Anxiety ~ The Present Day

This will probably be one of the last blog posts I will write for quite a while. I may end up changing my mind and writing more but for now, I will finish up this series of anxiety blogs with one final post, commenting on the present day.

 

It’s been just over 3 years since my anxiety took a hold of me, and in these 3 years, not only have the events in my life changed, but I as a person have changed. There was a time where I couldn’t face going anywhere, I couldn’t bring myself to socialise. There was a time I couldn’t even look at food without feeling nauseous, I couldn’t even look at myself in the mirror without feeling disgusted at what was looking back. There was a time where I couldn’t stop hanging my head over the toilet, I couldn’t shake off all the negative thoughts. There was a time I couldn’t smile; I couldn’t be happy.

Thankfully, time has a passed and those moments with it. After a long, strenuous, uneven and tiring road to recovery, I can safely say I am at a moment in time where I’ve never been happier. I am still on my medication but will hopefully come off it soon. I also still have the odd panic attack, but they’re not as extreme as they once used to be and much less frequent. I have the never ending support of my friends, family and wonderful boyfriend, who help to pick me back up when I get knocked down. I wouldn’t have made it this far without them.

If you’re at the beginning of the road to recovery and thinking, ‘that’s a long, dark and scary road’, then start walking. Get on that road and take it step by step. It’ll be a lot less scary than you think. You’ll one day reach the end of the road, look back and think ‘that wasn’t so bad’.

Don’t bottle it up, share your story. Share you experience with your family and friends. Keep your loved ones close.

A good friend of mine told me a quote by the famous poet Charles Bukowski, which is the name of a collection of poems by him.

 

“What matters most is how well you walk through the fire”

 

He told me it reminded him of me and related it to my anxiety. I thought about this quote for a long time and used it as motivation and now I want it to motivate you.

Imagine a phoenix. A creature in Greek mythology, a bird whom after it’s long life, dies by bursting into flames and is then reborn from the ashes.

 

Now imagine yourself as a phoenix. Each time you get knocked down by your anxiety, you burst into flames. But you will always come back even stronger as you rise from the ashes. This is why I named by blog ‘Let’s walk through the fire’. We will walk through the fire, and be burned many times, our scars healing faster each time, and eventually we will walk through the fire and not allow it to harm us.

 

So let’s walk through the fire and remain unburnt.

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Anxiety ~ The Present Day

Anxiety ~ A Thank You

I have almost come to the end of writing my anxiety blogs, and since I started writing them, I have received so many wonderful comments and messages. The only goal I wanted to reach from writing these blogs was to help at least one other person who is going through similar experiences. As I have received messages from several people telling me how the blogs have helped them, I think I can easily say I have most definitely reached my goal! It really means so much to me to see how other people are now more aware of the seriousness of anxiety and how it has made others speak up more confidently about their own anxiety issues. I myself know that talking to a doctor about it, a doctor who has only read about anxiety, just isn’t the same and it really does the world of difference to be able to talk to someone who has actually experienced it.

 

This is post is not my final one, but it is a chance for me to give my thanks. Thank you to all who have supported me when doing these blogs, who have given me such kind words, who tell me I have helped them so much. There are so many people who have helped me in my own road to recovery, friends, family, doctors and counsellors. I could go on for days trying to thank every single person, but for this blog post, I am dedicating it to two people in particular. As I have said in previous posts, I do not give out names and personal information in my blogs, but they know who they are.

 

The first message of thanks is for one of my longest and closest friends. We became friends in GCSE year at school, and from then on, you’ve been there for me without fail. My anxiety started to hit around my final year of school and when I needed help, you were there. You were one of the first to notice something wasn’t right and every day you kept a close eye on me. That fateful and God awful night in the summer, I stayed at your house that night, I defaced your toilet……multiple times…..yet you still looked after me and no matter how many times I ran to the bathroom to be sick in the middle of the night, you got up and followed me there to make sure I was alright. Your mum didn’t kill me either haha please thank her for me. You also taught me to have a sense of humour about it, and to laugh it off when it got me down. Like that time I took a drink of your Lucozade and you said “Am I going to catch anxiety off you now?” I couldn’t even get angry at you it was too funny! Even when you’re a little tipsy, you still worry about me, you burst into tears that one night and said “Why do good things happen to bad people!”….even though that’s usually the other way around but yes you were tipsy haha

There have been times where I have taken you for granted, when you needed me I wasn’t there, yet you never let me down. I can only hope I’ll make it up to you one day as I remember how lucky I am to be able to call you my best friend. Love you ye big glype, and thank you.

 

 

My second message of thanks is for someone who means more to me than words can describe. This one may be cheesy and soppy but we love a bit of cheese now and again…..mmm cheese. Anyway, you came into my life a number of years ago and even though we didn’t see each other very often, we kept in contact on an almost daily basis. When my anxiety started, you made sure I received a message from you every single day to see if I was okay. You were so inquisitive and wanted to learn more about it. You asked me how my anxiety made me feel, what my symptoms were like, what was going through my head. It made me feel like you were genuinely interested and wanted to understand, and this helped me speak up about it more confidently. Day by day passed and you never failed to make me smile or laugh, even if I was in my lowest of lows. You put up with me being a miserable bitch on my worst days and stood by me the whole time. You had complete faith in me too, when I relapsed, you knew I would come back fighting even stronger and never doubted me once. Three years later, here we are, I have the absolute privilege of being able to call you my boyfriend, as well as my best friend. Together for over a year now and I’ve never been happier. You’ve seen me at my best and my absolute worst and you helped me through all of it and never let me face it alone. I am most definitely one of the lucky ones. There aren’t many who have someone like that to help them through it all and to think I was one of them is overwhelming. I couldn’t be more grateful to have you in my life and I look forward to the good times we’re yet to have together. I love you, and thank you.

 

 

If you are lucky enough to have someone in your life who cares about you that much, asks how you are every day, stands by you when you’re at your worst and pick you up when you’re down, do not let that person go. Keep them in your life, you’ll regret it if you don’t, and they could be closer than you think.

Anxiety ~ A Thank You

Anxiety ~ Relapsing

 

So you’ve been walking down the road to recovery for quite some time now. It’s been a long and tedious journey, but you’ve picked up a steady pace and your every step is becoming more and more confident. There may have been a few bumps and pot holes along the way, but you got past them. Perhaps you’ve come off your medication, or you’ve ended your CBT sessions. At last, you are on your own road now and you’ve never felt better!

 

 

But what happens when you fall into the fire pit again?

 

Relapsing.

First, there’s the dread of the approach. You can feel your long lost symptoms creeping up on you again, the enemy you hoped you would never see or hear from again.

“Oh God, no, please don’t let this be an attack” “Please don’t let this happen now”

There’s shock. For a moment you can’t believe it’s happening. It’s been so long since your last attack, you can’t believe they’ve managed to come back.

“I haven’t had an attack in so long, surely it can’t be happening now”

There’s confusion.

“Why?” “How can this be happening again?” “I haven’t had an attack in ages” “I thought this was all over” “I thought I was better”

There’s realisation. You have your first attack in a long time. You finally give up trying to argue with yourself. You accept that this is really happening again.

“It’s happening again” “It’s actually happening again”

Finally, there’s defeat. You feel so weak and disheartened; you can’t believe that you let it get the better of you after you had been doing so well. You feel like you’re back to square one and all your hard work was a complete and utter waste of time.

 

I felt all the above feelings just over a year ago when I relapsed at the beginning of my second year of university.

 

Over the summer before I started back to university, I came off my medication and put a healthy amount of weight back on. I hadn’t had a panic attack in a while and everything was heading in the right direction. I was so pleased with my progress and was so excited to get back to university, back into routine, back into studying and seeing all my friends again. But I didn’t realise I would be revisiting my anxiety once again. My first week back at university and I had my first full blown panic attack which landed me in hospital. It started off in the student village, feeling slightly nauseous I went outside to get some air. Without realising, my breathing had picked up a faster pace. I was crouched on the ground and soon enough, my legs began to get pins and needles. I thought this was just from sitting down for too long, but then it spread to my arms, then my hands, then my face too. My friends tried to get me inside but they near enough had to carry me. I tried to stand up and I couldn’t. I couldn’t stand on my own, I had almost completely lost feeling in my legs. This naturally enough made me begin to panic. My breathing picked up the speed even more and I couldn’t slow it down. It was out of control. I was brought inside and my friends contacted the residential services to see if anyone could help. They came round and decided it would be best to call an ambulance. The paramedics arrived and they tried to calm me down. Not as easy as it may sound.

“Control your breathing” “Katrina, you’re breathing too fast you need to slow your breathing down”

Believe it or not but it’s not that easy to do when you’re in a state of panic and wondering why your legs don’t work -_-

So after sometime, they decided it would be best to bring me to A&E to get me checked out. Hours went by in the ward and all I was told was the same as in the village. “You’re breathing too fast” “Control your breathing”. At this point, my wrists had curled up and my fingers had stiffened and I couldn’t move them, so they formed some sort of deformed claws. Similar things were happening to my feet and I was losing feeling in everything. It turns out this was because there wasn’t enough carbon dioxide getting through my body and so it was causing everywhere to lose feeling and tense up. It went on and on. I was in a wheelchair as I obviously couldn’t walk at this point. My friends waited in the waiting area while I was brought into a ward. After being told to control my breathing several times, I was wheeled back out into the waiting room without my friends being told of my whereabouts. I was placed in the corner to wait for my friends to find me, whilst I was surrounded by several drunks crawling about the floor, and of course the majority of people staring at me and wondering what was wrong with me. It was only after a while when my friends asked the nurse how I was, she then decided to tell them that I was back in the waiting area. There was obviously nothing they could really do for me, but they could have told them where I was…

But anyway, it took at least an hour or two, but I eventually began to settle down and got my breathing under control. However, once my breathing was fairly regular again, I still had to wait for the feeling in my arms and legs to return. This took at least a half hour. I knew then that they would do no more for me so I discharged myself and returned back to the student village with my friends. The long and eventful day had finally come to an end.

In that one week, all my symptoms had returned to haunt me. I was being sick several times a day, I refused to go out and I couldn’t eat. I was so miserable. In the space of two or three weeks I had lost about 2 stone and became underweight once again. I had climbed for so long up the ladder and fell back to the bottom so fast.

I decided to go back to the doctors. I wasn’t thrilled, but I knew I had to something about it before things got even worse again. She agreed it was time to go back on my medication. I came off them too soon before and didn’t give myself enough time to adjust to reality. I was told to go back on my medication immediately and to remain on them for at least a year. I tried to hold back tears. I didn’t particularly mind the medication, there weren’t many side effects as such, but I felt so dependent and I hated it. I was over the moon when I first came off them, I felt like I could do things on my own now without the help of pills and pills. I just had to accept that I needed them again and I was willing to try anything at this point. I just had to brush off the dust and start climbing once again.

 

Feeling disheartened when you relapse is unavoidable. But it happens.

So what do you do when you relapse? What can you do to get back on the road to recovery?

Think about the things you did to overcome it the first time round, did these methods work?

If so then use them again, and think of other methods to try out, or improve upon these methods. Don’t be afraid to speak to your doctor again. If you were on medication before and found they helped, then there should be no harm on going back on them unless your doctor says otherwise. Speak to your friends and family, they’ll only want to help!

 

 

You’ve walked down the road to recovery once before. There’s absolutely no reason why you can’t do it again and come out the other end even stronger.

 

Anxiety ~ Relapsing

Anxiety ~ Baby steps and challenging yourself

Baby steps

When you have finally found something that is working for you and helping you to control your anxiety, whether it’s a relaxation technique, CBT sessions or medication, it’s important to know that you’re not going to recover overnight!

Learning to control your anxiety can be an extremely tedious process and can take quite a long time so don’t be alarmed if it’s taking longer than you thought. It’s a long road to recovery but it’s a road worth venturing on. You may have begun receiving help in different ways like those I mentioned above, but if you get too excited shall we say about this and try to sprint down the road to recovery, there’s a higher chance of you falling a lot more times along the way. Take the advice from those who are helping you such as your doctors or CBT therapists. They will only want you to do a certain number of things at a time. Take it day by day, one step at a time.

I didn’t immediately start going back on nights out, that wouldn’t have ended well at all. I started off with more simple things, like going out with friends during the day, this would’ve been a less scary event. My anxiety had gotten to the stage where going out with friends during the day was scary to me I’ll admit, but it was still less scary than a night out. I knew I had to give it a go at some stage. It took a few tries before the day would run smoothly, but once I had managed to get through a full day without boking or fleeing, I gave it another few tries! That’s right I didn’t jump right on to the next scary situation, I wanted to make sure it wasn’t a fluke so I kept trying the days out with friends situation until I was perfectly comfortable with it. Again it’s all about the baby steps!

Challenging yourself

Now it is good to take the baby steps, but you can also challenge yourself at times as well. It may sound like I’m contradicting myself a little but bear with me guys. In order to take the little baby steps on your road to recovery, you still have to challenge yourself! Just not in an extreme way as such. When I started to go on days out with a few friends, it was a baby step yes, but still a challenge, I still found it scary but I knew I had to try. Once you have got the hang of the basic situations and feel comfortable enough to go a bit further, you can try challenging yourself at times to go for something you find a bit scarier. If you stick to the basics then you’re not gonna go much further along the recovery road unless you take a plunge, but of course, make sure you are comfortable with the basics first!

When you fall down along the road of recovery, it’s very likely to be disheartened. This is normal, but you can’t dwell on it forever and let it hold you down. I will talk about being disheartened and relapsing in my next post!

Anxiety ~ Baby steps and challenging yourself

Anxiety ~ Explaining your disorder to others

So in previous posts, I’ve talked about some of my experience with anxiety, ways in which I found help and issues along the way. One of the biggest challenges when dealing with your anxiety however is trying to explain it to others. Trying to explain it to family and friends, who in some cases will not have a clue as to what an anxiety disorder is. When your family and friends don’t understand much about it, that can be extremely frustrating not just for you, but probably for them as well if they know something is wrong.

Believe me, it can be a struggle trying to make them understand, you may not even know how to go about explaining it, or you may not even fully understand it yourself yet. That’s perfectly okay! I had to try and explain to family and friends what was going on when they became concerned, and even at that stage, I still didn’t fully understand my disorder so it made it all the more difficult.

Before you try to explain to others about your disorder, it is better to have a rough idea yourself and make sure you understand what’s going on. If not then start off by talking to a doctor or someone very close to you, or someone who has went through similar things. Do not, I repeat, do not rely on Google. Do not search your symptoms on Google and expect it to be completely reliable. Sure enough you can find some interesting stuff on there, but we all know if you Google your symptoms, you’re gonna find some over exaggerated shit and start to freak yourself out. If you search “I’ve had a tickly cough for a few days” it will probably tell you that you have lung cancer, throat cancer, ebola, hay fever, a chest infection, a gypsy curse and about 14 minutes to live.

You should also decide on who you are going to tell. Who do you want to tell, and why? Think about telling people who you care about and those who you want to be aware about your disorder. Ask yourself if these are the people you want to potentially receive help from. Also, don’t just randomly bring it up out of the blue. Think in advance of when you’re going to talk to them about it. Be prepared for their reaction too. They may be confused, startled, worried or just lost. This is normal, especially if they don’t know much about anxiety disorders. Just think of how hard it might have been for you to deal with it in the very beginning. Hearing that someone you care about is going through something like this isn’t overly easy either.

If you find it difficult to start the conversation about it or can’t really find the words, then try using other people’s experiences as an example to start off with. Like show them blogs like this or YouTube videos of people talking about it. For example in my first or second blog post, I mentioned a video by a YouTuber called Zoella. (Link at bottom of post) I was shown this video by a friend who said she reminded me of her because of my symptoms etc. I found this video useful when trying to explain it to my mum. I showed it to her first and basically told her that my symptoms matched up and I now knew that this was what was wrong. Once she watched it, she understood a lot more and realised that my symptoms were very similar and this made it a lot easier to talk more about it to her.

Starting off with something as simple as that can help you get on your way to talking about it with other. I’m not saying have a whole PowerPoint presentation at the ready but having some general resources to back you up can help you get started. Don’t worry if you’re still learning about it yourself! It can be a great chance for you and your friends and family to learn more about it together and you can teach each other a lot along the way.

I always found that when explaining it to someone, I felt like I was teaching them, educating them. When a teacher has to explain something to their class, they need to speak confidently and don’t shy away from the subject. Feel in control and just like a teacher. If they are half decent students, they will listen contently and be willing to learn. The more attentive the student is, the more confidence this should give you as it shows they want to learn about your disorder, they want to be able to understand. They aren’t going to judge you, they want to learn more about it so they can help. I felt confident when talking to my closest friends. They didn’t judge me and the more they listened, the more openly I could talk about it without feeling embarrassed.

There’s no need to be embarrassed about anything that has happened due to your anxiety, whether it was a vomiting in public experience, hyperventilating in public or having to leave a public event abruptly. You shouldn’t be ashamed or embarrassed. After all, when you’re first experiencing your anxiety’s tantrums, it’s extremely difficult to control them, and essentially, it’s not really you. Trust me, everyone has had their embarrassing experiences, and a lot of people’s probably involved alcohol.

Don’t worry if your friends or family don’t understand right away, let them do some research in their own time. If they care enough then they will do that. It’s becoming a more common issue in everyday society so don’t think people are going to see you as some crazy witch and burn you at the stake. I’m pretty sure they’ll be more reasonable than that. If someone isn’t willing to listen or learn more about it, then don’t waste your breath. It’s not worth it. Concentrate on the ones who do care and let them help you. The ones who listen are the ones who will help you come out the other side fighting strong.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7-iNOFD27G4 – Zoella video regarding her anxiety disorder

Anxiety ~ Explaining your disorder to others

Anxiety ~ CBT and Anxiety Management Sessions

In a previous post, I briefly mentioned what CBT was. So I’ll cover it a bit more in this post.

“Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a talking therapy that can help you manage your problems by changing the way you think and behave.” – NHS.co.uk

So who are the typical attendees of CBT? Well, the most common people to go to the sessions would be those with anxiety disorders and depression, but it can help a wide range of people, including those with OCD, post traumatic stress, phobias, bulimia, anorexia, insomnia and problems related to alcohol abuse.

Bear in mind, attending these sessions cannot get rid of your problems entirely, but they do allow you to be able to cope with your problems in a more positive way and be able to control your anxiety in your everyday life. CBT sessions help to change the way you think, and in turn, can change the way you behave. The way you think and the actions you take are all connected, so when you have negative thoughts, this can lead to negative actions, which can lead to more negative thoughts, and on goes the vicious circle in which you’re trapped in. These sessions can help to break up the circle into more manageable pieces if you like.

So if you’re worried that these sessions will be daunting and like a typical TV sitcom therapists office where they can put you down even more like this…

Therapist gif

Then don’t worry. It’s not like that at all. Those sort of sessions would deal with patients who may have had problems in their past or childhood. For anxiety on the other hand, even if it may have began a good while ago, they focus on what is happening in the present. They look for ways for you to think more positively in your everyday life.

So what goes on in the sessions? The CBT therapist will arrange regular sessions with you, as often as they feel is necessary for you. These sessions can range from 5 to 20. They last between 30 to 60 minutes and usually no more. You can meet with them on a weekly or fortnightly basis. Together, you will discuss your main issues, such as your symptoms and triggers and how your thoughts and feelings can creep up on you, and also how this has been having a physical effect on you. The therapist will then suggest some ways in which you can change how you think about the issues. They can help you to think positively rather than negatively and apply these techniques to your daily life. Your therapist will take note every week of what medication you may be taking and how your mood has been during the past week, if it has improved or gotten worse and also if there have been any suicidal thoughts. In some cases if you were like me and was prone to losing a lot of weight, they may ask if they can weigh you some weeks to keep note of your progress. All of this is normal procedure so do not be alarmed! They need to ask these questions and grab this info so they can keep track of your progress and see how you are improving through each week. And answer honestly guys, after all if you don’t, they can’t help you. That’s what they’re there for, to help you.

CBT may not be for everyone, some people may find it awkward or uncomfortable, and in some cases, if the disorder is a lot more severe, another method of help may be required. Some have said it’s just as, if not more, helpful than medication, and I would agree with them. However CBT isn’t something you’ll get spoonfed to you. It’s the same with taking the medication, if you don’t stick to it then it won’t do you any good. If you don’t be cooperative and be completely honest in the sessions, then it will be a waste of time.

There are different types of sessions available to you so you can see which would be best suited to you. There are the individual sessions with your CBT therapist, group sessions, a self help book or a computerised program. I would recommend the individual sessions, especially if you’re not too comfortable speaking out in front of other people. You can have the privacy of talking to your CBT therapist in complete confidence. But that’s just what I’d prefer.

So if you think CBT might be something that could help you, ask your doctor about it and see what they think. (I AM NOT A TRAINED DOCTOR OR CBT THERAPIST). I am only giving my personal opinion about it. I am simply telling people about it, as not many people are even aware as to what CBT even is.

This can be the next step for a lot of people in speaking up about it, so it’s definitely something to look into a lot more!

Anxiety ~ CBT and Anxiety Management Sessions

Anxiety ~ Fight or Flight

Most people who have had experience with an anxiety disorder, or who have even read up a little about it, will have more than likely come across the term “fight or flight”. It’s a very common term when discussing anxiety disorders but what exactly does it mean?

For a while, I didn’t even know what it meant, but things made a lot more sense once someone actually explained it to me. A common misinterpretation made by people is that they think anxiety itself is an issue or a problem. It actually isn’t, in fact it’s a good thing and in a lot of cases it’s what keeps us safe. Anxiety is a natural process which is designed to keep us safe from danger. An anxiety disorder on the other hand, is more the problem. This is when the fight or flight response is activated in your mind when you’re not in any actual danger.

Your fight or flight response in itself is a good thing. If you were, for example, walking in a forest and encountered a dangerous animal, your fight or flight response would kick in and potentially save your life. Whereas if you didn’t have this kind of response, you wouldn’t feel any fear of the animal, and therefore wouldn’t realise that you’re in danger and need to run away. The fight or flight response is when your body automatically prepares itself to run to safety. Your senses would be heightened, you would get a sudden burst of adrenaline and gain more energy to your muscles, particularly arms and legs to prepare you to either fight the animal or run from it, your pupils would dilate to allow you to see your surroundings better and locate the nearest escape route, and so on. So essentially, the fight or flight response is what keeps people safe and well in any difficult situation they may find themselves in.

So how can your fight or flight response be a bad thing? Your fight or flight response isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it’s when it starts to get activated for no reason, then it can be a problem. It can kick in when you don’t need it, and then you’ll start to have all the effects during a time you don’t need or want them. Some of the effects of fight or flight can include…

  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Extra bursts of energy
  • Sweating
  • Digestion problems
  • Bladder problems
  • Hyperventilating
  • Tingling sensations

These effects can automatically kick in once the fight or flight response is triggered and can be very useful to get you to safety. But when you’re in no need of them or aren’t in any danger, these effects can have a negative impact on you. For example, if you’re going to be running away from the danger, you’re more than likely going to be sweating, so naturally you will start to sweat to keep your body cool. The rapid heartbeats will start so that as much blood as possible will get to the parts of your body that need it the most. The sudden bursts of energy are the excess adrenaline but if not put to use will result in you starting to shake. When these effects occur in a negative way and you don’t know why, that can cause you to panic more. You don’t know why your body is acting like this and this can stress you out and result in more of these effects which will just create a vicious circle.

For me, in order to control my fight or flight response, this is where my anxiety management sessions came to use. I started attending these sessions two summers ago and attended for a few months. I’ll be discussing this more in my next post. This was the next step in my road to recovery.

Anxiety ~ Fight or Flight