Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Anxiety and me

I have always been one of life's natural worriers. Absorbed in my own thoughts, daydreaming, overthinking and analysing stuff. I used to get paranoid that people were talking about me behind my back. To be fair, they probably were. However, as I've got older, I've come to realise that I can't control other peoples behaviour, so why worry about it so much?. One of my favourite quotes is ' Those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don't mind'. How true is that? Luckily I have a great support network in family and friends who I know I can rely on.

One of the feelings I absolutely hate the most is the feeling of nervousness. Just writing about this makes me feel nervous. It's probably because I know what's coming. The dreaded redness! For as long as I can remember, when I feel nervous, my whole neck and chest start to go bright red and blotchy. It's soo embarrassing and bloody noticeable, which then puts me on edge even more. I've read that this is because the adrenaline which your body naturally produces in these circumstances, has the side effect of altering the blood flow to your skin, making some areas red and blotchy. When this happens I feel so vulnerable and insecure. I find having 10 minutes to myself, and taking large deep breaths in through my nose and out through my mouth to regulate my breathing really helps, and brings my skin back to a normal colour.

It wasn't until Summer 2016 that I really began to notice a problem. To the point it was beginning to affect my everyday life. So as I'm sure most people do, I 'Googled' my symptoms and anxiety was at the top of the list, along with OCD. Now to me OCD ( Obsessive-Compulsive disorder) was people obsessively scrubbing their hands, switching the light on and off a certain number of times etc. In my case it was mess. Not as in scrubbing and cleaning, but more to do with things being out of place. Toys being scattered about on the floor. Now kids are kids and this is what they do. They get toys out of their toy basket, play with them for a minute and before you know it they are everywhere. But for me, I always had this overwhelming urge to just pack them away as soon as they were out. Even if it was just a couple of toys. I knew this wasn't normal, and I didn't want to be like this for Ethan. (And Macie eventually when she grew up).

I had only given birth to Macie in January 2016, so she was 5/6 months old at that point and I really didn't want my problems to be brushed off as 'PND' (Post natal depression). Only because I knew this wasn't what I was suffering from. Socially I am quite a confident person, and I enjoy getting out of the house, meeting up with friends, going to play groups etc with the kids. I actually hate staying in doors.
Anyway, so I booked an appointment with my GP and took with me, a list of all my "problems". If I didn't do this then I know my mind would have gone to mush. My Doctor was soo lovely and told me that what I was going through was nothing to be ashamed of, and that I did the right thing by going to get help. As I thought, he said I was suffering from anxiety and a mild form of OCD. He put me on a course of Fluoxetine, and told me to book an online telephone appointment for a months time to see how I was getting on. Funnily enough I was excited to start. This was the first major step to getting back on track mentally. I told only a couple of people what I was going through. I was embarrassed. Not so much because of the anxiety, but more so because of the OCD.

After a few days of taking one tablet a day, I was expecting to see results. But it just wasn't happening. I was told by my doctor, and I did read the symptom checklist, that I may not notice an improvement straight away. It could take up to 1-2 weeks before I would begin to notice a difference. Now those who know me well, know how impatient I can be at the best of times.
Summer was now in full swing and it is inevitable that most people feel naturally happier when the Sun is out. I do. But still .. give me Autumn any day. I do find I tend to get a bit stroppier in the Summer, mainly because I feel fat  and frumpy so pretty summer dresses are usually a no go. That and the constant sweating! Not a good look!

As the months passed I must admit in general I did begin to feel a lot calmer. Ok I still had moments of feeling anxious but I never expected that to fully go away. What bothered me the most was me feeling stressed at the slightest object on the floor, such as a toy, a pack of baby wipes or the curtains not being drawn back properly and the creases in place. Silly I know but little things like this really bugged me. In a morning I thrive on routine. I get up, come downstairs and open the curtains (always my first job) then get the kids breakfasts, go get myself a shower, come down and do my makeup, then back upstairs to dry and straighten my hair, get the kids dressed and then its pretty much time to go. Between all of this I am constantly clock watching to see how I am doing for time. I find if I'm in a rush then it throws everything off course. I find myself double checking that my straighteners are switched off, or that the door is locked, and they always are!

So again, I booked myself an appointment at the Doctors to discuss how I was feeling and he referred me to a local mental health and well-being clinic. I had a telephone consultation first and within 2 weeks I was scheduled to meet with my Councillor. I remember sitting in the waiting room desperate for my name to be called. I was so scared that someone i knew would walk in and see me sat there. But then I figured, even if they did see me then they must be there for a similar reason, and are most likely thinking the same as me.

My Councillor called me through and took me into a little room. She was so lovely and I pretty much felt at ease right away. She explained exactly what CBT (Cognitive Behavioural therapy) is and what it entails. 'CBT aims to help you deal with overwhelming problems in a more positive way by breaking them down into smaller parts. You're shown how to change these negative patterns to improve the way you feel'. - NHS.
My session lasted aprox 45 minutes and I would have an appointment every 2 weeks. I had in total 8 sessions which was just above the standard recommendation of 6-7.

I was given a series of tasks which I had to complete at home before my next session. This involved leaving things out such as toys rather than packing them straight away. This may come easy to any individual person, but for me it was torture. I had to sit back for only minutes at a time to begin with, which then progressed onto longer periods of time until the urge of packing them away passed. To be honest I don't think this ever really happened, and is something I still very much need to work on.

I've had a few reviews at the doctors regarding being on Fluoxetine and the Doctor advised not to come off them during the Autumn/Winter months because naturally our moods can be a little lower. I made the decision to come off my medication last Summer and was told to wean myself off them gradually. One every other day for a week, then every 3 and so on until I was off them completely, to which I now am.

I no longer feel like my anxiety controls me, which is blooming fantastic, however of course I still have my moments and I think I always will. Like I said at the beginning, I'm one of life's natural worriers. For instance, I had an exam at Uni yesterday, and although I was confident with what I knew, as soon as it came to it I was incredibly nervous, and that was purely because I was in a controlled environment.  The OCD part is another story. I still find this difficult to control, and the best way to avoid this is by being out of the house, or meeting up with friends at their houses or the park or at soft play.

Writing this post has made me aware that I need to get my task sheets out from my councillor and set myself mini goals each day.

I'm a big lover of quotes and positive phrases. Every now and again I grab myself the odd book from The Works (I love that shop). Books filled with quotes, books on happiness, well-being, and self help CBT books. Recently I purchased two new books from Fearne Cotton's collection 'Calm' and 'Happy'. I can't recommend them enough. Almost every other page is left for the reader to fill out and write about their day, improvements they could make, etc. It's very fulfilling and removes any worries from your mind.

Unfortunately Social media plays such a big role in portraying the happier moments in peoples lives that they are happy to share, but not the negative ones. Is this real-life ? No. It's so easy to think that one particular person has 'got it good', that you wish you could be in their shoes, or they paint a happy family life in the pictures they have just posted. Yet what most fail to realise it that perhaps before that picture was taken, an argument could have taken place, or will take place afterwards that upsets them deeply. As much as I love a bit of Facebook or Instagram, it can bring you down at times because of these reasons, which is why last year I had a bit of an unfollowing spree so that these 'happy times' weren't shoved in my face so much.

What I'm trying to say is that there will always be someone who is dealing with their own problems. They may just be able to hide it better than others, or choose not to share it with anyone. Please please don't be afraid to get help, or hold your hand out to someone you feel may need it. After all, a problem shared is a problem halved.

Be kind always. And most importantly, do whatever it is you want to do that makes you happy. It is your life after all, and its there for the taking.

Much Love

Sarah xx


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