Anxiety Disorder // Positivity // A Personal Post

 Hi my loves.

This blog is a place of positivity and happiness, filled with pretty things, frills and fun, and I love it that way. This blog has been an invaluable place for me in terms of developing my skills and meeting new people, but it is also a lifestyle blog and sometimes life isn’t always easy

This is a hard post for me to write, but I want to do it because lately I’ve seen more and more brave people coming out and speaking about their mental health, whether it be depression, anxiety, social anxiety, OCD etc. I take my hat off to everyone who speaks about this, 1 in 3 people in the UK will suffer from some form of mental disorder in their lifetime, and frankly I think the stigma surrounding it is horrendous. Sometimes what is going on in the mind can cripple a person far worse than a bodily injury.

I wanted to write this post so that if you are reading it and any of what I say resonates with you – You are not alone.


90% of the time I’m just ‘normal Rachel’. I can tell you straight off the bat how my friends would describe me to you: fun, vivacious, fearless, confident, funny, supportive, compassionate, loving and a million other adjectives that would describe a socially confident girl who looks like she breezes through life.

90% of the time I am that person. I don’t suffer social anxiety, love trying new things, love to spend time with people, handle the daily stresses of life with more grace than a lot of people and am generally quite content.

However, 10% of the time I am not like that. Every year for a few months my GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder) will raise its ugly head and creep its way into my life. Suddenly, for no reason, I’ll be overcome with feelings of dread at the most random of times, out shopping or even just sitting in my house.

Sometimes I’ll have anxiety attacks that are so bad they will wipe me out for days. There have been occasions where I have literally sat for an entire day staring at the wall, not concentrating on anything, not eating, not speaking because an anxiety attack has disabled me. It is terrifying to be stuck in your own mind with no way out and where no-one can see or understand what is wrong with you.

GAD is characterized as: a disorder in which the sufferer feels in a constant state of high anxiety and is often known as chronic worrying or a free floating anxiety condition. People who suffer with GAD often describe themselves as suffering with free floating anxiety which can be likened to the whack the crocodile game at an arcade they resolve one issue but no sooner has this been done when another worry pops up. Racing thoughts, loss of concentration, and an inability to focus are also characteristic of GAD.

Everyone experiences anxiety differently depending on their disorder and how their body process the worry. I, for example, never get any physical symptoms such as shaking, racing heart, feeling like I’m going to die etc, but I know people who do. My anxiety is characterised by a persistent feeling of dread and anxiety and an inability to concentrate, there have been a few occasions where I actually wondered if I was going mad. In a way I am glad I don’t have to deal with any physical symptoms because they sounds horrendous. Such symptoms can include:

  • dizziness
  • drowsiness and tiredness
  • pins and needles
  • irregular heartbeat (palpitations)
  • muscle aches and tension
  • dry mouth
  • excessive sweating
  • shortness of breath
  • stomach ache
  • nausea
  • diarrhoea
  • headache
  • excessive thirst
  • frequent urinating
  • painful or missed periods
  • difficulty falling or staying asleep (insomnia)
It is, in short, a horrible thing to experience, and it has ruined many experiences for me. I had an anxiety attack on my birthday this year for goodness sake, on a day I was relaxing and meant to be perfectly happy! Yet throw me into a situation other people would find stressful, a driving test or exam for example, and I wouldn’t be anxious at all! Worried yes, but not anxious or having any mental attacks. I do not understand my brain, and that is the problem for a lot of people, they don’t understand why anxiety happens to them.

I also want to make it clear that I am not depressed. I’ve been depressed before, I know what it feels like, and I know that anxiety and depression are two separate things. You can have anxiety and depression together, but one does not necessarily equal the other.

I do not have depression, I have an anxiety disorder – like I said, I like my life!

That quote there has inspired me me today – only you can help yourself, push yourself, and cure yourself. You can get help, you can speak to your doctor, you can have the support of family and friends, but at the end of the day only you can cure you. 
 
I refuse to be defined by my anxiety, I refuse to let myself factor anxiety as a facet of my personality, I refuse to let some random chemical reaction in my brain win.

In this spirit I thought I would share some of the things that help me and that I am going to try and do to help myself.

  • Exercise – absolutely invaluable for releasing happy hormones into the bloodstream and for working out anxiety and stress. If you don’t exercise regularly add it into your routine and I’ll be surprised if you don’t see a difference. A run can pound out anxiety and sadness, and something slower such as yoga can be calming.
  • Explain to people what’s happening to you – When I had an anxiety attack or felt anxious I used to keep it to myself and try and sort through it. Inevitably this led to people thinking I was being rude or acting weird. After some talks with my boyfriend and parents I realised that alerting them to the situation both helped them understand what was happening to me, and helped me deal with the attack because I could talk myself down by talking to them. For example, I felt anxiety coming on during a shopping trip with my boyfriend this week. Instead of hiding it, I told him what I was feeling and he took me for a cup of tea so we could sit down and I could relax. just babbling to him about anything and everything and sitting with a hot drink allowed the anxiety to pass and prevented a full blown panic attack.
  • Do something – I know this isn’t always possible during an anxiety/panic attack, but if you can, do something, anything. Call your friend, go outside, put on a youtube video. It helps you shift your mind down a few levels.
  • Accept it  – I used to pretend it wasn’t happening, or get stressed at myself for letting it happen. However, the last few weeks I’ve found that accepting the feelings and facing them head on works much better. This can be as simple as saying ‘ok, I feel anxious, I accept I feel anxious and I might not know why, but it will go away.’ If there is something I can do about a situation that will make me feel better I do it, if not I simply say to myself ‘there is nothing you can do right now’. Weirdly, accepting the feelings like this has made it easier to distract myself! The anxiety becomes background noise in my brain because I have recognised it, rather than at the forefront of my brain because I am trying to fight this if this makes sense? Usually I just browse some blogs, Pinterest, tweet etc and it goes away by itself.
  • CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) – I personally have not gone through this, but it has helped a lot of people and is definitely worth checking out. You can be referred through your doctor or there are programs online such as Moodgym.
The number one thing that, without a shadow of a doubt, has helped me is practicing meditation. It’s helped me so much I’m giving it its own paragraph!
There are numerous form of meditation, mindfulness, fantasy, mantra etc. Each can be practised by anyone and a quick google/pinterest/youtube search will bring you up any one you fancy. Meditation can be practiced at anytime, anywhere, by anyone. I try to do it every day, I used to do it on the train to my work experience placements!
I would highly recommend reading up on it – it would take me forever to explain it here! It has been proven that regular meditation changes the way your brain operates, including how it deals with anxiety! It teaches you to just allow yourself to be still, even if it is only for ten minutes. Check out this article for a good explanation.
It has always given me a great sense of peace, and if I do a meditation at night with a candle I always feel peaceful and relaxed for the rest of the evening. I do it in the mornings sometimes to prepare me for the day because it teaches me to relax and to observe my thoughts without letting them upset me.
I do this alongside deep breathing techniques, which in themselves are an amazing way to regain control of your body if you are feeling anxious. It can be as simple as breathing in for 4, holding for 3, and breathing out for 4 for 10 minutes. It relaxes the body, whether you are preparing for mediation or not.
Give it a try, what have you got to lose?

Positive mental attitude!

This is what I am going to try and do over the next few weeks every time I am feeling anxious. I’m going to count my blessings for all the amazing things in my life, my amazing parents, my lovely boyfriend, a roof over my head and money in my bank, a brain that has got me a fantastic degree, an enjoyment of life.
I am so lucky to have all these things and a whole life in front of me to explore, travel, learn, experience and wonder. I refuse to let anxiety ruin these things for me.
I don’t expect never to have an attack again or to be in control all the time, but like the quote says, I hold myself to a standard of grace, not perfection. I don’t expect to be magically cured ever, but I do expect myself to try to help myself. As the old saying goes, god helps those who help themselves!

This has been avery long post – but I hope anyone reading it who is suffering has got the message I want to put out there – you are not alone.

 

I would very much appreciate your comments or thoughts, experiences or questions in the comments. You are always free to email or tweet me about anything like this. Talking is a great therapy and I’m always happy to email back and forth with anyone who just wants a friendly voice. Thanks for reading.

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