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:
- drowsiness and tiredness
- pins and needles
- irregular heartbeat (palpitations)
- muscle aches and tension
- dry mouth
- excessive sweating
- shortness of breath
- stomach ache
- excessive thirst
- frequent urinating
- painful or missed periods
- difficulty falling or staying asleep (insomnia)
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!
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.
Positive mental attitude!
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.