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Living with Anxiety

I can’t remember exactly when I first realised I suffered from anxiety but it must have been in the early 2000’s.

I’d been a very quiet, shy and socially awkward (still am) child and struggled to mix with others. I preferred time on my own making model planes. Something I was just a little obsessed about!

As I got older through school, college and university you had to do more presentations in front of the class. This is something I have always struggled with as I imagine lots of other people have too. I dislike being the focus of people's attention and everyone looking at me. It gives me the sweats just thinking about it!

There were a few occasions at that time where I had panic attacks before doing this kind of thing which you sort of think ‘well that’s kind of understandable’.

Also around this time more people were out and about socialising and yet that never appealed to me. I can count on about two fingers the times I went to a nightclub in my teens. I just wasn’t ready for all that and it filled me with dread. I preferred to listen to electronic music through my headphones.

As I mentioned before in my first blog post I was diagnosed as being dyslexic late in school but was also put in the remedial group throughout secondary school, I'd had hearing issues as a younger child (glue ear) which is unrelated to the issue I have now, making me a prime target for bullying. Only later in life have I come to realise both my parents have anxiety issues too. My mum worries about everything and my dad stresses if things don’t go to plan. So it was almost inevitable I had anxiety issues too.

It was only really in the early 2000’s when I got stuck working at Boots and was suffering from depression that the panic attacks escalated. They have been part of me ever since and fluctuate in intensity and frequency. I quite happily drove alone to some really remote parts of Australia no problem, but stick me in a room full of people I don’t know in a noisy, busy place, eeer!

For anyone who gets panic attacks they are a strange sensation. Mine manifests in a sudden inability to breathe properly, I can’t talk, if it escalates I start retching and will often follow on into vomiting. Once I’ve vomited (hopefully I can find a toilet, if not and without going into detail I have to contain it) and after I’ve composed myself I am then fine…until the next time whenever that may be.

It is like a sudden and violent bodily reaction and it can all be over in minutes. Rarely am I consciously thinking or feeling anxious or stressed, they just often come out of nowhere. However sometimes they do happen in recurring scenarios, sometimes if I’m talking to or with certain people and often if I’m at a restaurant and about to leave. I’ve no idea why the latter happens, maybe it's turned into a cycle but it’s annoying as it's a waste of food and money!

So if I’m talking with you and suddenly I go quiet or need to go and find a toilet it’s probably a blooming panic attack!

I will often have a water bottle with me as that can help if I can feel one coming on, but not always. In that moment the world around closes down, I just need a moment for it to pass. If I start retching or vomiting (look away now) give me space and please find water if there’s some close by and I don’t have any. I’m usually totally fine afterwards.

I’ve had counselling and therapy over the years for both depression and anxiety. It’s the reason I know Lucinda who was a contestant on the Great Pottery Throwdown a couple of years ago as she was my therapist at one time. It was strange seeing someone you know from a past life on telly and now doing something I’m very connected to, ceramics. What a small world!

I’ve never quite figured it all out and why they happen in different scenarios but I have got better at managing them. I try to plan things out so I’m not too tired and stressed by spacing things apart if I can. I try to arrange to meet people in quieter or less busy places too.

In the early days when I was having panic attacks in all sorts of places, the entrance to Sainsburys, one the main shopping street in Shrewsbury or other very visible places I felt embarrassment and I started avoiding situations. It was debilitating!

But over the years I’ve got better at not letting it dictate my life and doing more stuff. I have grown in confidence and am much more social but it has taken a long time and determination. It’s still extremely frustrating when it happens, it’s even happened on zoom calls when I’m sitting in my own house!

One thing I have learnt is that talking about it openly helps. I’ve posted about anxiety and depression on facebook in the past and was amazed at the response, not just in support but also the amount of people it affects. It really is very common.

Being anxious is part of being human (we would have been eaten by Lions long ago if we weren’t), it's when it becomes overwhelming that it starts to become a problem.

The modern world we live in and life throws up a lot of challenges for us and our bodies and minds aren’t always ready to cope with all that. But it's ok, we have people that care about us around us and there are counselling services available if you need to talk. ‘It’s good to talk’ (As Bob Hoskins once said in a BT advert, back before the interwebs)!

So if you too suffer with anxiety be brave, do keep taking opportunities and push yourself even if it's scary. Anxiety may never go away but there are ways of managing it so it no longer takes over your life.

Be kind to yourself. Until next time, mind how you go 🧡

27 Nov 23

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