#chatMH | What Anxiety Feels Like To Me

June 26, 2014

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Lyrics from "Unwell" by Matchbox 20

I've spoken about anxiety a couple of times here but I'm not sure that I have ever really explained exactly how it feels or what goes on in my head when I'm having an attack. It's something I have been experiencing a lot lately and so I thought that maybe I could share it. 

So when were you diagnosed?

I feel as though I should probably tell you that I've never been formally diagnosed. This is most likely because the idea of going to a doctor and getting an actual diagnosis makes me feel very anxious and I just can't go. I mean what if they think I'm just melodramatic and there is actually nothing wrong with me? The prospect is just absolutely terrifying. Moreover, talking to someone I barely know is a huge trigger for my anxiety so it's sort of a no-go situation.

For a really long time (I'm talking for over a decade) I thought I was just a little odd. I didn't identify what was going on inside my head as a sort of illness. I've always been pretty shy and reserved. I like to observe conversations and contribute as and when I have something of substance to say. I'm not particularly adventurous and so new places and situations hold no real allure for me. From a young age I have been anxious and nervous, worrying about the silliest, most insignificant things. 

Doesn't everyone get anxious sometimes? It's completely normal, right?

Absolutely. Everyone does get nervous and anxious at some point in their lives. It is natural to feel nervous and stressed about big deadlines, exams, job interviews and the like. What isn't as normal is feeling like you are going to be sick and having difficulty breathing over menial tasks such as going to the shops or visiting friends and family. I don't deny that everyone feels a certain amount of nervousness but when it starts to affect your everyday life and simple tasks become next to impossible, it's time to accept that maybe there is a problem there.

Okay, so there's more to it than just being nervous but how does it actually feel?

I think that anxiety is probably fairly individual and I know for certain that it can be hard to articulate just how I feel when I'm panicking. Most often, I get a huge wave of nausea, my heart races and I have an overwhelming urge to cry. The latter can be particularly embarrassing when it happens in public. Thoughts will races through my head and I feel incredibly overwhelmed. It becomes very difficult to see a solution to whatever is troubling me and occasionally I end up feeling dizzy and light headed. Sometimes I will have sort of hot flashes where my skin gets hot and tingles all over my body. Often after an attack I also feel emotionally and physically drained.

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What triggers anxiety and panic attacks for you? Can't you always just avoid them?  

Stress is a major contributor to my anxiety issues. I stress about everything possible although the bigger the stress, such as my upcoming wedding, the more likely I am to panic. I stress about finances, house-related chores, the wedding. I worry that people won't enjoy themselves at our wedding. I worry that I'll look/say/do something stupid. I worry that when I go to meet someone they won't be there or I'll have gone to the wrong place. I am a constant worrier.

Unknown situations or meeting people for the first time can break me out in a sweat. Someone asking me questions that I either don't know how to answer or don't want to makes me very uncomfortable. I am a real people pleaser and the idea of disappointing someone or not living up to someone's expectations of me is a real trigger.

Due to worrying about really small, insignificant things it makes it hard to just avoid my triggers outright. After all, no one can avoid stress their entire lives, can they?

So if you can't just prevent them how are you dealing with attacks at the moment?

As I said above I haven't been officially diagnosed and, hence, I am on no prescribed medication and I don't go to any sort of therapy. However, I have been trying some herbal remedies and a cheerfulness balm that were so kindly gifted to me by some lovely girls. I don't know how much of a placebo effect they have but sometimes they'll help and sometimes they won't. I guess it has a lot to do with just how stressed out and anxious I actually am. 

On occasion, I find it best to remove myself from the situation and get outside. The combination of fresh air, space and some deep breaths can often get me back to some sort of normality. Sometimes I'll even avoid situations that I know will trigger an attack but I'm trying to do that less as I know that to a degree facing my fears head on will be better in the long run.
Despite what some people say, for me, reassurance from friends or family makes me feel worse. By telling me that "it's okay" or that "there's nothing to worry about" I feel even more ridiculous. Nine times out of ten I am completely aware that I am overreacting. By saying these "reassuring" things I feel like a giant lump of stupid and with an overwhelming desire not to disappoint others, this makes everything worse.

I'm thinking of trying some yoga or meditation to clear my head a couple of times a week. I'm not sure just how much it will help but I feel like I might as well just give it a shot, particularly when my stress levels are as high as they have been of late.

The thing that has definitely helped me most though is talking about it. I feel like the more people know about it the less people are going to make a deal about how I react to certain situations. Being more open and honest with my nearest and dearest as well as others out there has been a major help in the past year.



Every Thursday at 9pm on twitter there is a mental health chat that allows people suffering with all sorts of issues, not just anxiety, to get together and unload their thought with others who can understand. There's a wonderful little group growing there but it could always do with more voices. You can join in by  following @MHSupportChat and  using #chatMH  tonight!


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6 comments :

  1. Well done you for sharing and pressing that publish button. Mine post is all written up but I haven't found the nerve to publish it yet. For me, well at least this month with house buying mayhem, stress and anxiety are one and the same. I've gone from being an insomniac some nights to sleeping a good 10 hours. I hate how much it takes over my life.

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    1. I know, that's the main problem with it: just how much it takes over your life. For me, I think that it has stopped me from doing a lot or experiencing a new situations and the like which is kind of sad. I hope that all the house stress gets easier soon.
      Debi x

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  2. Good for you for sharing, sometimes it's nice to get it all out. I like how this is written, very proactive and it's a good mindset to have when writing about it all.

    Seriously, you're awesome and I'm so glad to have come across the little space of yours on the interwebs :)

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    1. Thank you so much for saying that.I'm glad to have happened upon you too! I don't think I'm so great IRL but, hey, I've learnt to accept that this anxiety is all just a part of me and that's not going to change any time soon. I definitely have found that writing about it (or particularly stressful times) helps me to feel better about it all.
      Debi x

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  3. Hi lovely, I think you are really brave writing about this and being so open and honest about it. I share on my blog my battles with illness and I know how daunting it can feel putting yourself out there, but it's great you are talking about it, and maybe even helping people out there who feel the same and who are struggling with mental health issues themselves.
    Thank you for sharing, sending lots of love your way!

    Xxx Hayley-Eszti
    www.hayleyeszti.blogspot.com

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    1. Thank you very much. I think being open about it is the best way forward for me as a lot of people don't always understand. Who can expect them to though if I'm not honest about it? It would be fantastic to know that I might have helped someone who feels the same and doesn't know what is wrong, much like I did until last year.
      Debi x

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