The key to my happiness

This week marked my penultimate session of cognitive behavioural therapy, which I’ve been undergoing to help deal with my anxiety, and my journey from panic stricken recluse back to my normal self is almost at an end.

Although the coping strategies that I’ve been taught by my counsellor have definitely been helpful, I’ve found that the best thing I did was to take back control of the illness. Pushing myself a bit more each day, little by little, culminating in a solo trip to London overnight.

Coming to the realisation that I am the only person who can change my life, I quit the job I’d been plodding along in for my whole working life and enrolled on the degree course that I’d always wanted to do. Having that routine back in my life after several months off sick was a real tonic. That I was getting great feedback from my tutors was both surprising and confidence boosting in the extreme and has reinforced that I made absolutely the right decision in changing my life.

The thing with anxiety is that it clouds your thinking. Makes you think that because you’re not coping very well at that moment, that you’ll never cope with anything again. It destroys your self esteem.

The event that triggered my anxiety hadn’t just happened to me, it had affected my whole family. The terminal illness of my Dad and his subsequent death in November 2013 didn’t leave just me grieving, it left a widow who had depended on him for support with her severe visual impairment, it left my two siblings without a Dad too, and three grandchildren missing their enabler of mischief and fun.

I wasn’t the only one suffering a bereavement, but I was the only one left crippled by panic attacks, unable to work. This made me feel even worse. If they were coping, why wasn’t I? What was wrong with me?

I slowly realised that I had been so concerned with everyone else in the aftermath of my Dads death that I’d neglected myself. I took over caring for my Mum, sorting out her benefits (to be fair, dealing with the Department of Work & Pensions is enough to give anyone a nervous breakdown), we moved house to be closer to my sister and I moved jobs. All within 6 months of losing Dad. While I was working full time.

No wonder I was struggling.

Now, just after the first anniversary of his passing, with the invaluable love and support from my family and friends, Becky is back.

I’m making choices for me, based on increasing my own happiness and have resolved to never again just plod along in life.

I started writing this blog as an outlet, to vent my feelings. Now, I hope that it can help someone like me. Help them to realise that it does get better. There’s no quick fix to anxiety problems but take it day by day and you’ll get there.

For now though, I’m signing off panicattacksandotherfunstuff and concentrating on my blog about life as a mature student, juniorjournoblog.wordpress.com.

Hope to see you there, and thanks for listening!

Becky xxx

Cautiously Optimistic…

It’s been a while hasn’t it? Sorry about that, but there have been changes afoot…

My last post was written in a fit of negativity and frustration, annoyed at myself for how my anxiety was making me behave. I poured this frustration out in a tumult of words, and it changed something. I’ve been told that getting your thoughts and feelings out on paper (or laptop screen…) can be really beneficial, helping to make sense of them and subsequently deal with them. I’ve never written this blog with that intention, it was always more about being open and honest, doing my bit to help end the stigma that surrounds mental health issues. But venting seems to have flipped a switch. The one that overrides the bit of my brain that tells me i’m being rubbish and makes me feel a bit self-pitying. The one that tells me that if I want to get better, the best way to do it is to help myself get there and do what makes me happy. That it’s ok to be selfish sometimes.

Now, i’m not saying that i’m totally cured, never again to be plagued by pesky panic attacks or followed by the black dog. I feel like it’s always there, lurking at the back of my mind like Voldemort under Professor Quirrell’s turban, occasionally giving me a little prod, saying “Yoohoo, i’m still here..” I’m expecting these reminders for quite some time to come, though as they say, forewarned is forearmed, so this fact no longer fills me with terror as it did not so long ago.

So, I made changes. Left my job and gave myself a reason for getting out of the house, one that I was (and still am) super-giddy about. I’d been moping around the house on sick leave for too long. I NEEDED a reason to get dressed, have a shower, leave the house and actually talk to people.

The cumulative power of these changes is astounding. Just the act of getting showered and dressed made me feel a little better. My sister told me I looked nice. Another positive tick. I was out of the house all day without a panic attack- more happy points. All this made it easier to do the same the next day, and the next and so on. Looking back, it seems such a simple thing. Why didn’t I do it earlier?! I could have actually enjoyed the summer instead of hiding from it. But such is the iron grip of anxiety, that acting positively to alleviate your symptoms feels completely beyond your reach.

I’m still taking it one day at a time, popping an anti-anxiety pill when I feel a bit edgy, and last week I finally started my NHS funded cognitive behavioural therapy to go alongside the bereavement counselling i’ve been having for the past few weeks.

Things are looking up.

B x

Flakier than a sausage roll

Here’s the thing about anxiety and depression. What isn’t written in the pamphlets, what the doctors and counsellors don’t tell you. But, what for me, affects me the most. Today anyway. (I’m also very aware that everyone’s experience of anxiety is different) It’s that suffering from anxiety makes you flaky. At least that how it feels you’re being.¬†Here’s how it goes... You have a pretty good day. Feel like you’re almost human. So you make plans. Going to a friend’s birthday event, going on a day trip, Even just going on a walk with friends that you haven’t seen enough of lately. Then, you start to feel anxious about it. “Will I be ok? I hope I don’t have a panic attack while I’m out. Do they think I’m mental?” This specific anxiety just adds to the underlying general anxiety that’s there all the time anyway, and reaches a crescendo of panic that sets you back to not leaving the house at all, cancelling plans at the last-minute. See? Flaky.¬†

The thing is, what your brain doesn’t tell you, is that the sneaky grey matter living in your skull is making it all up. Including the physical manifestations of anxiety. But, convincing yourself of this is about as easy as juggling 5 fire torches while balancing on a ball that’s sitting on top of a galloping elephant. For example: I have come to a decision about my job. I’m quitting. Got myself a place at a local university studying English and Journalism. I’m waaaaay excited about this. It all happened pretty quickly, and, as I’m far older that the typical fresher (I’m 32), my entry was assessed on an essay that they asked me to write. Which they liked! But. I had a lot to do this week to sort stuff out. I planned to have a busy day Friday. Hand my notice in at work (I’m still signed off sick), go to the job centre to see what help i could get from the department for work and pensions, apply for my student finance, then go into uni to complete my registration. Only my brain and body had other ideas. I woke with stomach cramps and a highly unpleasant trip to the bathroom (TMI, sorry). By Saturday afternoon I was feeling a bit better, better enough to arrange to join in on a countryside walk the following day anyway. Sunday morning: Yep, you guessed it, the thought of being out and about returned my stomach to a state of washing machine style somersaults. Walk: cancelled. Friends: let down. Weekend: scuppered. Me: feeling guilty/ a bit pathetic/ more anxiety.

The point is, I know It’s an illness, and just because i can’t see my anxiety doesn’t make it any less real. Which makes my ‘flakiness’ a symptom, like a runny nose with a cold, or a rash with an allergic reaction. It’s a response to my illness. My brain just doesn’t want me to know that.

This morning, i came across this. It helped. Have a look…

http://www.buzzfeed.com/jennaguillaume/things-only-anxious-people-will-understand#2k7kw23