Thursday, 9 October 2014

Living with Anxiety.

(photo credit)

If you've noticed, I've subtly mentioned once or twice on this blog that I have anxiety. It's not easy to talk about, but since starting this blog it's something I feel like I need to talk about. If anything to help give you a better understanding of what anxiety disorder is and what happens when you have a panic attack. Whether you have it as well, or if you know someone who does, to give you a better understanding of what they're going through.

My History with Anxiety and Panic Attacks.

I've always felt very nervous and uncomfortable in group settings ever since my pre-teen days. It's something I always use to chalk up to being shy. While I very well may be shy, I also feel like this is where it all began. It's something that to this day, I haven't been able to overcome. It's known as Social Anxiety.
Social Anxiety is the fear of interaction with other people that brings on self-consciousness, feelings of being negatively judged and evaluated, and as a result, leads to avoidance.  
To get a good understanding of Social Anxiety, check out this post here.

I've been suffering with that for as long as I can remember, and it's only gotten worse the older I get. So much so that I suffer with panic attacks. My first panic attack happened when I was 14, and it's something you never forget. You can feel like you're dying! Especially when you have no clue what's happening to you.
I was in 8th grade, and I had said something I shouldn't have about my best friend at the time, and it resulted in all of friends hating me and being really mean to me. One particular lunch period and I remember people talking bad about me, acting as if I wasn't in the room, but they knew I could hear everything! Then someone put bits of I think paper in my hair, and I could hear everyone laughing at me. I just remember suddenly feeling like I couldn't breathe and I felt really dizzy. So of course I ran out of the room, which didn't help the situation, and I ran to the office. I remember hiding in the office supply closet. I had worked office aid once before, and luckily the girls who were doing at the time were really nice and didn't say anything that I know of because I did hear the people taunting me outside of the closet. I sat down on the floor, shaking uncontrollably and feeling like someone was sitting on my chest. It lasted about 10 minutes! I wasn't sure what happened, and because it didn't reoccur, I made the mistake of never telling anyone about what I went through because I was too afraid to tell my parents that I was being bullied in school. Mainly because at the time I felt like it was my fault for saying something I shouldn't have about my friend.

Since then I didn't have anymore of, what I at the time called, "incidents", until the 11th grade of highschool and from then on, it was so sporadic that I still kept it all to myself and stupidly didn't educate myself. Something I wish I had done! I advise anyone that if you feel like you have anxiety, please educate yourself on it and talk to your parents or a doctor about it. The sooner you know what you're dealing with, the sooner you can get a handle on how to help yourself in the event of a panic attack.

My stepmom, Julie, started to suffer from panic attacks a few years back, and it was the first time that I heard about that. The more I heard about what she went through, the more familiar everything sounded to me. But because it was something that I thought I already overcame, I again never said anything! Until a little over 3 years ago now, that it started up again! This time it was stress from work that triggered it, and it's only gotten progressively worse over the course of 3 years. Stress is a huge factor in anxiety. This time I finally said something, and slowly over time I became more and more open about it. The more I learned about anxiety disorders and panic attacks, and the more I realized it's something that is common for a lot of people, the more comfortable I felt. Because I didn't feel alone anymore in this!

As of right now, my biggest triggers are my workplace and driving! But as I write this, I'm days away from getting on a plane that is terrifying me! It's not the first time, I've been on a plane before. I don't remember the experience though, and I think because my anxiety is the worse it's ever been, it's making me that much more anxious. To the point where I needed to take my last few days off from work because I'm so anxious about flying, and then going to one of the places where I get triggered often, just made me feel worse. I set up a doctor's appointment, and I'm currently on medication for my anxiety. I'm uncertain about it, but I'm giving it a try to see if it helps. So we'll see!

What is a panic attack?

Without warning, you suddenly feel an intense amount of dread and fear. Your body goes through high adrenaline which cause your heart to beat faster than it should. Because your heart is beating so fast, you feel like you can't catch your breath. You feel a huge amount of pressure on your chest because of it, like as if someone was sitting on your chest. You feel dizzy, and shaky. You can feel very smothered and claustrophobic.  Sometimes you can feel nauseous while it's happening. It's because all of your senses are on overdrive. Afterwards, you feel so drained and exhausted because your body's not meant to handle that much all at once. It just takes so much out of you!

How can you help someone who suffers from anxiety and panic attacks?
Reassurance! For me personally, I feel like I'm burdening people when I'm feeling anxious or having a panic attack. Mainly since it happens at work, I feel like I'm making people's day harder because I need to step away for a little while or even have to leave work. I feel ten times worse because of how guilty I feel about making someone else's day worse due to me having to leave. Reassurance can go a long way! Saying things like "It's okay!".."Take your time!".."Do what you need to do!" would be music to my ears. Because it reassures me that you understand that I can't help what's happening to me, and that I need to take this time to myself to calm myself down, however long that takes.

MAJOR DON'T! Don't tell someone the following "Calm down, you'll be fine!".."It's (whatever I'm panicking about) not a big deal, just breathe"..or the worst, "Don't let it bother you so much! It's all in your mind!" All I hear when someone says things like that to me is "Get over it already!". Don't try to advise them on what they need to do. Just be there for them. Show your support that you understand that they can't help what's happening to them, and they can't control when it happens.

"It's okay! Take your time!" Trust me when I say, those words go a long way!

Take it from someone else's perspective.

Someone who helped me get a further understanding on anxiety and panic attacks is YouTuber Zoe Sugg, aka Zoella. I started watching her videos about a little over a year ago. So at the time I already had a pretty good understanding of my anxiety, but just hearing another person's perspective can help to learn more of what you may already know or more about what you may not have heard of yet.

She wrote a blog post all about panic attacks and anxiety, which I will link here for you. It's a really good post. One that I read through from time to time, to reassure me that I'm not alone in this.

But I'll also leave you with the two videos she's made on Anxiety, which is worth watching as she probably explains it all alot better than I ever could. Either watch them for yourself or for someone in your life that suffers with Anxiety if you want a better understanding than what I have wrote in this post.



I hope this helps give you an understanding about what I go through, what people with anxiety and panic attacks can go through. It's a horrible feeling! It's something that unfortunately stays with you for quite some time. Something I am trying very hard to overcome, but it's never easy to overcome something like this. 

Michelle

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