis and open to interpretation, and each individual can interpret it in any way that suits them. It's all about you, as an individual, and your mental state. Your mental state being the key to your own internal contentment and happiness.
    How many large companies or influential politicians in our half of the world are preaching that message, how many policies on social well being have that as a core value in their propaganda? One key factor in its teachings is that of loving kindness, compassion and empathy, that is the core value structure of this way of life, instantly right there, you set up a drastically healthier environment in which people can prosper.
    First compassion and empathy for yourself, and then compassion and empathy for everyone around you, no judgement, no stereotypes, no negativity, just a conscious effort to be a good, kind loving person, to yourself and others.
    I'd hate to preach but there is definitely something in that, that would benefit almost everyone.
    My gift to all of you, on this fine day, is a strong recommendation to read a little book called..
    "the art of happiness." May you all live at ease :)
    Merci xXx

  4. Glad that you could talk about your experiences on here - I hope you feel more able to cope with anxiety-inducing experiences now and feel happier about it all now!

    I have Asperger's and also have experience with anxiety problems - the stigma and labels that come with mental health are ridiculous. People tell me "you look fine, there's nothing wrong with you" or something equally patronising. They need to realise that anyone can suffer from mental health problems at any point in your life, it doesn't define who you are at all and it definitely does not mean you're 'crazy' or 'weird' - getting help for these shouldn't be so hard! xo

    1. That drives me mad, people always say 'oh you don't look depressed' sorry I'm not suicidal allll the time guys! ahha It's amazing peoples utter lack of understanding! Thanks again for the support! xo

  5. Well done for being so honest. I bet it helps others out there realise they are not alone. x

  6. Such a wonderful post! I too suffer from anxiety, panic disorder & depression so it's always good to hear other peoples experiences & be able to help each other out! New follower! (:

    Kelly x

  7. Such a wonderful post to read. I am sorry to hear about your experiences, but I am glad you are coping better and have identified ways which help that are not medical.

    It is heart warming to read more posts about mental health, and to know awareness is increasing. You are contributing to tackling the stigma and stereotypes.

    I am a mental health student nurse... almost qualified in a few months! and hope that the future is better for those with mental health problems.

    I wish you all the success and happiness in the world

    1. Ahh thank you, it really means a lot! I'm glad people are taking it seriously now, I spent so long so scared but it's thanks to the people like you that I'm better :) xo

  8. Having Aspergers Syndrome I can relate to the issues concerning anxiety; a very informative post as well as inspiring. Thanks. x

  9. Hey there, completely IN-LOVE with your blog, just followed you on GFC (71), would love if you follow back :)

    MandySharesLife FACEBOOK PAGE

  10. Hey, I just nominated you for the liebster award, check out my blog for more:

  11. This is an amazing post, I've had panic attacks and anxiety on and off for the last few years and so this is all very familiar, just wanted to say your writing is totally inspirational and i am sure will help lots of people to speak out. Fab. And on another note I've also nominated you for a Liebster Award, you deserve it! My blog is if you want to check it out x

  12. This is an amazing and inspirational blog post, it was so brave of you to write it! I've nominated you for the Liebster Award, although by looking at the comments lots of other people have too! You can find the post and my questions here -

  13. I just came across your blog and this post really touched home. Your such a brave woman for posting this and going through everything you struggled with. Well done you for realising how it's not your fault and you deserve to be happy. I was referred to Health in Mind a few years ago and never actually faced anything, for me it's easier to sweep it under the carpet.

    I just wanted to say well done, it's a really inspirational post and I'm sure your advice and story will comfort other people too.