It’s been about a year now since I went to see my GP about fears about some varicose veins and she noticed that I seemed unusually fraught about something so harmless. She asked me how things were going generally and we had a long chat about health anxiety, and all things anxiety related in general. She prescribed me some anti depressants to help with my heart palpitations and to help me sleep (which I didn’t take – too worried about their side effects – go figure!) and I was sent for a course of CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy).
Without sounding all X-Factor, it does feel like I’ve been on a bit of a journey. I’ve always been one of life’s worriers, but slowly overtime those little frets and worries became full blown anxiety attacks. It was concerning how quickly those changes happened, or perhaps it wasn’t quick at all, perhaps it happened so slowly that I didn’t notice what was happening. Either way, over the past year I’ve learnt a lot about the condition, how it affects me, how it affects other and how best to cope.
Here’s somethings I’ve learnt so far:
You’re not alone
It sounds so super cheesy but it is really reassuring to see how many people are affected by anxiety. My GP actually told me on that first appointment that she probably speaks to patients about depression and anxiety at least once a day and that I was the second person that day she’d referred to CBT. It’s amazing how just knowing other people get down he same way you do makes you feel like less of a weirdo.
Booze can be your best friend and your worse enemy all at the same time. It can work as a great relaxation tool, help you get out of your own head for a bit and give you a bit of respite from what it is that’s worrying you that day, problem is it’s so fleeting. Whereas alcohol may be your friend, hangovers certainly are not and paranoia goes through the roof. Imagine that drunken regret feeling after a big night out where you wake up worried about what you may have done or said multiplied by a billion. There’s many a Saturday or Sunday morning I’ve had to haul my hungover butt to the gym just to try and run off the paranoia.
Now this really is going to make me sound like a fruit loop but I’ve found developing little phrases to say to myself really help when I’m feeling anxious. Different people will have different things that work for them but I find things like ‘In the grand scheme of things, does it really matter?’ or ‘Is there anything you can do about it right now?’ I find asking myself questions easier than sweeping statements, so I can get a dialogue going in my head and try and converse myself into thinking about something else.
Someone at work told me about all the mindfulness meditation apps you can get on your phone and they’ve really helped me distract./ my thoughts onto more positive things. Meditation can be a dirty word sometimes as people think it’s sitting cross legged on the floor chanting. However I’ve found some great apps I’ve downloaded to listen to at different times. For example there’s one you listen to just before you go to sleep which clears your mind of the inevitable worries that always tend to creep in the second you close your eyes, one that you listen to at lunchtime whilst going for a work which helps you refocus and ready to get back to work avoiding that post lunch slump and one I listened to a lot on holiday which teaches you to concentrate on what’s going on in the here and now – great to learning how to live in the moment more.
Talking, like alcohol have be a double edged sword. Whilst it’s nice to have someone to bounce your anxious thoughts and feelings off, to get that reassurance that it’s just your anxiety talking and you’ve nothing substantial to worry about, it can also mean you’re keeping the worry alive and fresh in your mind rather than handling it and moving on. I can be such an honest and open person sometimes Its like I have this need to tell everyone how i’m feeling every second of the day. Thing is, people have their own problems and things weighing on their mind, they don’t necessarily want to hear all your micro worries all the time either. So I pick and choose what I say to people now, if it’s something I think is a genuine concern that someone might be able to help with I’ll mention it. If not i keep it to myself and try and think of something else. It’s amazing how soon you forget about it if you’re not constantly talking about it all the time!
So that’s why this is going to be the last anxiety post I do for a while. It’s something I’ve dwelled on and researched for a year now and I feel I’ve given it all the time and attention it deserves. It’s time to move on from it and concentrate on all the fun things going on – the things really worth writing about.