I published a version of this list some time ago. For the last couple of years, I’ve largely had my anxiety under control. Or rather it hasn’t managed to control me. But this week it came back with a vengeance. Probably something to do with a national paper slagging off the way I bring up my children. Here’s the thing, logically I wasn’t offended or concerned about the Daily Mail’s opinion of me. I am a confident parent. But mental health doesn’t work like that, it doesn’t adhere to logic.
Here’s everything I have learned about anxiety:
Anxiety is a very broad term.
For me, it comes in a few guises:
Spiralling negative thought processes,
A general feeling of being removed and unable to connect.
An overriding feeling of doom deep in the pit of stomach belly.
All of which leads to broken sleep.
Oh and panic attacks.
I have suffered from anxiety for a most of my life. I vividly remember having a panic attack in my early teens. I was sitting on my bedroom flow, doing my homework whilst listening to the charts when the world began to warp.
I was ok in my twenties, which is surprising given how much I partied.
But my lowest point was 7 years ago. Suddenly from nowhere getting on the tube became a challenge. 2 minutes stuck at a signal and I was a quivering mess.
Then trains begun to make me a bit wobbly. Oh and planes obviously… because they are basically trains, suspended thousands of feet up in the air.
Soon I was so obsessed with how I would get to/from somewhere that it dominated the experience of actually being there.
Why? Why was I feel this way? Very good question.
I can’t be certain, these things are often irrational. Though I suspect it was something to do with being stuck and feeling out of control.
Which sounds bonkers.
But I now know, via lots of research (AKA talking about Anxiety to anyone who’ll listen) that feeling anxious or depressed does not make you weird.
It is SO much more common than you think.
And the people that suffer from anxiety are often the people you’d least expect.
They are the ones putting on a great front of appearing confident and having their shit together.
You see anxiety doesn’t make you a scaredy cat.
Just the opposite.
In my case, I’d done tonnes of ‘brave’ stuff. Thrown myself down black runs Given big-presentations. GIVEN BIRTH. These are not things that wimps do.
It also doesn’t mean you are loony. It means you need help.
Don’t fight it. Anxiety can spiral if you start being anxious about the fact that you are anxious (SIDE NOTE: THIS TOTALLY HAPPENED TO ME THIS WEEK, I WAS CONVINCED I WAS HEADED BACK TO THE DARK PLACE I WAS IN THE YEAR AFTER OUR MARRIAGE).
Think how you’d treat it if it were a physical illness rather than a mental one. If you had a grazed knee, doesn’t mean you need your leg amputated. Experiencing a phase of anxiety doesn’t mean you are a loon.
Also a bit of anxiety is OK.
Sometimes it’s excitement: ‘school disco nerves’, before a night out.
Sometimes it’s actual nerves. Don’t take every raised heartbeat as something to freak out about.
Remember when the adrenaline begins to course around the vein it’s your body preparing you to do something epic and bring your A-game. Which is great if, for example, you about a speech or meet a room full of new people.
My go-to self-medications is Rescue Remedy. That stuff is the bomb. Obviously, I swig it straight from the bottle. Fuck the pipet.
Run. Run. Run. Not away from your problems. That’d be terrible advice. But exercise. Running is free (apart from trainers and a reinforced sports bra). A hit of endorphins is a great step towards keeping you sane.
Go to the quack. Don’t be embarrassed. GP will probably already dealt with a mental health issue that day. Plus its better than having to stick their fingers up someone’s bum.
Be kind to yourself. Being a grown-up is a tough gig. It’s why you spend 21 years (nearer 32) practising before you actually become an adult.
Get some kip. Not easy with kids. Go to bed earlier. Get off your phone. Tag-team with your partners in the mornings. Or do as I do and leave any event at 10.30.
Caffeine is vital. But handle with caution. I’ve recently swapped coffee for tea. It’s not as fun or satisfying, but my mind is calmer.
Find the release. Children compromise your ability to blow off steam or build in self-care But these things are not a luxury. A night gossiping with the girls over a bottle of bubbles is SO good for the soul.
CBT is a game changer. It gave me so many strategies to control my thought processes. Actual therapy is great too. It’s less a means of finding a coping strategy, more as means to understand yourself a bit better.
But talking to anyone is good. It doesn’t always come easily to us Brits. But if you can try and let those around you know that you are struggling it will help.
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A beautiful lunch accompanied by horrible sense of dread in the pit of my stomach.
I love a motivational quote too. These are my fave:
“There’s a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.” Yes, Leonard Cohen! Being flawed is not a bad thing. It makes us human and makes us have great empathy for other humans.
“No rain, no flowers.” When you are in the middle of a shitty anxious patch it can feel like things are such a struggle, but instead, see it as a chance try and embrace the good days as a thing of joy. Much like the feeling on the first day of spring.
“Everything is going to be ok.” The wisest of words from @theyesmummum. She’s right you know. It really will.
You WILL get back to being you. You won’t even realise when it happens. But one day you’ll find yourself worrying about the ‘why the hell there are socks everywhere apart from the sock draw’. Rather than worrying about worrying.
You won’t be cured. That’s not a thing. But you’ll know that you’ve made peace with the fact that anxiety is part of your life, but that doesn’t mean it needs to define you or even limit you. And what hasn’t sent you potty has made you stronger than you thought possible.