6 October 2016

Anxiety.


I can't even begin to tell you how many times I've sat down to write this post and not been able to go through with it. I'm sat here in my room writing this now but I don't know if it's ever going to get published; if you're reading this then I most likely decided to let you in on a little part of my life. 

WHAT IS ANXIETY?
Anxiety disorders are the second most common mental health problems along with depression. It is thought that 1 in 9 people will experience an anxiety disorder at some point in their lifetime. Anxiety can take many different forms; from fast heart beats, cold sweats, uncontrollable shaking, fainting, sickness and terrible migraines. However, there is one main difference between a panic attack and an anxiety attack. They both have the exact same symptoms, but a panic attack is where you feel like you're going to die. That is the only difference. When someone is anxious, it is not the emotions themselves that are the problem; it is the fact that they are intense, last for long periods and interfere with your everyday life. 

MY STORY
I was diagnosed with anxiety when I was 16, but I think it's something I've suffered with all my life but just never known about it. I can't remember exactly what triggered it for me, but from what I can remember it definitely made 2014 one of the worst years of my life. I think the only thing that kept me going was this blog and the lovely community of people I have met through sharing my thoughts on the internet. Then, all of a sudden, my anxiety seemed to fade away towards the end of the year and I went through a full year without any form of panic attack except when we were on the plane travelling to Disney (I've always had bad travel anxiety). I thought I'd learned to combat my anxiety and saw myself as 'cured' (that's the only word I can think of right now) but it seems to have creeped back up on me. Anxiety is not just a panic attack, it's feelings of worthlessness, not being good enough and completely isolating yourself from the world; all of which I have experienced and still experience to this day. 

On my 19th birthday this year, I realised that something wasn't quite right. I was making all the excuses not to go out with my family for a meal to celebrate my birthday; instead I wanted to stay in on my own. This is not like me at all, if there's one person who celebrates their birthday with something big then it's always me. My Mum noticed that something was wrong and asked me about it but I dismissed the whole thing and said I just wasn't feeling well. It wasn't until we were sat having the meal that I got an overwhelming sensation and felt like I needed to escape. Excusing myself from the table, I went to sit outside in the beer garden to have some fresh air and try and teach myself how to breathe again. I didn't realise I'd been gone so long until my Mum came out to me and told me that the family were getting worried, and it was at that moment that I had a complete breakdown and told her that I thought my anxiety had made a return. I'd finally admitted it to myself. 

I'd been getting anxious feelings for a while; feelings of panic, terror, heat beating fast and struggling to breathe but I had completely dismissed them. I was sad all the time, I felt so horrible and just wanted to isolate myself from the world.  I struggled to believe that something that made me feel so small only two years previously, had made a return to ruin me again. Admitting it to myself was possibly the hardest thing I ever had to do, but once I did it and told some close family and friends, I felt supported. 

The next day, my Mum booked me in with our doctor. I've been to see doctors about my anxiety before but never really got a lot of advice or support. Normally I get a printed leaflet about what anxiety is and then get told to come back if things get worse. When I went to see the Doctor this time however, I was determined to get help. I wasn't in a particularly anxious mood that day, but here's the sad part. I had to physically make myself cry for the doctor to do something for me. Yep, you read that right. I had to force tears to make the NHS take note of my mental health. I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression in June this year, the depression being a side effect of the anxiety as I was avoiding social situations and not going out with my friends through fear of having an anxiety attack.

CBT
In the end my doctor referred me for CBT which is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. This is basically a way of re-training your brain to make you think differently about the things that make you anxious. The key idea is that your thoughts, moods and behaviours are linked and influence each other. By changing the way you act and think, you can have a positive effect on the way you feel therefore learning how to manage anxiety. 

The CBT course I was referred for was all online, which at first I thought was pretty cool. However, after four weeks on the course, it was very clear that the CBT wasn't working for me and was making me more anxious than normal. I was avoiding going out with friends, going to parties, even family events. I'm still going to be taking a CBT course but this time I have referred myself to a therapist and a help group so hopefully it will work out for me. 

WHAT IT HAS MADE ME REALISE
One thing the CBT course made me realise was what had triggered my sudden wash of anxiety and anxiety attacks. The thing that set the ball rolling, so to speak, was the incidents that happened with the Drama Lecturer at my University. His nasty comments and humiliation of me has had an effect on my confidence, crowds and the people around me. It makes me so sad because my confidence had been built up by my old drama teacher at college who had so much belief and faith in me, to be crushed down instantly by a bitter, horrible man. This combined with bitchy messages from friends behind my back sent me into a horrible mental health spiral which I am still struggling with, but slowly learning to deal with. If there's one thing it has taught me, it's how much your words can affect how someone sees themselves and how they feel. It kind of makes me want to go back and speak to Mr Drama Guy and the horrible friends to show them what their comments and nasty ways have done. 

CONCLUSION
This sounds like I'm writing some sort of report doesn't it? 
In summary, yes I do have anxiety. Yes, I do avoid social situations. Yes, I do suffer from panic attacks. Yes, depression comes with anxiety. Yes, I have lost friends because of this. And finally Yes, I am still me. 

There's a common misconception that anxiety changes you as a person, and although this can be true in some aspects, I believe I am still the same person just a little more anxious and fragile. I'm starting a new CBT group soon, and the other night was the first time I've been out in 5 months where I haven't had an anxiety attack which is amazing. 

I hope you enjoyed the blog post, and I hope it's given some people a little insight into CBT and anxiety. I was going to do some more blog posts on anxiety, so leave them in the comments below if you would like me to do so!

Lots of Love,
Meg
xox



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