Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Anxiety - My Closest Companion

Quick Question. How many people do you know that has suffered from, or are currently suffering from, anxiety? One? None?
I bet it's a lot more than you realise.
As some of you may already know, I am one of those people. 

I'm sure you've all seen the posts that go around the social media sites every few months that tell you how people that suffer with anxiety are just people that have had to stay strong for too long.
As far as I am concerned, this is complete crap. Perhaps that is just a story that some suffers like to tell themselves or others in order to remove any stigma attached to anxiety.

I've also often read that these people they are people who are simply scared of something, or maybe just stressed. I've even seen cartoons and jokes made about people with anxiety being scared of everything they come into contact with. 
Again, absolute rubbish. 

The anxiety that I deal with on a daily basis is not the same as the rubbish I have often seen floating around online. The anxiety I know can attack anyone, no matter what their situation, and it can destroy everything about you if you let it.Yes, there is an element of fear and yes, stress can cause or increase anxiety. But there is much more to it than that.

For me personally, I think it is simply an issue of over-thinking. It is very rare that I can switch my brain off and just relax. There is no point in my day where I am not thinking about what may happen next, or tomorrow, or even next week. This can then lead to the negative thoughts and emotions that are associated with anxiety, and once they are there, it is very difficult to let them go.

Please understand that writing about this does not mean that I am looking for sympathy and I certainly don't want anyone to feel sorry for me. So stop it. Right now.

I have two main reasons for writing about this. The first is that I am curious to know how many people truly understand what anxiety is. We can all read the description of an illness on Wikipedia, but how many people actually know what it means to a person, and how it may affect their life?
The second (and more selfish) reason is that writing this may actually be a good release for me. So stuff you lot, I'm writing this for me.  

Here are the typical things that I have to deal with every week.

Getting ready for work.
This should be a relatively simple task for everyone. Most people get up, have a shower, get dressed, maybe eat breakfast and then off they go to work. To be honest, my routine is the same, expect for one slight difference. Most days it can take me around 1-2 hours to get mentally prepared for work. This often involves panicking, worrying, and having to to sit down to find the slightly more sensible part of my brain and remind myself that there is no reason to feel like this. I usually then set off with nothing more than a tingly feeling in my fingers, and the drive to work finishes off the calming down part of the routine.
It wasn't too long ago that I couldn't find that sensible part of my brain, and it's the reason I could never keep a job for too long. It was the fight or flight response, and I always flew. 

Seeing friends and family.
Surely this is the easiest thing in the world to do, right? Not for someone with anxiety. There have been so many times that I have cancelled plans because of some pathetic reason, all because of that nervous feeling in my stomach telling me that somehow it'll all go wrong. I wish my stomach would tell me exactly what will go wrong, because most of the time my brain can't work it out! With the exception of visiting my parents, I am usually filled with dread at the very thought of meeting up with people. As I get better at handling my anxiety, I am managing to tame these ridiculous thoughts and feelings. Sadly, I'm just not completely there yet. 

Going to the shop.
This is the activity that I have most improved on. 3 years ago there would have been no chance of getting me into a supermarket on my own, and very little chance of someone guiding me in. Now I can go straight in, spend too much money, and get out without any problems. Admittedly, on a bad day, I may have to take a few minutes to settle myself in the car before going in, but other than that I feel like a normal person.

Taking up a new class or hobby.
This one actually winds me up more than most things. These are usually activities that I really want to take part in and that I really look forward to. Even before setting off from home I am calm and feel good about what is about to come. I get in the car happy and confident. I drive to the destination without any major issues. I go to get out of the car and I can't. Just can't. I freeze. I freak out. I shout and cry, purely in frustration. Why can't I get out of the car? Even now, I can't tell you why I can't get out of the car. It is one of the worst feelings I have experienced. Knowing that I am so close to something but I simply cannot get to it, and there is no legitimate reason as to why, is frustrating and exhausting. Trust me, if I ever figure out that reason I'll let you know. 

So here's the thing with anxiety. If you let it, it can rule your life. It affects your work, your friends, your family, and worst of all it affects you and your confidence. 

There is some good news to all this though. Thanks to the wonders of medicine and the support of a fantastic boyfriend I am learning to handle the world a little bit better. Some days are, of course, worse than others, but please keep note of this one thing. I am happy. 

This illness is something that is likely to never go away, so the trick is to just deal with it as it comes. It may sometimes be upsetting and frustrating, but then that passes and I'm back to being me, the slightly mad and happy girl. Anxiety is a part of me, but I will not let it define me. 


  1. Well done for sharing that - you're very brave and strong. Big bear hugs xx

  2. Wow, That is just so......
    Well done you!!!

  3. Sandra Marshall7 March 2013 at 11:31

    You are brilliant! I've had Anxiety for the past 20 something years, and I wish I had a quid for everytime someone said "pull yourself together", these are the people that haven't a clue what we're going through.
    This is a very real, physically debilitating, fear of things that are part of every day living - however mundane, and I'm here and I understand, if you need a chat. <3

  4. Takes guts to to put that in writing Lots. Proud of you. No-one understands Anxiety until they have actually experienced it. How can we, it is so illogical and incapacitating. I've spent months whilst World War III was battling in my head, and suffered many of the symptoms you have highlighted. Even now there are times when I feel that I "just can't", thats when I try to break things down, starting with, take one step forward...... and now another......... Mum X

  5. Dunno how to be me, ha ha

  6. Sounds like a horribly frustrating and wearing condition to live with. Have you heard of or tried Mindfulness? My wife - by no means suffering anxiety to the same degree, just a very stressful job & tendency to worry - has been doing it for some time now and finding it really helpful. She uses it to zone out of worrying about the past or future and just be in the moment. It helps her not trying to fight against any worry or stressful thoughts that appear, but just noticing and accepting them, and it seems easier to let them go away. She would recommend Jon Kabat-Zinn if you're interested:

    I agree medicine and support are great by the way, not suggesting this as an alternative but could be a helpful supplement. All the best to you anyway.

  7. Brilliant post. It's actually surprising how common it is. Does no wonders for the social life though, and I've lost heaps of friends because I don't find it easy to just go out with them just for simple social things like drinks int he pub! Getting there though. Like you, I've gone to do classes and hobby stuff, and on getting to the destination, am unable to move. In the end I just turn around and go back home!

  8. It is something difficult to understand and for someone who works in a profession which requires and lot of logic and the ability to "fix" things, this is something that I'd find really hard to deal with when trying to "help" someone who has anxiety. There are times where I have to mentally focus and tell myself, "this isn't something you can fix, it is not in your control... just listen and understand."