Posted by Lipglossiping On October - 23 - 2012

I’m going to write about something that’s a bit out of character for me.  I’m not really sure why I feel a compulsion to do it, it’s not that it’s hard for me to talk about… it’s just that I don’t usually like to piss on your cereal with anything too heavy nowadays.  I also don’t like to be judged unless I know that I’ve explained myself accurately, beautifully, and usually to the point of exhaustion – something that I’m not entirely brilliant at doing.

For the last few weeks I’ve been thinking more and more frequently about an episode I endured over a two-year period between 2007 – 2009, perhaps it’s because a few of my blogging peers and friends have opened up to share their experiences with the tougher times in their lives and the frequent rounds of depression they’ve battled but whatever the reason, I’d like to begin by apologising to anyone who recognises a bandwagon jump when they see it – I’ve surely been inspired to write this, it’s definitely not something I’d actually sit down and compose out of choice but I can’t shake off the compulsion and if I’m completely honest, I’m afraid that if I don’t use this as an exercise in ridding myself of my demons, they may come back to bite me in the ass.  Longest sentence ever.

I was 25, had been married for 2 years and was content with how life was panning out.  Aside from my PCOS (and the related-issues this brings), I had nothing wrong with my health either physically or mentally and yet, I started to feel uneasy.  You know how some days, you wake up and can’t shake off the feeling that something isn’t quite right?  That became my every day, the worst kind of groundhog day.  I rarely had the kind of panic attack that needed a paper-bag to alleviate the pain and only once did I manage to work myself into such a frenzy of fear that I temporarily lost the feeling in my arms, which hilariously (with hindsight), made me freak out even more.

I had the sort of anxiety that left me feeling in partial control, failing at not being able to shake off the dread, nor pull myself together.  My first thought upon waking was to immediately assess my levels of fear/dread – I’d run through a series of checks: steady heartrate? (check), palpitations? (check), breathing? (check), shaking hands? (check).  Of course, when you’re so damn focused on taking your pulse and analysing any little chest flutters, it’s quite easy to convince yourself that you’ve got an undiagnosed heart condition.  I’d spend evenings lying across Paul’s lap, sobbing that I just wanted to go to hospital so that they could run a shit load of tests – truth be told, they could never have run enough tests to convince me that I wasn’t dying.  I didn’t go to hospital, I was too afraid of making a fuss and being branded a hypochondriac (which to be honest, I was) – but I did go to my GP who prescribed me beta-blockers.  Worst things ever.  My heart rate simply ran at odds with the speed at which my mind was travelling and that in itself left me feeling constantly nauseous and even less in control than before.

I read up on anxiety, Google was my friend but all I found were people on forums who felt as hopeless as I did – taking blind steps toward a normality that seemed like a distant memory.  I’ll say for certain that I never found myself out of options, but exploring them exhausted me and I don’t mind admitting that sleep was my greatest comfort – you don’t feel frightened when you’re sleeping.  Or anything at all.

My worst moment came at my Nan’s funeral in 2007, she’d lived with us and had endured Alzheimers for over 10 years, a stronger lady you never did meet.  When I sat outside the crematorium, certain that the symptoms of panic literally wouldn’t let me go inside to say goodbye properly – well, I’ve never felt so much anger in my life.  I ended up withdrawing from normal life more and more, it’s one thing to feel a tide of panic rising when you’re at home… quite another when you’re out shopping, surrounded by strangers.

I’d like to say that I slowly overcame the anxiety, addressing each symptom with thought and reason through some kind of cognitive therapy that provided answers and the tools to fight back, but the truth is that I had very little input into its resolution.  Recovery happened more quickly than I would have dared to anticipate and with each passing day, I slowly forgot to assess how afraid I was at any given moment in time, something that undoubtedly helped a great deal.

The episode remains a mystery to me, I sometimes think about the possibility of it returning… I like to think that it was, indeed, caused by an infection or something hormonal affecting my psyche (I’m only too aware of what a urine infection can do for a patient with dementia) and although I may be wrong, thinking of it in more physical terms brings me comfort and gives weight to a condition that feels so damn abstract when you’re going through it.

The only thing that I can be certain of is that having someone who would listen to me being completely unreasonable, time and time again, without judgement… anchoring me, both physically and mentally, helped me more than he could ever know.

22 Responses to “Anxiety”

  1. thank you for writing this. putting my hand up as part of the anxiety crowd, still take meds to control it. I differ in that I DID take myself to emergency, convinced I was dyin. it really is nigh on impossible to explain to someone who hasn’t had it. Four years and counting now. Have caved and started seeing a therapist, don’t want to be on meds forever.

    I know you probably aren’t looking for advice, but when I get sudden bursts of dread nowadays I can always trace it back to the higher-than-usual ingestion of caffeine and/or chocolate. My body has become more food-sensitive as I approach decrepitude :(

  2. Jo says:

    I had a similar experience in my late teens. I would have MASSIVE panic attacks whenever I was in a situation where I felt I couldn’t get out – university lectures, buses, trains, shops, anywhere that there were people. I tried to cope, couldn’t tell anyone, didn’t know HOW to tell anyone. Ended up leaving university after the 1st year. I found it was better after a glass or more of something alcoholic. I also found that beta-blockers made me feel much much worse. I ended up having talking therapy for a couple of years which really helped until a few years ago when it all started to come back, particularly the palpitations and sense of panic. I didn’t let it take control of me this time, went to the doctors and was put on Seroxat which I took for 4 months at ‘full dose’ and weaned off over the next 2 months. That really gave me the leg up I needed to take control of what was happening to me and I now feel much happier and feel confident that I can spot the warning signs of it happening again. I guess it’s more common than you realise when you’re in the midst of it.

  3. Whoops, forgot to mention – I take zoloft, which is completely wonderful for me. Don’t know what a beta blocker is, but google tells me Z isn’t one. Yay?

  4. Julia Arenas says:

    I won’t send you off with a pat on the back, because posts like these deserve more than me patting one of your lovely pictures. I hit rockbottom after college after a childhood sweetheart grew apart from me and lost interest, and worse came running back just to confide in me (as his best friend) about the someone else and got angry when I distanced myself. I lost about 10-12 pounds in 2 months, and couldn’t sleep right…and being near those I loved really helped and also watching Band of Brothers each night under the covers with them was super helpful (it might sound strange, but in the Philippines we’re real tight with our folks over here, overly so in some cases). I’m not one to back away from suggesting something unpopular either, in my case soul searching and prayer truly helped…there are some things you just can’t dismiss or back away from in the end. I was also advised that half of all the pain caused by that heartbreak was clinically enhanced by lack of sleep and my inability to distance myself from the past. Moving house for instance is one of the world’s hall-of-fame causes of stress, perhaps you’re still reeling and need someone to help pry clutched receipts from your tired fingers.

    Whatever the case, we usually write off these things as simple to deal with or a passing whim, but sometimes it’s tender and we have to dig a little deeper, run the bath, drop in a bath bomb, pour the tea, put on some lipstick, and also take time to count our blessings and smile with relief. :) I’ll keep you in my prayers <3

  5. Trona says:

    what is really crazy is that there are SO many people suffering anxiety/depression and suffering in silence because of societal stigma. This makes the condition infinity worse, the more people like yourself and others speak out and ‘normalise’ this incredibly common illness the less stigmatised it’ll become. I suffered from agoraphobia/panic attacks after a car crash and I felt so ashamed initially which made everything much worse to deal with. Eventually and with difficulty i got through it. I think it’s brilliant that you’re discussing this publicly, it makes a huge difference to those thinking that they’re going through it on their own x

  6. pinkyspanish says:

    Thank you for writing about this. As the above poster said, if someone has never had anxiety/panic disorder it is impossible to explain why you’re suddenly pouring in sweat or need to run out of a crowded place to stand alone outside. When I first started having attacks as a teenager, I DID visit the emergency room several times only to be asked when my last menstrual period was. I was always confused by that since I was there for what I thought was a heart attack but it turned out that there was a pattern. I was always more prone to attacks right before my period. I still get them now and then but nothing as severe as before or maybe over the years I’ve learned to stop them before they get out of control.

    The positive part is that once I open up to people about it, I’ve learned that so many other people suffer from anxiety that a lot of people do understand what it is to feel that sudden freak out.I can always talk someone else off the ledge at work because I understand just how they feel.

  7. Julia Arenas says:

    It also didn’t help me then that the anagram for “stressed” = “desserts”

  8. robyn says:

    Thank you for this. I’m just starting to come to terms with the fact that anxiety is becoming a bigger part of my life and I’m trying to identify what the triggers and are and what happens when I feel a bout coming on, or a panic attack. My coping mechanisms are basically slapping myself to try and shock myself out of it which kind of works but is NOT healthy. I wish people would understand that it takes courage to seek professional help and tjat ot’s not something I can deal with right now, but anxiety can fuck off if it thinks it’s taking over my life. The headweasels will NOT win.

  9. Nargis says:

    I suffered from anxiety for a couple of years now, and it interfered with my life so often that I lost count ( that and depression). It was especially bad when I had my finals (in the end I failed all of the exams) and when my grandad died. In the first episode (exam time), I couldn’t think straight during the examination, I couldn’t think of simplest answers (which I recited off in the revision sessions), my heartbeat became so fast and painful that I could hardly breathe, and afterwards I would just run home and cry in bed, not being able to talk to anyone about it. When my grandad died and my parents had to fly abroad to his funeral, I had to stay at home and deal with the things they left behind, it became even worse- I was fine when I had something to do, but soon as I was alone, I couldn’t function- could stay in bed for hours and cry, not being able to eat anything, do simple tasks like dressing myself, couldn’t sleep until I was absolutely exhausted. I only went to my doctor a month later, and got my Citalopram prescription renewed. Apparently, stopping to take it was about the worst thing I could do in the first place- I since became a lot more strict with that, and my mood is a lots more stable, and I don’t have as many attacks as I used to. I still find it really hard to cope with them,and its hard to tell other people about it.
    P.S thankfully, my uni allowed me to redo my year, so I am not completely screwed.

  10. Kelly says:

    Thank you for writing this. So many people (and bloggers I know of) seem to have gone through or are going through bouts of depression and/or anxiety. It’s always helpful to hear about other people’s stories, even if there isn’t any one particular thing that resolved it.

    I went through an unexplained anxiety phase the summer before my junior year in high school. I was panicky, felt sick and clammy all the time, heart racing for 2+ months. Then magically it all went away for reasons I still don’t understand. But I’m glad it did!

  11. melody says:

    Great post, i think the more it is talked about the better! Too many times people suffer in silence about these things (while they are happening) because they are embarrassed. I agree it was better for me to think it was Physical rather than mental – because there seems to be more control over the physical.

    I wrote a post about it recently too. I’m really not advertising my blog here, I just thought maybe my tips might come in use to someone out there, who is experiencing anxiety. It really is a horrible thing and looking back, i can only assume some of these things helped. Here is the post, I hope you don’t mind me posting it…

  12. This sounds familiar, way too familiar, as I’ve been through similar episodes several times in life, the last one being a few months ago. What is helping me hugely right now (next to therapy) is sophrology. I’ve been doing that for a few months and it has improved my life so much. Now I can identify a symptom of anxiety for what it is, and go on with my life while I wait for it to disappear – which happens faster and faster now, so I do live a normal life again and do not dread things as ordinary as going to the supermarket anymore.

    I think for all people suffering from anxiety, it’s important to seek help not only from a doctor (because medicines can help at some point) but also from a therapist or in other disciplines (breathing exercises, sophrology, meditation etc…) because the medicines don’t solve the core of the problem, they’re just a temporary patch.

  13. Nazneen says:

    *Twin Peaks music* I just wrote about anxiety on my blog about a week ago! I think you must be right that a lot of bloggers are writing about mental health issues at the moment. Perhaps it’s because it is Depression Awareness Month? I can’t help but think it’s a good thing though – reading your post and others has really help me, as someone with “severe” anxiety (my therapist’s words), a lot less alone, a lot less broken.

    So, thank you so much for adding your voice. Especially the part about withdrawing and not seeing your friends – I hadn’t even realised how easily I slip into doing that, not seeing anyone for months at a time. It’s so perverse, given that love and friendship are so important for getting better.

    I’m glad it’s all behind you – hopefully at some point soon, it will be behind a lot of us!

  14. Phoebe says:

    This was so relate-able for me. I have been dealing with these symptoms since coming back to uni but haven’t been able to put my finger on what was wrong. I’m glad that you felt the courage to speak out about it as it’s help me identify that I have been suffering quite bad anxiety at times.
    I hope you can find a way to over come it when/if it gets bad.

  15. Krystal says:

    It’s nice that your post got such positive feedback – clearly you touched on an issue that many of us can relate to. I too suffer from general anxiety, and endured it for a few years before I sought treatment. I actually initially sought treatment for the chronic insomnia that accompanied it, but after my stubborn insistence that I didn’t have what I deemed a “mental disorder” I caved and told my doctor I would try Zoloft for a month just so I could show her that she was wrong. Turns out it worked, I don’t feel like my heart is racing 24/7 for no reason anymore, I sleep, I haven’t picked my cuticles down to bloody pulps in awhile, I don’t have crying fits over tiny things like dropping a glass, and I generally just feel better. I had resisted being medicated for so long because of the stigma, and because I was worried I would turn “numb,” but I was assured by a good doctor that everything works differently for everyone and that if that happened we would just stop and figure out something better. Best thing I ever did, I feel great now.

  16. Sophie says:

    This is a beautifully written post. I’ve suffered from bad anxiety (alongside three other mental disorders) for years – it started when I was about 12 and, in quick succession, was involved in a car crash, had a bad fall from a horse, and got incredibly freaked out by 9/11 and 7/7, and it’s never really left me. I was on Prozac for seven years, which I managed to get myself off last year, and I’m still taking Trazodone to allay the worst symptoms of anxiety (Trazodone is AMAZING. I heartily recommend it to anyone having issues with anxiety.)

    I can still remember, after I went on Trazodone for the first time, the first day I woke up and my shoulders relaxed. I was in crippling agony for nearly a week because the muscles in the back of my neck and down my shoulders had been hunched and tense for literally years, and relaxing them was completely alien. My anxiety on a day-to-day level is a whole lot better nowadays, but if something happens to trigger it I will still get horrible panic attacks. I don’t think it will ever truly leave me, but still, five years ago I was convinced I would be a complete wreck forever, unless I committed suicide, and now I can function well in society most of the time (admittedly with some chemical help).

  17. Leah says:

    Thanks for posting this. I have anxiety, depression and display agoraphobic tendencies as a result of long term health problems. I know I need to go to the doctors, but when my anxiety is centred around leaving the house (especially alone) that’s a bit of a bugger. Anxiety makes for a lonely life, as rather than explain to friends (who already know my physical limitations) that I can’t go anywhere crowded/noisy/new I just decline invitations altogether. The only time I feel safe is with my husband, as he knows what I’m like and I don’t have to explain myself to him. Explaining WHY I’m anxious to someone just makes it ten times worse. The worst panic attack I’ve ever had was in the cinema. We went in just as the lights went off and I

    • Leah says:

      Oops, hit enter!

      The lights went off and I couldn’t see hand in front of my face (my illness gives me poor light-to-dark adaptation) and I thought I’d gone blind. (It sounds ridiculous now!) My husband and my friend sodded off and left me stuck halfway up a set of stairs, not able to see a thing. Basically how I didn’t end up in hospital I don’t know. Now I avoid panic attacks by avoiding going out wherever possible. It sucks, and I feel for every single person with anxiety, in all the myriad ways it can affect our lives. Hugs to all. x x

  18. I’m glad you are feeling better. I have very little experience with anxiety – mine came during my PGCE and occasionally now before teaching, and it is something I can only equate to stage-fright. I can’t imagine feeling like that all day every day. I am glad that you no longer do and that you have such a supportive husband.

  19. Clara M says:

    Charlotte this post is SO close to home. I am eighteen and am finally coming to terms with a different branch of anxiety, social anxiety. Few people take me seriously but I went through bouts of refusing to leave the house (which made my college and job prospects dismal) and making up elaborate lies to avoid doing basic interactions with other people. I have had panic attacks in driving lessons and even in my workplace due to extreme worry and fraught imagination.

    My anxiety has tried to ruin my life and it culminated in me being totally unable to speak at my own nana’s funeral in 2009. I was heartbroken for days that I didn’t rise to the challenge like everyone else and had what I now recognise as a panic attack after her burial.

    I have forced myself to do YouTube videos, Public Speaking competitions in college and as many readings as I can to curb my anxiety and it has been the most difficult struggle I have faced. I find it very insulting when people brand themselves to have ‘anxiety’ in the most futile and artificial sense. I hope you are doing well and I wish you all the best.

  20. Kelly says:

    Part of my blog features my battle with depression and anxiety and I seem to read about it more and more. I sometimes think our hectic lifestyles don’t help and the notion of ‘having it all’ has created a load of burnt out, stressed women on the edge and that is not healthy and when something has to give, sadly it seems our mental health. Great post and thank you for sharing your experiences x

  21. Wordbird says:

    Thank you for writing this, Charlotte. It’s very brave to put these things into words, into the public domain, but it’s braver to live with them and deal with them. My panic attacks lasted 2 years and took a further 2 years of cognitive behavioural therapy to get past them. Every now and then I get a bit of the feeling again and I know I need to calm down and sort it out, but now I know how to do it.

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