I decided to write this blog for two main reasons: 1.) I know how much I’ve been comforted and encouraged whenever I’ve read about someone else’s anxiety and so if this blog can help even one person in the same way, then it will have been worth it; 2.) I’ve been sharing articles about #TimeToTalk and other campaigns, I’ve been advocating that mental health is an issue that needs talking about – and yet I’m not talking. I care hugely about mental health, and have so much to say about it – so why am I not joining the many brave people out there who are sharing their own experiences for the benefit of others?
This blog is not the first or last of its kind, and rightly so. It’s written for the sole purpose of sharing my experiences of debilitating anxiety, and some effective everyday solutions I have found to be hugely helpful, just in case anyone out there will take comfort and encouragement from it.
I think I’ve put it off for long enough now, so here goes…
For the first 21 years of my life, I never suffered from anxiety. I always considered myself a very grounded, stable person – obviously, I had moments of anger, fear, jealousy, worry, self-doubt and many more – but I never, at any point, thought of my mental health as being anything other than perfectly OK. I made it through GCSEs, A-Levels, university exams and the “university to London” transition with no problems whatsoever (no serious problems, anyway).
Then, about 18 months ago, everything changed. I now have severe anxiety that goes through phases of being manageable and phases of being completely debilitating. I have no idea what brought about this sudden change (although I have several theories which I won’t list here, firstly because they may or may not be true and secondly because I don’t want this blog to turn into some kind of Izzie Price autobiography). Either way: I didn’t have anxiety before, and now I do. It’s something I never thought I’d have to live with and now I have to manage it on a daily basis – and it’s hard.
To anyone reading this who feels like they’re alone or that no one else since the dawn of time has ever experienced these feelings and that if you try to talk about it no one will be able to understand – I get it. I know how it feels when you think your head will explode from all the terrifying thoughts racing through it. I know how it feels to worry that the feeling will never go away or that it will only get worse. I know how it feels to be shaking uncontrollably all over and to sit there wondering what the hell is happening to your body. I know how it feels to experience thousands more terrifying feelings, to panic about what’s going on in your mind and body and worry that no one on earth could possibly understand.
I’m just going to share one example of my experiences in this first post, just in case it can give even the smallest insight. Picture this scenario: I feel like my head is going to implode from all the thoughts racing around it, I feel completely trapped in my head and in my body to the point when I suddenly panic that either I or the world around me (I can’t decide which) doesn’t exist, that one or both is completely artificial, and even though I can keep talking and functioning and behaving like a normal human while all this is going on, inside I’ve got all these fears racing around and I feel like I can’t articulate it to anyone and I worry that it will never go away and that I’m on a fast train to losing my identity and being completely and utterly out of control.
If the above sounds ridiculously complicated – good. That’s a tiny snapshot of a minuscule example of what it’s like to be in my head during one of the really bad bouts of anxiety.
I haven’t shared that example to simply get all my worries down on paper or to dramatise my experiences – I’m well aware that, in the grand scheme of things, many people go through far worse. To be completely honest, I really don’t want to tell people about the above. I’m still embarrassed and ashamed and terrified that people will treat me differently after having read this. I actually hate talking about it for those reasons (so please don’t feel bad if you’re reading this as a close friend, and thinking I’ve never said any of this to you – I’ve never said it to ANYONE).
The point of sharing this one example is to reassure anyone who might have felt something similar and who might feel even slightly boosted upon finding out that someone else has experienced it, just like I have in the past. At the end of the day, there’s strength in numbers and it can be unbelievably comforting to know that you’re not alone.
This first post was meant to be an introduction, but it’s become more of a stream of consciousness. I have a lot more to say, and if I write any more posts they’ll most likely be written on different themes, e.g. useful everyday tips (Headspace app, yoga, diet, etc.), different forms of anxiety, the pros and cons of social media (can’t avoid talking about that one) and many more.
I am really not a writer and this is something I’m actually incredibly nervous about doing please let me know what you think! Not being a writer, I’m not sure how to conclude so will close with a quote from the brilliant Ruby Wax (whose book I just finished and can’t recommend enough):
“What you are is much bigger than your thoughts. In fact, thoughts make up only about 1 per cent of what’s going on in your brain…You are so much bigger than your narrative.” – Ruby Wax, How To Be Human: A Manual
“You are so much bigger than your narrative” – Ruby Wax