Thursday 2 April 2015

Anxiety: My Journey & Advice

Disclaimer: This is by no means a post designed to give clinical advice on how to deal with anxiety, please seek professional guidance if you are a sufferer. I am also highly aware that this is unlike any other content that I have done but hopefully this will resonate with some of you and make others aware of the type of feelings anxiety evokes. It's fairly long without images so I apologise if it's too long-worded but here goes... 

My Story.

‘This party is just too much anxiety for me.’

If you’ve ever watched an episode of Keeping Up With the Kardashians, which I’ll admit is a huge guilty pleasure of mine, you’ll probably have heard Kim, Khloe or Kourtney mention anxiety.

It’s a word thrown around a lot on the show in a very blazé way. Anything from mismatched clothing to stains on fur rugs will give them ‘major anxiety’. Oh, the woes.

So what happens when we distinguish that sense of anxiety from clinical anxiety?

Unfortunately I think there’s a widespread misconception that anxiety is unserious and reversible. Whilst this may be true in some cases, I think there needs to be more awareness about the dangers and troubles anxiety brings. I’m talking about real anxiety here. Anxiety which takes away lives and transforms ordinary, loving people into unrecognisable individuals.

Hopefully by sharing my story as a blogger, it will provide comfort to some of you as I want to explain why I started suffering from it, how it suddenly affected my life and how I have managed to overcome it….

I’ll start by saying that I am generally a very reserved girl. I only open up to people who are close to me and I have always been quite to myself and possibly even a bit of an isolationist at times.

The first unexpected pan of anxiety happened around a university exam period. Now, I’ve taken the online quizzes like the psychology nerd I am and I am in fact, a perfectionist, ladies and gentleman. As always, I do get nervous before exams but I’m pretty sure this is a universal feeling. What I actually went through was completely different…

Just before my exam time, I had an accumulation of problematic life events including personal issues with close friends and issues at home, where I felt unhappy and discontent with life. I had cut out people who I considered major, major parts of my life. Even those who I had supported for numerous years. It is fair to say this period of my life was very difficult as it was, being that I was trying to conquer all these issues and still concentrate on revision.

‘Block it out, don’t let it affect your grades’. This is literally what my mind would tell me over and over again.

I pushed myself to the extreme. I realised that I had uncharacteristically not put in enough effort with my revision and I tried desperately to transform myself into a robot without feelings in order to push away the life issues and work hard to get the grades I wanted. I had always excelled academically and life issues simply weren’t a good enough excuse for me.

It all got too much for me.

I couldn’t stop the thoughts that I was going to fail, that I didn’t have enough support, that everything in my life was breaking apart, that I wouldn’t achieve the best like I once did, that I wouldn’t actually appear as though I had everything in control. The latter point sums me up to a tee.

All these thoughts prevented me from sleeping. I tried so hard to push myself to sleep but the thoughts wouldn’t go away. I tossed and turned and every half hour I would look at the clock and it would be nearer and nearer to exam time. It worried me more because I knew lack of sleep results in lower academic performance. I was breaking down. I cried as I watched the sun come up and I got out of bed, with 0 minutes of sleep, waiting to sit the exam.

I felt sick when I reached the exam hall. I looked a mess, I was nervous, I couldn’t focus on my notes, I thought I was going to collapse. I had no idea what the protocol was if you couldn’t physically do an exam and I was so close to turning away from the entrance of the exam area but something pushed me inside and forced me to sit that exam. To this day, I don’t know how I did it other than the power of a higher force.

When I went home, I booked a GP appointment straight away. I knew I had to tackle this before the next exam.

The GP confirmed that I was suffering from some form of anxiety and gave me propranolol to take as a temporary measure. I don’t know what I would have done if I didn’t get that advice because I thankfully managed to sleep and complete my following exams a lot, lot, lot better.  The thoughts calmed down.

After the exam period, I came off the propranolol. Everything got a lot better. Life started looking up. I was less worried in general. I thought everything was fine. I even secured a new job that I was really excited about. I didn’t even think about anxiety anymore, I didn’t want to look back at all at that dark period of my life.

It was a sunny afternoon and I had just finished a practically perfect day at my workplace. I was honestly in such a good mood because I felt really happy with the performance I gave. I walked out the building and made my way to the bus stop to go home… that’s when I was attacked.

Before I knew it, a man approached me and started shouting at me and hurling abusive words at me for no apparent reason. I thought it was a sick joke until he continued and continued. It wouldn’t stop. I struggled with what to do but my instinct guided me to turn around from him and walk towards the building again to protect myself. As I reached the door, I felt him grab my neck. It was at that moment that I was confident I was about to die. I just went blank. I didn’t know what to feel. I awaited death. I didn’t know why this person was attacking me or who they were but I was certain they were going to do major harm.

He pushed me downwards and I almost hit the floor but I felt a release. He had… left. I was saved. I rushed in the building and called the police to take it from there.

All I can say is that it was the worst experience of my life but I luckily got through it and instinct really did save me that day. I felt like someone was guiding me, telling me where to walk and what to do. If I hadn’t have turned around, I think it would have been worse considering the road ahead was isolated and nobody would have heard or seen anything, giving him more time to do as he pleases.

Being physically attacked really plays with your head. I started thinking ‘why me?’. I didn’t know the person. I didn’t get in their way, say anything to them, look at them or anger them in any way. Perhaps they had mental problems. Perhaps they just didn’t like the look of me. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps. My mind started doing the same thing as it entered an all too familiar cyclical trap of thoughts.

Same thing. GP. Propranolol.

It was anxiety again.

I hated going out for a while. I tried to stay home. I looked at everyone twice. I felt like I was going to be attacked again. I was easily scared. I felt like a victim.

It’s very easy to let anxiety take control over your life but once you realise that you can take the lead, things do get easier. For me, it was certain events which triggered my anxiety so it was sporadic but it varies for everyone. Regardless of the type, the best thing to do is to speak to someone, whether it be your family, friends or colleagues. Anyone who you feel you can trust.

The next step I would advise is to look into your options, speak to a GP or a medical professional as they really know what they’re talking about and once you explain your specific situation, they can give you tailored advice and medication if necessary.

The longer you leave it, the worse it will get. Don’t be afraid. You are not alone and never ever feel like you are because there is a whole support system out there waiting to help you along the way.

Time heals everything too. If you keep busy and focus on things that make you happy in life such as relationships, jobs, hobbies, education, exercise etc. you can partially heal yourself and before you know it things will improve.

Now? I feel better than ever. I look back and feel grateful that I managed to overcome my struggles. I have taken full control of my life and I absolutely love being a Fashion & Beauty Blogger as I get to meet so many wonderful people all the time and my platform allows me to share my thoughts all the time. Do what you love. Do what makes you happy. Never forget that it gets easier once you take control.


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