I promise the good happy shit is coming soon, but like everything you gotta go through the bad to get to the good stuff. Right?
I have suffered with anxiety for a long time, but it has changed over the years. Different life events that have happened that have altered the way my anxiety affects me. The one thing that has always stayed the same is the control freak in me. I have always felt that I need to be in control in some sort of way, even things I can’t have control over. My mind has always run away with me, I would overthink pretty much everything, I mean I still do just not as bad. My anxiety really kicked off just before I turned 18.
I passed out in a restaurant for no reason and had to be taken into hospital. In an area I hadn’t been before, then I got discharged from the hospital with them telling me they didn’t know what happened, but I was fine. Strange I know, but I didn’t question it. I passed out a couple more times throughout that year, but they never knew what was wrong, I had to have numerous tests. They just said it was a phase my body was going through. It will seem so minor to many people, but not being in control of my own body freaked me the fuck out. Why was this happening? How could I stop it? Eventually they told me it was something with my heart, but I could grow out of it, and luckily, I have, but that didn’t stop me panicking.
After passing out a couple of times I started to recognise what physically happened to my body just before, sweating, feeling sick and my hearing would go all fuzzy. Because I associated these physical feelings with passing out every time I had them, I would automatically think I was going to pass out. Which let me tell you is fucking awful; I avoided most things. I stopped going out to restaurants, cafes, I couldn’t go on public transport as I passed out on a packed train. Everywhere I had passed out I couldn’t go back into the same situation without having a panic attack. I remember when my husband (then boyfriend) came to visit for the weekend, him and my mum persuaded me to go shopping to see how I got on. I panicked after maybe 10 minutes, doesn’t seem like long but let me tell you it felt like hours. I just had to get out of there, jumped in a taxi and went home.
Fast forward to therapy/ counselling, I am a big advocate of counselling and CBT. It has helped me so much throughout my life, there is something almost freeing about talking to someone who knows jack shit about you or anyone you will be talking about. It also helped me realise so much about myself, my therapist would sit there every so often and not say a word, I hated it. I hate silence, it used to give me time to think about how fucked up I felt. So, I would chat shit, I mean don’t get me wrong I LOVE a good ole chin’wag, anyone that knows me will tell you that. My nan has always said I have tongue diarrhoea! Even if you think it won’t help, I would just try it. Or write shit down, that helped me for a while, but it was better for me talking it out with someone.
I feel like anxiety is different yet similar for everyone that suffers from it. For me it is constantly over-thinking, worrying what people think of me, insomnia yet being completely exhausted, panic attacks, fidgeting, palm sweats, anger, eating in public, I could go on. Eating in public was a big thing for me when this all began; I was terrified of eating certain things or too much that I would puke, and everyone would be staring at me or laughing. I was so far inside my own brain I couldn’t think straight; I couldn’t be logical.
I didn’t develop agoraphobia until I suffered from my ectopic pregnancy nearly 2 years ago. I’ll be honest after that I just kept going deeper and deeper. I couldn’t process my feelings the right way, I felt so many things all at once it was a mess. I felt angry, guilty, traumatised, scared, upset. I think the recovery period after my surgery is what caused my anxiety to turn into agoraphobia as well. Not being able to walk properly, not leaving the house or driving. Day to day things that you wouldn’t think mattered but they do to someone like me. Overcoming it has been a long ass winding road. More therapy and I started a programme called Graded Exposure.
Shitstorm began there, I was at a stage in my mental health where I couldn’t do anything on my own. I avoided driving in traffic, if I was going somewhere, I needed to know the route, how long it would take and when we would be leaving. We are lucky enough to have NHS resources, I couldn’t afford private therapy so I will forever be grateful for my therapist she was incredible to me. Graded exposure is what worked best for me. I didn’t think it would, I thought it was a load of rubbish, that I would never get better. But I did, there’s still things I struggle to do, but I know I can do them because I overcame some of my biggest fears. People would laugh and say I was just being dramatic or to get over it, but you know what I say to people like that? Fuck you.
Unless you have walked in my shoes you have no idea the mental battle I have faced.
My biggest encouragement was once I found I was pregnant I knew I needed to get better, I needed to be in a good head space to be able to care for my son properly. I had to be able to leave the house and get out of bed even if I was having a shitty day. It has been so hard pushing through my coping mechanisms. What were my coping mechanisms that I instilled on myself? Texting or talking on the phone whilst shopping to try distract myself from it being busy, counting in my head when driving alone so I didn’t panic in traffic, putting Sat Nav on my phone to see if there was any traffic I could avoid and count down minutes until next exit I needed to take. Knowing where all the exits where whenever I went out. Now you’re probably thinking that’s not so bad. But it was unhealthy for me to be so obsessed with planning every single thing. It was exhausting.
Tough love definitely worked for me sometimes, a lot of the time people would guilt trip me into doing something, probably wrong but it worked. I couldn’t think of anything worse than letting people down if I’d already agreed to help. My husband has been there for me for it all and I cannot tell him how much I love him for that. I know it must have been so hard especially as he’s the complete opposite to me he loves going out, doing new things and tried to get me to do them with him. He was so encouraging once I started my graded exposure tasks. I finally felt like I could see the end of the tunnel.
The first step is talking about how you’re feeling. I know it’s hard, so fucking hard but I does help. It’ll give you the push to get the help you need. Set yourself goals, small and work your way up. I am now able to do a full weekly shop on my own at a busy time if I wanted to, but honestly why would I let my husband get out of the joys of being dragged around the shops with me and the baby? A big shop with a baby, a small car and needing to get a big bag of dog food, I’d rather save myself that hassle thank you very much!