Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Anxiety and Me

You can read thousands of blog posts about Anxiety if you search online, I know this because I've read many of them myself. They are all helpful in different ways, and to be honest I questioned what I could possibly add to them. However I wanted to write about my anxiety and my own personal experience with it.

Mainly because I don't believe we are open and honest enough with each other when it comes to mental health issues, far too many suffer in silence. That's not only a depressing and frustrating thought, it can also be fatal. How many times have you watched the news or opened a newspaper and see a story where someone has taken their own life? Where the friends, the neighbours and workmates never saw it coming. An accompanying picture runs alongside the quotes of " They saw no signs anything was wrong" and  "They always seemed so happy"  Well that's because if you have anxiety you often feel alone, like no-one else could possibly understand what your going through. You can become very detached from the world around you, are afraid to speak out. You feel scared, ashamed and too proud to ask for help.

I know this because at one time that was me.

I was too Scared to ask for help because I didn't know what was wrong with me, I thought I was going crazy, as if I was constantly trapped inside my own mind. A simple walk to the park would have me break into nervous sweats; my heart racing, constantly feeling on edge and jumpy.
Not being able to do anything at all without over analysing every single thing. Simply 'being' was exhausting.
I thought if I said these things out loud to my Doctor he would commit me, I honestly did. I thought he would think I was a bad person or a bad Mother, and I was genuinely afraid of the process and what would happen if I admitted I needed help.

I was Ashamed because I felt I had let everyone down. I was someones wife, mother, daughter and sister. My Dad and Grandad had died the year before, the same week the year before actually and I was supposed to be the strong one, I liked being the strong one. Everyone was grieving and trying to navigate this new life without them and there I was hysterically crying over spilt milk (and this was quite literally one day)
I felt as if they would think I was attention seeking if I said anything, and I was constantly filled with self loathing.

But mostly I was too proud to admit that this wasn't something I could solve all by myself, that I didn't have it all figured out. I wasn't winning at life after all.

I wasn't a 'yummy mummy' with all her shit together just because I had a Bugabo and wore some Clarins beauty flash balm. I was struggling.

My husband and family had all expressed concern over time but it was only when I was home alone one evening that I realised I needed help. I had heard a noise from upstairs, nothing sinister just some odd banging but it rendered me literally paralysed with my nerves, I sat there frozen until I got someone to come over to check all over the house for me, and I remember thinking No, this isn't right, this wasn't fair.
It wasn't fair on them, certainly not fair on my daughter asleep in her cot, who if there was an emergency needed me. It wasn't fair on my Husband who'd had me hysterically sobbing on the phone asking him to come home from work and check the house. Nor on my Mum, who couldn't get there to help, but mostly wasn't fair on me.

I shouldn't have to live like that, and I didn't have to live like that if I got help, so I did I rang the Dr's first thing the next day and got an appointment..

I nearly bottled and left the moment I arrived, I thought I'll just give it another week (something I'd been doing for months giving myself a 'time frame' to get better before I sought help) In fact I actually got up and was about to head out the door when I looked out of the window. There was a Mum about my age walking outside, she was pushing a baby in a pram and had a toddler walking beside her. She just looked so happy and carefree and I remember watching her feeling as if my heart would break because I wanted to be like that.
I wanted hold a conversation with my friend and be 100% focused rather than 30% because my mind was busy going over everything else, analysing every little word.
I wanted to enjoy a simple walk with my baby without the overwhelming all consuming fear of something bad happening.
That woman whoever she was, made me sit back down again and keep that appointment. It turns out that doing that, sitting down with my Doctor and being open and honest with him about how I was feeling was the best thing I ever did.

It turns out how I was feeling wasn't just delayed grief or delayed baby blues. It was more than just the pressure of having baby (who after surgery on her hip needed a very specific level of care) it wasn't the house move. It turned out I had Generalised Anxiety Disorder, I wasn't crazy, I wasn't going to be committed, no-one was going to take my baby and think I was a bad person. I had a condition which affects around 5% of the U.K.

My GP prescribed me with medication at first but I felt they weren't for me. I'm not saying that I wouldn't give them another try in the future, if I felt I needed too but what worked best for me was counselling, more specifically C.B.T and I still use some of the methods I learned in those sessions today.

The Mental Health Service in the U.K in my opinion (and experience) is so desperately underfunded and overworked, I was so lucky, I got a cancellation appointment for therapy within 2 weeks but it very likely would have been months. With how I was feeling at the time that's a scary thought.
Therapy on the N.H.S is basically a checklist at the start to assess what treatment needs to be given  "Are you suicidal" No. "Do you self harm" No."Have you been a victim of financial, domestic or sexual abuse"No. I felt like a fraud to be honest, embarrassed, like I didn't deserve to be there and needed to make up some traumatic childhood to justify the treatment.

I had six sessions of counselling in total, which rather than get to the 'bottom' of what caused my anxiety as I imagined, actually gave me the tools  I needed to 'manage' it. C.B.T helped to change the way I thought, it helped challenge my negative feelings and changed how I dealt with things.
Rather than being told ahhh you see this incident here when you were 7? Well that's it! THAT is the moment that caused your anxiety!!You're cured! Hurrah! (Which is kind of how I imagined it to be)

You see anxiety isn't something you just wake up with one day, it isn't something you can ward off with a duvet day and a Lempsip. Anxiety slowly crept up on me over a period of time, I didn't recognise what that symptoms were, the racing heart, the worrying over the smallest of things, so I simply ignored them and carried on. It was the worse thing I could have done, it allowed anxiety to consume me and once it had me firmly in it's grasp it was crippling.

I would like to tell you that after six magical counselling sessions I am completely cured but I am not, I still have flares up even now.
The true test has been over the past 12 months, where as a family we have been through a huge amount of stress, looking at making huge decisions which affect not just us but our daughter and her future. I'll be honest and I have struggled, I've cried a lot, woken up in the middle of the night with my mind and heart beat racing. I've questioned everything, analysed everything I've done thus far as a parent, and I've felt very alone. Thanks to those C.B.T sessions I was able to recognise the anxiety symptoms and put things in place to help.

There are also many misconceptions when it comes to anxiety. Firstly it's often confused with depression, I am not depressed. I am also not the following:
A nutter, highly strung, mad, cuckoo, attention seeking, a worrier, a drama queen.
I have been called all of these things, sometimes to my face, but mostly behind my back.

Also, no offence but the following advice is just not helpful:
Get over it, move on, cheer up, it'll be alright, it's no big deal, stop worrying, stop being a drama queen. chill out...I could go on. If you say these to me I'll smile outwardly at you but my eyes might tell a different story What I want to do is tell you is why that just isn't bloody possible for me!

I wish I didn't have anxiety, I really do, I wish I could be different. I have worried and worried myself sick in the past that my anxieties will have rubbed off on my daughter. That her struggles in life might all be my fault, that's not much fun. However, I have accepted that I have anxiety, I live with it.
I remind myself that each day that I am doing my best, I am trying, I am giving my all, not just for everyone else but for me.

As a wife, a mother, as a human being I am flawed, I am not perfect, and that's OK.

I urge you if you feel the way I did go and see your GP,  or talk to someone. Even if you don't have a partner to support and you feel like you are going through this alone, I promise you you are not Go and see your GP. They do not have a little red alarm that goes off when you tell them how your feeling, it doesn't tell everyone on your social media that your not coping. Social services don't swoop in to take your baby and the men in white coast don't turn up in a van for you. You will get the support you need to help you get better.
MIND is the most wonderful charity in the interim to get advice and they have a helpline. Also never underestimate the benefit of virtual support either, Mumsnet isn't just there for the 'Mum and Baby' stuff and that bloody penis beaker thread. It was a huge support for me on days where I felt like I was the only person in the world to feel the way I did, no judgement and no professional advice as they state, but support, empathy and a virtual brew.

Ha! This sums up me perfectly some days.

Thanks for reading,

Rach x

For anyone suffering with anxiety these are some more wonderful charities that you can talk to:

Anxiety UK


No Panic

Young Minds

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