Grab a drink, this post is about to get real. I have a G&T in hand to help me get through. I lied, I’m having one because its delicious and why the hell not?! I can’t believe I am only just getting into these, they are ahh…mazing. Does this now mean that I am old? Should I look into retirement homes and get my collection of sandshoes cracking? Anyways… moving onto why we are here. I’m going to share with you guys the evolution of my anxiety. Brace yourselves, it’s not pretty, but it’s real, raw and honest, just the way we like it.
I never thought for one second that I would suffer from anxiety. I pictured a very different life for myself than what I am currently living. I pictured having a career and being successful in that career, making all of the money and being at the beginning phase of starting a family. Reality is very different, I am not working in my chosen field gaining more experience and knowledge and I am nowhere near starting a family. I am taking one day at a time and dealing with this asshole called anxiety.
I have read and been told from my naturopath and other health professionals that anxiety can stem from a traumatic experience (for me I think I can trace it back to when I was younger and my parents divorced). It often lingers around in the background and you don’t notice it as you are just pushing forward to get on with it. Then something happens both externally and internally and your body just can’t take it anymore. Cue lower immune system functioning, adrenal fatigue, unhappy tummies, depression, unhappy minds and so much more.
The first time that I really recognised that I was experiencing anxiety was about 4 or 5 years ago when I was running on the treadmill in my PT session. My throat started to close over, I was finding it very hard to breathe, tears were brewing (crying is my default reaction) and my brain was telling me that I can’t run, I’m not fit, I cant do this, just stop and give up. I knew that my body could run as long as I pushed it but my brain was being a jerk and telling my body that it could not and an ugly panic attack showed its face. A panic attack for me starts with me not being able to breathe, I feel very uncomfortable in my body, I am restless and I start crying and need to leave wherever I am..like right that second.
My next major anxiety attack was just after our move interstate, about a year and a half ago. I was travelling 45 mins into my new job (which I thought would be fantastic and I would finally be getting the experience needed to further my career – yay to being a grown up). But the stress of the move and travelling to a new job in an unfamiliar place really got the better of me and about 2 days in I was an anxious mess.
Every day after finishing work I would call my mum and cryscream (this is a word now) at her about how unhappy I was and how I needed her to fix it. I would hang up feeling distraught and helpless and terrible for yelling at her. Somehow, I would manage to drive the 45 mins home with tears streaming down my face, choking to get air in. I probably should not have been driving in that state but I felt that I had no choice. No choice but to carry on and drive home and hope that each new day would put me one step closer to enjoying the job and being comfortable in the decisions I made. I lasted 1 week and 2 days before they ‘let me go’ *cough* fired me. I was elated; a weight was lifted off my shoulders.
I landed a new job in Admin and all seemed okay. Then one day out of the blue I had a full blown anxiety attack, I was restless, short of breath, felt like I was choking, my heart was racing. My fight or flight response hit hard and I was outta there. I spent the next week at home. I could not bring myself to leave the house let alone go to work. I felt useless, confused, broken, disappointed, miserable, helpless. I just couldn’t do anything.
I reluctantly went on antidepressants. I was desperate to feel better and to stop the shitty thoughts and constant state of panic. The antidepressants seemed to work to level out my moods but I was still a shell of the person I used to be. I didn’t enjoy going out and being social. I was scared of having a panic attack in front of people. I was just generally scared of being around people. The only place I felt safe was at home or when George was with me and even then I was on edge.
A few (too many) months passed and we decided that for our happiness and for our relationship we needed to move back home. Yay!! Why didn’t we think of this earlier? Hindsight is a wonderful thing isn’t it? It was one of the best decisions we have ever made. It was stressful packing up our life again, both of us feeling a little defeated that life had got the better of us. I found it hard to adjust back to work and adult-ing (also a word now). I was in constant fear of having a panic attack at work.
Fast track a few months and here I am now dealing with the aftermath of the last 2 years of hell. Trying to figure out what is real and what is made up shit in my head. I constantly battle with my own head to put thoughts aside that I know are irrational. Dealing with anxiety is by far one of the hardest and shittiest things I have ever had to deal with. It may never go away but I am determined to do everything that I can to understand it better and lessen the impact that it has on me.
One of the main reasons that I want to share my experience is that I know just how terrible it is to feel hopeless and not understand what anxiety is doing to you. It hurts my heart that anyone else would have to feel this way. If this is you, then I want you to know that I believe everything you are feeling is real. I know it’s shit. You are not alone. You are strong and brave. Be patient. Only you know what it is that will help you, listen to your body, learn as much as you can about anxiety and what works for you and trust that it will be okay.