This week is the annual Mental Health Awareness Week here in the UK. It gives the opportunity for the mental health community and the public at large to discuss a topic related to mental health and for people to come together openly without the stigma associated with mental health; at least this is the hope.
This year the topic of the week is Anxiety, like most people I know much more about anxiety than I would ever like to, and am only cope on a day to day basis because of medication.
So, what makes me anxious?
Well, on a good day…meaning a day where my depression isn’t in the driving seat; or where I’m not bouncing off of the walls because I’m in a manic state then the types of things which cause me to get anxious will be:
- Going to a meeting, even with people I know on a social basis
- Travelling on public transport especially if I am alone
- Eating in public
- Crowded places such as pubs, restaurants, even the cinema…
- Being alone in public, anywhere
On a bad day, so when my mental health state isn’t optimal, as it is currently then my anxiety levels are high and pretty much anything can cause me anxiety from having to get out of bed, to having to leave the house, answer the telephone. Even thinking about something which could cause anxiety can bring on anxiety in my current state.
I try explaining this to people, but many don’t understand. To many anxiety is not a daily occurrence. It is something which happens in extreme circumstances, under extreme stress. But, for some of us, it is a daily struggle to reduce how much anxiety we face.
When I am feeling anxious I feel my heart beat heavily in my chest and I feel like I can’t breath. Sometimes, this goes so far that I actually move into a panic attack where my breathing gets raspy and short and I struggle to catch my breath, as an asthmatic this can be dangerous as I already suffer with breathing issues and I worry I’m having an asthma attack causing yet more anxiety.
I also get sweaty, itchy, and dizzy. When the anxiety is bad and prolonged it affects my sleep as I overthink at night and get extremely anxious when I should be sleeping causing insomnia and once I’ve fallen asleep, nightmares.
I have been through some very useful CBT for dealing with worry and anxiety. I did this last year and honestly wish I had done it years ago as it made handling anxiety much easier. I’m a great advocate of CBT and when I am well and in more control of my life than I am now do well at implementing the CBT I have learned to control anxiety as well as to help in other aspects of my illness.
I do my best not to let my anxiety stop me doing things I want to do. I could very easily become agoraphobic in my current state, but I force myself to leave the house for my medical appointments and on days where I feel physically well enough I will go for a short walk.
When I am physically well I will force myself to do other things which cause me anxiety such as going to gigs. I love music but the crowded venues cause me anxiety so I have to make a compromise with myself. I don’t think I would ever forgive myself if I gave up going to gigs, and I never regret going once I’ve got over my own issues, so I just have to fight on.
Suffering with mental health issues makes life a true battle every single day. not only do many people not realise this but they don’t understand how sick something like anxiety can make you either. Anxiety is just one of my symptoms but even on it’s own it would be an awful thing to deal with and I would never wish any mental health problems on anybody.