“Don’t give in to your fears. If you do, you won’t be able to talk to your heart.”― Paulo Coelho
So this post was initially meant to be my about me page. One of those fab posts where I tell you guys all about my personal life, the things I love and that I am passionate about such as fashion, vintage, teacups and Disney, but, what could be more personal than my fight with an anxiety disorder?
For those that know me well personally would think that I do not fit into the girl with anxiety disorder/depression stereotype. Do you know what? Either do I. As I typed the first draft of this post the tears were streaming down my face, heart beating on my chest, wondering how did I get here. I have stuff in my life I could only have dreamt of when I was younger, I have an amazing little family which I love dearly, a Husband which I couldn’t love more and a great circle of friends. I had a job that most women would dream of and regularly take trips to the happiest place on earth, Disney. The truth is I try to place myself in situations that are happy, fun and a break from normality and the even bigger truth is I have been hiding this for so long that I didn’t even know I had this illness.
Anxiety and Me
“If flowers can teach themselves how to bloom after winter passes, so can you.”― Noor Shirazie
Back in 2015, I had to go for a routine health check-up for my pill prescription and to be honest I was so glad I had an excuse to go to the doctors because I probably wouldn’t have gone with the symptoms of anxiety or depression alone. As I sat there in my Drs office with tears rolling down my face as she nodded her head in agreement with me that yes I did, in fact, have a mental health disorder. Sitting there talking about what I had perceived as normal for so long, what I presumed everyone went through and being told no, this is a little something more, was a bitter pill to swallow. I felt very exposed and embarrassed and reluctantly took a prescription for medication.
The right level of anxiety is good for us, it keeps us safe and can even push us to succeed. Too much of it and it can take over our lives. Anxiety by itself is not a disease or illness, however, it can turn into a disorder when a person becomes physically, psychologically, emotionally unwell because of it. When this occurs, normal anxiety becomes an anxiety disorder: a medical condition that involves a disturbance to the normal functioning of your mind or body. Having an anxiety disorder or having depression is like having any other illness, which is ultimately the enemy attacking your body.
For those who are lucky enough to not know what an anxiety disorder feels like, it’s not simply butterflies in your tummy. Let me fill you in on my symptoms – I have irrational and negative thinking about almost everything, my heart often races to the point like it feels like it will come out of my chest and I can hear it beating in my ears, I get nauseous and have an upset tummy most of the time. Dizziness is part of my day and my hands get sweaty and my head feels like it could explode when I’m worried. I have unpredictable, unexplainable and unprovoked irritability, I’m tired all the time and yet can’t sleep. I’ve had panic attacks, my memory and concentration have been affected, I’m hyper-aware of everything around me and I’m overly sensitive to noise and crowds. I have so many thoughts and opinions, yet often stutter over my words, talk too fast or stay silent even though I probably have rehearsed the words a thousand times in my head so they don’t sound stupid out loud. It steals joy and contentment even on the brightest, happiest of days – and some days the struggle to get out of bed is overwhelming both physically and mentally.
Sometimes I feel like my heart is not strong enough for this world, even the littlest bit of criticism, sadness and stress can really get to me and I can think about it for days on end. And it’s not because I think I don’t deserve the criticism, it’s because my mind will eventually twist the situation to will tell me that I actually do. I get that life isn’t always a beautiful journey like a pretty Pinterest quote makes it out to be, I really do. In fact, it’s the complete opposite, sometimes I will take the harder option, longer route. I’m not the type to wing it, I will think about a task for weeks, days or hours on end – eventually making me so terrified to actually take control of the situation. I loved my last job so much, yet I put such immense pressure on myself than many of my co-workers as I constantly feared failure.
I recently slid into an even darker place where I lost all the confidence I once had. I used to be brimming with confidence and full of courage to do things in my early teens, from taking part in drama (where I spent 12 years learning how to be more confident!), dance shows and competitions to running for a Miss Teen Queen title to name but a few. There are so many things I want to turn my hand to, being amazingly successful at my job, creating an amazing blog, designing and crafting to utilize my talents. More simply, I want to be a good daughter, wife, aunt, friend and someday, mother. Some days I feel like all of these things are so far away from my grasp.
Tomorrow’s Happiness is Today’s Bravery
“The only cure for grief is action“― George Henry Lewes
I stopped taking medication about a year ago as I was feeling great (anyone who has similar a mental health disorder and is on medication knows this is strongly discouraged), I had just gotten married, had some wonderful trips and Christmas was coming. Life was good and I felt on top of my mental health. I had also been through a crappy year health wise and every time I had to sit in a new Drs office or hospital and list my anxiety medications (which are essentially anti-depressants) I felt weak. I hated the pity looks or the loud sigh or the string of uncomfortable comments I will always remember I got from one unpleasant Dr (just the one mind you).
I rather naively decided I could fight this battle by myself without medication and support but I was so wrong. I felt as though ultimately it was in my control, and if I reallyyy wanted I could get ahold of my emotions and push past what I was feeling. SO SO WRONG. Fast forward a few months and I started struggling again. Really struggling. I’ll not go into details because this post is already too long but let’s just say I wasn’t the happy, determined gal I was before. It was interfering with my everyday life and I was unhappy. The fact that my anxiety was interfering with my work, my physical health and, most importantly, my relationships, was a big deal.
Just before Christmas last (December 2017), I made the decision to go back on my prescription medication. I NEEDED to feel like me again. However, this time around I have a much more positive mindset about treating my disorder. This all came about after I met a new Dr. who really put it all into perspective for me. She said if you suffer from mental health problems it isn’t unlike having diabetes. If you have diabetes, you have to take medication, be careful what you put into your body such as diet, medication, alcohol etc. and really look after yourself. Also, just like having Diabetes, having a mental health disorder can be a lifelong thing. The good news is, it is controllable. It won’t magically go away in a few months time after a few tablets, but it will get better and give you a better quality of life if you learn to accept it, manage it and look after it.
I now manage my anxiety with medication (it does help) and more recently, a little bit of self-care. This year, I’m also hoping to attend regular GP visits, counselling and CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) to see if they can help further by trying to understand the root cause of the anxiety. I’m not going to let this disorder stop me from living the life I have dreamed of.
I’m not here telling you this to make you feel sorry for me, in fact, I that’s exactly the opposite of what I want you to do. I just want people to know who are feeling these same feelings I do, that there is help for you and like the social media campaign says – it’s okay to not feel okay.In our Instagram/Pinterest perfect world (don’t get me started), mental health disorders do exist, and it’s okay to feel like this, it’s also most definitely okay to ask for help,
It’s Good To Talk
“You can’t heal what you don’t reveal”― Jay Z
The stigma around mental health is wrong and unfair. My aim with today’s post is to try kick this stigma to the kerb. While it is starting to become more talked about, it’s not talked about enough. It is only by sharing stories, like mine, not just behind closed doors that our mental health services and knowledge on mental health disorders will improve and in turn encourage more people to get help and live their life to the fullest. It’s also important to remember, that we are all different. It’s much healthier to accept that you’re unique than to wish you were more like someone else.
If you are feeling more stressed than normal, having trouble sleeping or generally just not feeling yourself, I urge you to go to your Doctor for a chat or even discuss it over a cuppa with someone you feel closest to first. It can be very difficult but once you do, help will make things easier. Honestly, I felt so scared to find out I had an anxiety disorder that I bottled it away from everyone I loved until that day when I went to the Doctor. I know it’s something I’ll probably struggle with for a while, but taking those small initial steps has changed my life and outlook. Now, I want to try and help those in a similar situation even if it’s just to take the first step to talk about it.
Remember, you are not alone (there are 7.6 billion incredible humans on this planet!), and you most certainly don’t have to suffer this alone. Along with your Dr or GP (remember they see patients with similar disorders EVERY DAY), there are also some amazing charities to help you take charge of your mental health here in Ireland:
- Mental Health Ireland www.mentalhealthireland.ie
- Aware www.aware.ie
- Social Anxiety Irelandsocialanxietyireland.com
Furthermore, Samaritans are always there to chat about whatever’s getting to you too via phone at 116 123.
If you do just one New Years resolution this year, make a promise to yourself that you will look after your mental health, you won’t regret it. You, you beautiful being, deserve to be happy.