Everyone becomes anxious or worried, it’s a natural response to a situation where we are under threat. You have probably read about fight or flight etc. so I won’t go into that here. The reason it becomes a problem is when our minds and bodies go into this state doing day to day activities when there is no real threat at all. It can be very inhibiting and stop us from living the full life we want to.
Everyone one who sufferers from anxiety has a slightly different experience. Some people suffer insomnia, lying awake for hours on end with a million thought going round in their heads. Some experience heart palpitation, shortness of breath, chest pains, derealisation or depersonalisation (which is a feeling of being outside your own body), stomach problems, blured vision, feeling dizzy or faint, red or blotchy skin, headaches and I’m sure many others that you could share. The point here is that many people believe that anxiety is something we only experience in the mind, this is simply not true. It affects every fiber of our being and often the physical symptoms can be even more distressing than the psychological ones. Of course, the psychological symptoms are real too, the fear, worry, dread, panic, feeling inadequate, embarrassment, helplessness etc. I’m sure you could all add to this list too. These symptoms vary from person to person too.
For me, anxiety hits my stomach first. I get cramps and an urgent need to head for the toilet. It can the progress into feelin dizzy and faint, panicy, blured vision and depersonalisation. I have an overwhelming urge to escape and get away from whatever situation I’m in. However, I’m so self contious and have such low self esteem that I dare not do anything that will draw any attention to myself, like getting up and leaving a room. So, i internalise absolutely everything. There’s no wonder that I just sit quiet in a corner in social occasions.
I will take you though an example situation that happened to me exactly a year ago from now.
My daughter plays in a brass band and they had the opportunity to play with them in public. There performance was on a bandstand in the middle of a lake in a park, at a popular tourist town by the sea. This involved a 20 minute bus ride, a 3 hour train journey and then a taxi ride to get there. I felt pretty ropey during the initial bus ride, with stomach ache and mild dizziness, but I held it together, hoping that it would improve. This stayed the same until the train arrived. We boarded the train, as we found a seat, I could feel those awful sensations building (I can literally feel it now as I type) my symptoms intensified, I felt like I wasn’t in my own body, I started shaking and fidgeting, I started panicking badly. I then broke and headed for the train door (the train was still idling in the station). I grabbed my daughter and her instrument, I desperately wanted to get off that train but the doors had just closed. I hit the button anyway, the door opened about an inch and stopped, the signalman blew his whistle, the door closed again and we began to move out of the station. My daught was trying to reassure me, we stayed in the vestibule for a few minutes before going to sit down. I gradually calmed to a milder state of anxiety but felt utterly drained from the experience. We traveled 2 or 3 stations into the journey and I kept telling myself, its OK, you can get off at the next stop if you need to, you can get a train back home if you need to. After the 3rd station we got off. We could have caught our connecting train there to continue or we could catch the train home. I couldn’t do it, we caught the train home. My daughter was very understanding, but I still felt immense guilt that I’d taken such a wonderful opportunity away from her, I still have guilt about this situation even now. This is the kind if situation that is driving me to conquer my anxiety and help other do do it too.
If you would like to share your story I will feature it in a future blog post. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and you can be credited with your story or I can post it anonymously, its entirely up to you. I just think its important that we share experiences so that others can relate to them and not feel alone or feel ashamed to talk about mental health any more.
Thank you for reading.