DEALING WITH ANXIETY

When I was about 17 I had my first panic attack. For anyone who hasn’t had a panic attack it’s somewhat hard to explain. Your heart starts to go a mile a minute and you’re shaking like crazy. Symptoms can be different for everyone, but what seems to be unifying is this irrational feeling like you’re going to die. After I had my first panic attack things started to go south. I began becoming terrified of having another panic attack and I got myself into this seemingly never-ending cycle of panic – so scared of having one that I’d push myself into having another one. It got to the point that I wouldn’t go out at certain times of the day because I only felt safe at home. It was scary and I didn’t have any idea what was happening to me. Years later, after taking a few university psyche courses, I realized that that was a panic disorder with the beginnings of agoraphobia.

Luckily over time the panic faded and I began to feel calm again. Years passed and, while I am generally quite an anxious person, it was never like that again. That is until a couple of weeks ago. I’m not completely sure what spurred it on again, but the panic came back. For the first few days I could barely eat and I couldn’t stop shaking. I had a conversation with my mom and she said to me “you need to deal with this. Even if it goes away on its own this time, it will come back and you need to know what to do.” At first I didn’t want to hear it, but I knew she was right. So this time I’m not waiting around. I’m taking an active role in dealing with it.

I found a counselor and booked an appointment right away. We talked about ways to deal with it when the panic is at its worst and how to deal with the general, lower level panic. The way I feel day to day goes up and down, but already I feel like its a lot more manageable. What I’ve been trying to focus on is taking better care of myself in general – not just waiting until I feel my worst. Each morning I’ve been following this meditation course by Oprah and Deepak Chopra, which has made a huge difference. It lets me start my day in a calmer manor. I’ve also been journalling, blogging (that’s been a big help in keeping my mind off of the anxiety), watching comforting shows and really importantly trying to go on lots of walks and keep physically busy. One of the things about anxiety is that your body fills with adrenaline, which feels awful when you’re sitting feeling frail and shaky. Getting up and moving helps the adrenaline flow through you.

Last time I dealt with this one of the things that made it tough was that I didn’t really tell people what was going on. I didn’t know how to explain it because I didn’t think it made any sense and I was scared of people thinking I was crazy. But if anyone is struggling with this please do tell someone, or lots of someones. It’s not something anyone should have to hide and you need a support system to get through something like this. And don’t be afraid to tell people what you really need – what would make you feel safest and most comfortable. Often times people want to help and they just don’t know how to do it.

I know to some this might have seemed like an odd topic to suddenly touch on. I suppose I want you guys to know why I may not be completely myself right now and I don’t want to feel like I’m hiding a piece of my life. Whats more, I want to encourage people to talk about stuff like this. No one should have to be ashamed of the struggle they’re going through. Just because it’s not a physical ailment doesn’t mean it’s not real. It is real and it deserves care and attention.

  • Holly, I am so sorry to hear this. But you are a brave girl, and everything will be just fine. I am sure you will feel your best very soon! I know it. And yup, meditation is great for the soul. Lots of love! <3

  • I am really sorry you've gone through this too. It's a terrible feeling. And it's terrible knowing that it's irrational, but it's happening nonetheless. Just remember that if I were an outsider looking in I would never think less of you for feeling that panic and for asking for help. I have to remind myself of that a lot because I constantly feel guilty and foolish for being what I fear appears needy. Keep taking care of yourself and if you ever do want to get help you should only feel proud of yourself for doing so. Thank you so much for supporting me. You know I've got a lot of love for you.
    Ps. I'd love to see you write about anxiety.

  • Thank you Chaitra. And yeah I didn't realize how much I was underestimating meditation until now. It's good because not only does it calm me at the time, but when I'm starting to feel panicked when I'm out and about I just start breathing and I find it easier to get back in that calm mindset more quickly.

  • I can completely empathise with you, this sounds almost identical to what I was going through earlier this year.
    Unfortunately my 'friends' at the time just didn't understand what I was going through, and in a way that only made it worse for me.
    But luckily I found counselling and meditation worked wonders for me and *touch wood* I haven't had a panic attack in months!
    Stay strong & wishing you the best!! xx

  • Let me begin by saying that you are not alone in this – so many people experience some sort of panic disorder during their lifetime so most will be sympathetic and understanding. As for me, I'm an extremely anxious person and always have been – I remember when I was younger finding it hard to get through the day because all I could think about was everything that could go wrong and could hurt my loved ones. I've been 'diagnosed' with a mixture of general anxiety and separation anxiety (from my mum!) which basically feels like homesickness x 10000 and has been something that I have had to try and get over since moving away to uni. I remember when I was about 17, I got this amazing opportunity to spend a week away in New York with my school – I couldn't have been more excited. But as the departure date got closer, my fears about leaving home, about all of the dangers I would have to face without my family, and the fear of revealing all of these fears to everyone else on the trip got to an unbearable point. Nevertheless, my mum practically pushed me onto the plane, knowing that it would probably be good practise for me with the idea of university coming up in a few years, and I made the horrific 16 hour flight to NY. Let's just say that after 3 days I had lost 5kgs and was close to being hospitalised so I had to be sent home – it was 3 days of the constant shaking, complete loss of appetite, tears, dehydration and what felt like being put on auto-pilot and watching myself from outside my own body. To this day that trip haunts me, but it also reminds me how far I've come – managing to live in three different countries without my family since then. Finding what works for you and sticking with it is the key – for me medication for my anxiety (and depression) as well as accepting the fact that I have no power over most of the things that I worry about makes the world of difference, whereas meditation did nothing for me. I wish you all the best lovely and remember that I'm only an email away if you ever need to talk xxx

  • Great post- it's so reassuring that you've found talking to a counsellor has helped. I've been putting it off for so long, years in fact, (phone calls are something that make me really anxious) but hearing how people have been helped by talking to someone is really encouraging. I hope everything continues to improve for you 🙂

    Lizzy from Nomad Notebook

  • Panic attacks are literally the worst thing in the world especially if your friends/family have never had one! They can try to help but unless you've been there you don't really know what to do! I haven't had a panic attack in a few years but I still get panicky, I find that writing really really helps with my anxiety and so does taking baths which is a bit of an odd one but I find the warm water really comforting.

  • This is such an inspiring post! It's great that you're brave enough to discuss your anxiety and also that you're actively deciding to make a change. I really hope that everything you're trying helps and I'd love to hear more about your journey in the future! – Hollie
    http://www.holliemaem.blogspot.com

  • Amazing post! I've had anxiety attacks ever since I was 14 and it comes and goes, just like yours. It's such a brave, positive step to talk about it like this and I really want to thank you for sharing.

  • Thank you so much for sharing this, I have also gone through this and it's always a relief to read of others' experiences and to know I'm not alone.

    Tessa / Bramble & Thorn

  • Since starting blogging I have been so shocked at how many young people suffer from anxiety and/or depression. It is so sad and I wonder at the state of society today as to why so many people can at times feel so unable to cope. I suffer from anxiety and depression and have been going through a rough patch recently to the extent that I have been struggling to get out of the door to even take my 7 year old son to school. Even having to resort on 2 occasions on keeping him home and telling the school he was sick. I have also had to put my freelance work as a MUA on hold until I "get over" this current "spell"

    Nobody really understands unless they themselves experience it. The school have put strategies in place to help – letting me drop him off 20 mins early and pick him up 20 mins later so I don't have to deal with the crowds of other parents and children – this helps but is only a short term solution whilst they arrange meetings with other departments to arrange something longer term … What I don't know. I feel useless as a mum that I struggle to take my own child to school. I have been down the road of therapy and counselling and unfortunately it didn't work for me (though I still strongly recommend it for others). I am determined to get my life back though & I am just thankful I have a supportive partner. I hope you can get to a point where you can manage your anxiety and that your family continue to support you. Take care xxx

  • Up until recently I didn't even know that anxiety is a medical problem, but now, I sure do since I have it. It means a lot to me when someone shares their store. Thank you so much!

    Luxveritatis.| Beauty.Fashion.Crafts

  • I agree. There's some odd comfort in knowing that other people have experienced it. I don't know if it's just knowing that you're not totally different or seeing that others can deal with it, but yeah it definitely helps.

  • Thank you for that. Please don't ever feel like you're a useless mom though. We had a lot of difficult stuff going on in our family growing up, but you know what I remember? I remember that my mom was always there for me. I know that even if she was having a difficult time she cared about us. You can't see stuff clearly when you're a kid, but when you get older that's what matters. The fact that you're even willing to work out a system of being able to get him back and forth to school shows how much you care.
    I hope you find something that works for you. I'm confident you will. There is a solution. It just sometimes takes longer than we'd like to find it.

  • Thank you so much. It's kind of an amazing thing to have everyone commenting saying that they've gone through this. It's an awful thing to deal with, but there's something beautiful about everyone sharing and supporting one another.

  • Thank you. I can't say thank you enough to everyone. And I definitely want to do an update at some point about the anxiety and everything I learn from it.

  • Yes, I totally agree about the warmth. I won't realize how unpleasant and frozen I feel until I get into the water and I feel instantly soothed. And yeah it's kind of a sad thing when people want to help and don't know how. It's not something that you can easily explain to someone because you yourself know it doesn't make sense. If you could see from the outside you'd know everything is going to be okay, but from the inside you feel trapped.

  • Thank you for sharing your story, I know it's not easy. I've been trying to build up the courage myself to see someone, so seeing that you have done it makes me feel a little more at ease.

    nueyork.blogspot.com

  • Thank you and I really do encourage talking to a counselor. Sometimes even the act of seeking help seems to help. And the amazing thing I've found about going to a counselor (I went a few years ago as well, but never touched on the anxiety thing) is that they're able to see all these patterns that you don't see yourself. So you end understanding where a lot of things come from and how they may be affecting your life in more ways than you realize.

  • Thank you so much for sharing that. I know what you mean about the separation anxiety too. I used to get that horribly when I was a kid. I couldn't even do sleepovers. While I don't have that about my mom anymore, I still have such a fear of going too far from home.
    I think you're right about the finding what works for you and sticking to it. I need to find that balance and commit to doing what I need to do and not what's just easiest. I'm still trying to figure that out, but I know I need to take better care of myself.
    And thank you so much. I really, really appreciate you reaching out.

  • It sucks because I'll understand in the back of my head that I'm having a panic attack because whatever is going on isn't normal, but at the same time I feel like I'm dying and that completely trumps that I know I'm not actually going to die.

  • It's kind of funny, I actually had something extremely similar happen to me recently: Used to have panic attacks quite often, that stopped for years, yet last month I had my worst one yet basically out of nowhere. Before, I used to always work myself up to a panic attack, putting all these bad thoughts in my head & such… but this time it was different. I haven't really been the same since then, & I'm trying to get back to the person I was. I thought about doing a post on it, but I didn't really have the courage to put it out there. It's really nice knowing that other people experience the same things you do… which is kind of weird, because I wouldn't want anyone to go through a panic attack. I'm sure this wasn't easy for you to share, but thank you! You made me feel less alone <3
    I find that yoga has really helped me calm down, but I will also try some meditation.

    Sofia | palelily.blogspot.com

  • I hate that feeling like it just came out of left field. I still don't understand why it happened this time. But I know what you mean about it being nice to know you're not alone. It somehow makes you feel like even if it's not right and you don't want this to be happening, at least you're not just totally crazy. It happens to people. It's not that abnormal. I'm really sorry you're going through it again. Just keep taking care of yourself.

  • I've wanted to comment on this post ever since you posted it, but every comment I've written has felt sort of inadequate. I'm just going to ignore that now, haha.
    I don't suffer from panic attacks myself, but there are situations and things that make me really anxious (crowds, for example), so I feel like I can relate a bit at least. I think it's great that you decided to share this, as anxiety is something that a lot of people deal with nowadays. I hope everything will get better for you. Thanks for sharing!

    xx Mimmi, Muted Mornings

  • This was so refreshing to read. I get anxious at times but it's something you feel like you have to hide because it makes you not look as strong – so it's good to see you putting yourself out there and speaking up. People never understand why I can't watch stressful TV shows – they need to be relaxing!! Stay strong and take care of yourself.
    Brianna || http://extraordinarydaysblog.com/

  • Thank you. I'm glad you commented. Anxiety sucks in any form in takes. Yes, the panic attacks are crap, but so are the horrible nerves I get when I go for a job interview… or the anxiety you feel in a crowd… it's just not nice. I'm trying really hard to find methods to help me cope with the anxiety and I think that's a good investment for anyone that has trouble with it too.
    Thanks again for posting. I really appreciate it.

  • I still have trouble talking about it. I hate saying that I'm feeling anxious because I still struggle not to feel like I'm being overly sensitive or whining. I have to keep reminding myself that I wouldn't lay that judgement on anyone else. I'd just want to help. Thank you for your kind words and keep on watching you relaxing TV shows! 🙂