This is a soapbox from a person who wishes to remain anonymous, but wanted to share their story about how they dealt with and recovered from an Anxiety Disorder. This is their story
I suffer from an anxiety disorder, there I said it. Anxiety can be a difficult thing to admit to. After all, who would willingly admit to suffering from something that the vast majority of the population seem to deal with on a regular basis? But this is my story, my approach of how I suffered from and eventually recovered from a terrible problem that hugely impacted on my life for nearly two years.
It was September 2011, I was flying high in my career. I lauded by my peers as a model to follow in work, I had a semi-stable family environment with people who loved me and the world was at my feet.
The secret of my success was the huge work ethic that I had. I worked 6 days a week and had shut myself off from many of my friends. For me work became who I was, I relaxed when I could by having a few beers but nothing seemed to stop my huge desire to just keep that one step ahead of the crowd.
Then one night in early September, I went to bed and the next day I literally couldn’t move. I had a terrible nightmare which triggered something and left me in a situation of just lying in bed in a state of near paralysis. My body which had for the previous 15 months been firing on all cylinders had seemingly given up.
I had some wider issues, my anxiety had crippled me so much that I found eating incredibly difficult and couldn’t hold food down for very long.
My mind set had changed too, as a confident approach was replaced by clouds of fear and questioning. I couldn’t understand what had happened. How did I go in the space of 12 hours from having dinner with a close relative to a position of trying to wiggle my toes as a way of prepping myself to get out of bed?
I don’t think I’ll ever have an answer to that question.
But, luckily for me, support came quickly as my Mum called in to my apartment and found me still in bed at 1pm. I honestly wrestled with the proposition how do I tell her that I am not just a bit tired today, but actually inside I feel completely lost?
She walked in to my room the first time and just looked in, I said nothing. She came in the second time to ask if I wanted some tea, I said nothing. When she came in the third time, she sat on the edge of my bed and I just said “I need help Mum.”
Like most people in that condition, I imagined her response being something horrible or not understanding of how I felt, but as would become a recurring theme for me throughout this episode when I told people, her response was “what do you need me to do for you?”
This was always a difficult question, I felt anxious and I didn’t really know why. Something had happened to me that had taken away the confidence that I had once enjoyed, as Austin Powers would say “I lost my mojo”
Like most people who suffer from anxiety disorders I sought the quick fix, I tried herbal remedies, I tried relaxation methods, I tried routine changes and none of them worked. I went on a holiday and that didn’t work, I actually went home feeling worse as I suffered an anxiety attack boarding the Newark to Belfast plane.
My anxiety attacks normally meant one of my arms went numb and I had the embarrassing situation where I kept dropping my passport as I couldn’t keep a grip on it. To add insult to injury, a few days later, I had embarrassing experience where I couldn’t steady my hand to sign a form,
Back on home turf, I decided I had to take some action, after a sleepless night, I went to my GP and told him how I was feeling. He gave me some tablets which helped calm my anxiety and referred me for some counselling. Whilst these were helpful in some respects, I knew the cure for what was ailing me had to come from me.
I started swimming, I took on Thai Chi and Yoga, and I stopped working on weekends and spent more time with friends. I researched and found that anxiety thrives when you just sit and think about it, so I thought I would develop a routine that broke that vital link.
My recovery didn’t happen overnight, nor as I write this am I totally free from anxiety. I can get at times horrible feelings, ending up in a scenario where I feel totally trapped. But, I have used my experience to climb some mountains too; I have completed some very public facing things and have done them better than most others. I have put myself out there to criticism and still years on I am doing it, facing down my fears.
Today, I can say that I am making progress, getting some grip on something that crippled me. I am not 100% of the way there, but I am writing this to let somebody out there who felt like I did three years ago that it can get better.
If you’re feeling bad, please reach out to those you trust. Be patient with them, if you don’t suffer from anxiety, it is hard to understand how it can impact a person.
Most importantly be patient with yourself and take the time to deal with this issue, at your own pace.
There is a range of support out there, you’re not alone, use this experience as a way to improve your life and find those things which can really make you happy.
My anxiety does not define me and your anxiety does not define you.
Merry Christmas and here’s to your anxiety free New Year.