Living with anxiety and how I try to combat it
Living with anxiety is an absolute bitch, to put it bluntly.
Today I am having a self-care day (hence the scruffy hair and giant jumper) because constantly battling my anxiety is, quite frankly, exhausting.
So, whilst I've got a wash on (part of my self-care day is sorting out the giant pile of washing I have accumulated), I wanted to write a little something about how it feels for me when a wave of anxiety comes over me, and how I try to deal with it in my everyday life. I know that anxiety looks and feels different for everyone who suffers with it, so I don't expect this to sound familiar to you all, but if it resonates with just one person and it helps then that's good enough for me.
I'd also love to hear from anyone who suffers with anxiety, or knows someone who does, and how they cope with their symptoms when the waves come.
The other day I arrived at work for a late shift on a ward that I am very familiar with and took a seat in the bay that I would most likely spend the rest of my shift, looking after four patients. I hadn't been there long when I felt the familiar warning signs of an anxiety attack coming over me like a wave I just couldn't swim away from fast enough. This wasn't brought on by an unfamiliar situation because I had done this exact shift many times before. I couldn't leave the bay I was in because these patients needed constant observation, so I sat and waited. I decided to take out my pen and a piece of paper to write down exactly how I was feeling at that moment, this is what I wrote down:
"My heart is racing My hands are shaking
My chest is tight I have a tingle in my toes I am getting clammy My eyes are stinging as I fight back panicked tears I swallow hard to try to push down the feeling that I might be sick I hate feeling this way because although I know that it WILL pass and the weight on my chest will lift eventually, at that moment it never feels that way. It is relentless. It feels never-ending, infinite and just downright awful."
The truth is that I felt this way for probably 30 minutes in total. I text my sister to tell her that I was having a low-medium key anxiety attack in work - she has been with me through many of them in person so I knew she would be really helpful, even over text - she told me to breathe, and to close my eyes for a few seconds to try to bring myself back to the room. It helped a little, then I waited for the wave to pass, which it did. After the anxiety attack had passed, I was able to think clearly again. The fog cleared and I could breathe properly!
I know, deep down, that my anxiety and depression come in waves and although whilst it's happening it feels like it will never end, it always does. The sun will always rise again, no matter how dark it feels at that moment.
That night, after I had finished work, I decided to go out for a drink and a dance by myself. Yes, by myself (is that weird?). I actually had a really fun night and met some new people.
Now, I know that it sounds crazy and backwards because obviously, this is something that made me nervous, but I find that getting outside my comfort zone does absolute wonders for my anxiety in the long run. Sometimes I can't manage to push myself to do these things because the anxiety drags me back into my little comfortable box, but when I can, I do!
The more things I do that scare the crap out of me (like jetting off to Tanzania by myself for 3 weeks to work on a labour ward) the more I can say to myself afterwards... "You bloody did it!", then when it comes to smaller things I can remind myself that actually, I am brave and strong just for getting up in the morning and putting myself out there.
These are a few things I aim to try to do in the next few weeks: - Go for a coffee by myself (and probably read a book) - Go to the cinema by myself (I've never done this but it seems like a great idea, nobody whispering in your ear or chewing loudly) - Book a trip to travel somewhere alone (If I can book it, then I'm halfway there and I'll have to battle with the anxiety along the way) - Go out somewhere for a walk and take some photographs (I love photography but I very rarely push myself to go and do it)
Remember that anxiety and depression look different (and are sometimes invisible from the outside) in different people, so don't assume that people who "seem fine" from the outside are fine on the inside.
It might not work for you, I know it's a big challenge to push yourself in these ways, but if you can even in a small way - it might just help a little.