Things have been a struggle recently and as I’m typing this I’m wrapped in a blanket not wanting to face the world. I’ve never really opened up about my anxiety in the past and I could count the amount of people that know on one hand. All of these have found out as I’ve had panic attacks in front of them and it’s a bit hard to hide there’s something wrong when you’re completely freaking out. I’ve thought a few times whether or not I should write about this issue as it’s very personal and can be very upsetting. The only person who knows the full extent of my anxiety and panic attacks is my boyfriend who I live with, he sees how it controls my life and what I go through on a regular basis. Even though he doesn’t completely understand I’m very lucky that he is as understanding as possible and extremely supportive.
What is Anxiety and Panic Attacks?
I’m always trying to understand anxiety as much as possible as I find that the more I know the better I feel about it. It’s not easy to explain briefly but anxiety to me is a constant feeling that something bad is going to happen and it feels heavy. Sometimes my heart rate increases, my throat starts to feel tight and I get quite agitated. When I have a panic attack this is when my body goes into ‘fight or flight’ mode. Adrenaline kicks in as it’s designed to prepare us for either fighting or escaping a dangerous situation, however if you have panic attacks then this can happen when you’re completely safe and there is no danger. There are some horrible symptoms that come with this that can be quite scary, just a few that I experience are:
- Heart palpitations
- Racing heart
- Chest pain
- Tight throat
- Feeling dizzy
These are just a few of them and it’s quite scary to experience, some people even mistake panic attacks for other more serious problems. Some of you reading this might not understand but that’s okay, I think it’s something that unless you have experienced yourself it’s hard to understand.
Where did it all begin?
Anxiety originally began for me when I was very young in the form of OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). I don’t think anyone actually knows about this so this is the first time anyone is learning about this which is pretty scary, however I feel I shouldn’t be ashamed of it anymore. When I was little my mum had cancer and OCD was my way of dealing with it, I became completely obsessed with even numbers. I used to have to tap the end of my bed four times as if I didn’t I became extremely anxious that my mum would die, it then escalated into me having to have an even number of biscuits, the volume on the tv on even and so on. It sounds completely ridiculous but to me it was all real, I’m not going to go into much more detail however when my mum started to recover my OCD slowly started to fade. I still have to have the volume on the tv on an even number but apart from that I’m fine.
I then went on to live a relatively anxiety-free life for quite a long time, I had the occasional panic attack linked to my phobia which I don’t want to go into detail about but apart from that I was okay until about three years ago. Something happened that caused me to become so stressed that I had a panic attack, this was the first time that I had ever had a panic attack not linked to my phobia. I did also see the return of my OCD however it didn’t last too long, when I started to become less stressed about what had happened it started to fade again. At this point I was in my second year of university and things got worse very gradually over time, I’d become anxious about situations that I had been completely fine in before and my panic attacks became more regular. When I say gradual I mean it really did creep on me slowly, my third and final year of university I had occasional anxiety and panic which became more noticeable once I had finished. I did at this point seek help, well I say seek help but actually it involved me having a huge panic attack in the doctors and accepting help. I was offered medication however didn’t want to go down that route so instead received CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) for quite a few months which helped slightly, but not that much. CBT can help people completely overcome anxiety and panic attacks however for me this was not the case. When this ended I was put on a waiting list for further treatment, after nearly a year of being on the list I moved out of Oxford so was took off it. If I’m completely honest the past few months have been a bit of a struggle, every single day I’ve had anxiety and it is making me feel so drained and unwell. I feel like I can’t even have five minutes to relax, it’s always there and never seems to go away. I may be having a tough time at the moment but I’ve been through similar patches before and have managed to get through, yes it may be a little worse this time but I feel like I am starting to learn how to deal with anxiety and panic attacks a lot better than previously. I could ramble about this all day however this post is already becoming incredibly long, one day when I have more control or am maybe even ‘cured’ I may follow up on what’s helped me.
Over this time I’ve learnt a few different things:
- Even though the symptoms can be extremely scary, they are real but they cannot harm you.
- Don’t suffer in silence. Even though I ended up opening up to my boyfriend, it was actually because I was unable to hide it anymore however I wish I had opened up much sooner. Just talking to someone can help and it’s really nice to have that support. I also love that I can just pick up the phone and call my parents if I need to talk to someone.
- This moves onto the fact that I can confide in my loved ones. They may not completely understand but that’s fine and I know they are there for me.
- Step outside your comfort zone. This is something I’m struggling with however am still trying to do as much as possible. Facing up to the things that make you anxious is so important and I’m going to work on this more, I know that the more I avoid a situation the worse my anxiety becomes so I am really going to try.
- It’s okay to cry. I think part of me getting upset a lot recently is that I’ve tried to bottle everything up and I’ve got to this point where I can’t keep it all in anymore. Letting it all out really helps and gives me a feeling of release.
I think that admitting that I have a problem helps a lot with moving forward, even though the fact that I’m publishing this on my blog terrifies me. Reading other peoples experiences on their blogs has helped me to realise that I’m not alone and that I’m not the only one feeling like this. Hopefully this can help someone else feel that they are not alone and that it is okay.
I’d love for you to share your experiences below if you suffer from anxiety or know someone who does. Knowing you’re not alone is so important as well as not being embarrassed to open up about it as I once was. I’d just like to end this by saying to remember to be nice to everyone, you never know what they are going through in their life and being nice can go a long way.