Anxiety is hard to describe to someone who doesn’t suffer with it. The dictionary definition of anxious: feeling or showing worry, nervousness, or unease about uncertainty. While this definition is true, anxiety as a mental health disorder is much more than that.
Imagine being held up against a wall with a knife at your throat, your anxiety would be understood, in fact most people would say the emotions running through your head would far surpass anxiety. Anxiety disorder is the same, but without the intruder and the knife at your throat.
16th – 22nd May was Mental Health Awareness week in the UK and May is the awareness month in the US. Anxiety and Panic disorders are often glossed over when mental health is discussed, yet these enemies have been the bane of my life since a very early age. I spoke about it with Stigma Fighters and have included it in posts about depression and self-harm, but anxiety has been my constant companion.
Anxiety is common place amongst several different mental health disorders: OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), Agoraphobia, PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), Panic Disorder, Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Social Anxiety, Separation Anxiety, and other phobias. It often accompanies depression and other mental health conditions.
“Almost one in five people feel anxious a lot or all the time, while nearly half feel more anxious than they used to.” AnxietyUK
In 2013 there were 8.5million cases of anxiety in the UK. Women are twice as likely to suffer as men, and more than 1 in 10 of us are likely to have a ‘disabling anxiety disorder’ at some stage of our life. Many of those suffering from anxiety, up to 70%, will have further anxiety based disorders like the ones mentioned above. I have Generalised Anxiety Disorder complemented by Clinical Depression, Panic Disorder, Social Anxiety and these often result in self-harm, and this is not uncommon.
The most common physical symptoms of anxiety are: a racing heartbeat, shortness of breath, chest tightness, butterflies (or worse – I have spitting dragons) in the stomach, and nausea. Often these are joined by a dry mouth, the urge to pass urine/empty bowels, trembling or the shakes, and sweating.
These are accompanied by psychological symptoms like: feeling very tense and agitated, a fear of losing control (anxiety sufferers are often control freaks – I am), huge irritation, a feeling of detachment, and/or a feeling of dread – or as I call it ‘that impending sense of doom’.
People suffering big anxiety or panic attacks can often feel like they’re about to or are having a heart attack. The impending sense of doom can fool you into despair and can lead to self-harm and depression, and even psychotic episodes.
I wish I’d known I was suffering from an anxiety disorder as a child, it would have made those moments preceded by panic attacks much easier to cope with. I had several occasions at school when I sat in a classroom unable to concentrate, unable to sit, my head filling with fog, my heart beating like it would explode, numbness coursing through me, and fear spreading through my veins for no particular reason. Several times I ran from PE, or after assembly, and locked myself in the bathroom, or ran from the school building and all the way home – my heart thumping like a road drill and feeling like I was being chased by the entire zombie cast from The Walking Dead.
Even as an adult I’ve sprung from my seat or dropped everything in a shop to run like a deer escaping a hunter. These panic attacks have been the companion to my anxiety.
My anxiety has been crippling. It’s prevented me from many social activities. It’s stopped me experiencing things that have made me apprehensive, and halted my progression where I might have soared.
I have lots of online friends, but I’ve found it terribly difficult to form friendships amongst those I know in my locality. I’ve been a loner and alone. My family have been so supportive and they have encouraged me to do more and rise beyond my anxiety, very often accompanying me until I have scoped out new ground and lost the anxiety. Believe me, it can be conquered, but it’s very much one-step-at-a-time!
I have also attended an NHS course for Stress Management, which gave me facts and help for Generalised Anxiety and Depression. I have taken Cipralex (SSRI Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor class antidepressant) a commonly prescribed antidepressant which also helps anxiety. I wish I could have had more counselling covering anxiety; I have had private counselling on issues in my life which have helped, but not specifically for anxiety. I would advise anyone suffering Anxiety or Panic Disorders to seek help from your GP. Put yourself on waiting lists if you have to, and get help. It is out there.
Check out my blog post on The Battle to Beat Depression, Nature’s Antidepressants, and Coping with Self-harm – How to Fight the Urges and Win you might find something to help you, as I’ve used many of these ideas to fight my anxiety as well at other disorders. Also take a look at Shelley Wilson’s Resolution Challenge blog, her post Using a Dropbox to Release Worry, Fear and Anxiety, offers a great idea about writing down your anxieties, fears and worries, screw them up and drop them in a jar – then when you’re ready, take a look at them, if you wish, and see how you’ve grown in the meantime, or just let them go and take great pleasure in ridding yourself of the notes in the trash, or maybe burn them, watch your anxieties go up in flames!
Sometimes your anxiety might be a short-term thing, caused by troubles within your life, like exams, divorce, and illness, things that you can overcome in time or on your own. Sometimes you may be suffering from a more malignant form of anxiety, it might be a mental health disorder or a physical disorder and you need medical help. Whatever kind of anxiety you suffer, know that there are many of us who understand and help is available.
It’s also important to know that anxiety is normal, it’s an emotion that we need and it helps protect us from harm.
Don’t suffer alone.
What helps you most with your anxiety?
Thank you for being here, V xxx
A great post. Thank you for putting the word out here. I am also crippled with anxiety along with the other mental disorders that I have and oh those words in this post struck home with me.
It’s hard to describe, isn’t it? But when we live with it, it’s so real. Hope you’re feeling good ❤
Reblogged this on firefly465 and commented:
A wonderful post by thelastkrystallos.wordpress.com She really tells it as it is in our world.
You pretty much covered it all. I suffer anxiety attacks every night for 6 months in my early 20’s and had successful treatment on the NHS, through a series of 12 therapy sessions, specifically focused at my anxiety and touched on root causes. But I had another series of therapy (again NHS) about 18 months later that more specifically focused on the root causes, and how to live life one step at a time. I am currently reading on ‘breathing’ and how breathing correctly can also affect your physical, anxious state – unfortunately it is Dutch, so even tricky for me to read. It was recommended by my acupunturist. If I find any information on it in English I will let you know. One thing I am sure of is that the mind and body are inexplicably linked, and we need to look at both areas together to achieve long term ‘peace’.
One of these days I’ll put myself on an NHS waiting list and see if they can give me some counselling. The evil of these mental health illnesses are the ‘you’re not worth it’ or ‘you’ll be over it soon’ ideas, I always tell myself I’m not ill enough to be using up NHS services…
Thanks for commenting, Miranda xxx
A brave and very thorough post. People are crippled by this, and the world where we worship the gods of Targets, Expectations and Media Create ‘Happy Shinny People’ is not making it any better
Oh you are worth it (I’ve got my ex-Civil Service hat on here).
The problem is with the constant budget cuts and government interference in the NHS
Thank you so much, Woebegone, you’re right, we are worth it. I wish the services were there and easily available to all, maybe one day the stigma will be gone, and we’ll all benefit 🙂
I believe it will; in time.
You have explained this so well, I believe I have handle on these feelings. No, not up close and personal, but sympatico with anyone suffering these anxieties. Thank you, Lisa, for the eye opener. ❤ ❤ ❤
Your comments are always much appreciated, Tess, another tough subject, but so important xxx
Very informative and thorough, Lisa, thank you. You know, sometimes I do wonder if there are any real “healthy” people left in the world… I know I’d be hard-pressed to name names from my circle of friends, which consists of perfectly regular people. But we’re all suffering. But there you have it, my friend – we are products of modern society… At least we benefit from indoor plumbing and the wide use of antibiotics, right? 🙂 Excellent post.
You’re right, Ramona, I wonder if we’d all be happier back in simpler times? Then I remember my washing machine… 🙂 Life is different, may we all find ways to cope with its ups and downs xxx
I tend to get anxiety most around situations where I’m going into a social occasion by myself. I remember signing up to Meetup.com when I lived in London, and saying I’d go to a monthly knitting group for six months on the trot before I finally plucked up the courage to go. My way of dealing with it was to tell people I knew that I was going to go on a specific day – I knew I’d feel silly explaining why if I backed out, so I forced myself to go. Once I went, and discovered there were six other newbies each as nervous as myself, I was fine to attend future meetings. I did the same thing when I wanted to go on photography walks when I moved back to Newcastle – I found excuses every month not to go. Eventually I made myself go on the walk in January 2015 because I reasoned other newbies would go as a sort of New Year’s Resolution. I was right! Now I’m better about going to things on my own but I always take my knitting with me because it means I can sit with groups of people I don’t know, but I have something to do that’s not just using my phone so it’s less anti-social, and it serves as a good ice breaker.
It’s just a shame that we need to find coping strategies to start with.
I’m very similar, Icy, social situations still fill me with anxiety. Like you, I’ve had to force myself to go and generally I’m fine, but I need a get out clause too, lol. I also need to recharge after a social event, and have to give myself a quiet day afterwards.
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