Monday, 11 May 2015

Mental Health Monday #5 | Anxiety + My Story

This topic is particularly difficult for me to talk about. It is very personal to me, so please do respect what I'm saying and don't leave any nasty comments.
I have always been an incredibly anxious person, ever since I was little. Everything is a challenge for me, from knocking on someone's door, to going to the shop, to even just crossing the road by myself. These feelings completely take over my mind and cause so much stress for me on a daily basis. I'm constantly worrying about every single little thing and I absolutely hate it, so I can completely empathise with anyone who suffers with anxiety, shyness or overthinking. It's truly awful. In this post, I hope to share you some of my tips and guidance on how to cope better with anxiety issues.
My Story
All throughout my life I have been a very shy, reserved person. I would never raise my hand in lessons, and I didn't make new friends easily. You would always find me getting embarrassed, or going silent whenever someone tried to talk to me. I genuinely didn't speak up very much at all. That obviously made things extremely difficult for me, as I would never go to parties, or meet up with my friends and do things that other children my age would do. I wasn't into that kind of thing. Things didn't change when I moved into secondary school either. Making friends with people that I'd never even met before in my life was honestly absolutely terrifying. I panicked way more than I should have when it came to switching from primary to secondary. We had activities where we were constantly talking to new people and we were in groups, completing 'fun' tasks together, but how was I supposed to enjoy myself when all I could think of what was to say and what to do? The amount of sleepless nights I had, all because I was worried about school the next day was unbelievable.
This is the bit where I wish I could tell you that it got better after that. But, it really didn't. As well as being bullied throughout the last 3 years of primary, I was also bullied for 3 years in my current school and it's only just getting more bearable. I spent most of the time in Year 7 & 8 and even this year by myself, wandering around aimlessly, hoping that someone would recognise me and come to talk to me so I didn't feel so incredibly alone. I'd struggle in every lesson, break, lunch, assemblies, before school. In every situation possibly imaginable, I was nervous. Even outside of school, I'd be facing these feelings constantly. Family parties, shopping, dentist or hairdresser appointments, meeting up with friends, going to their houses, having friends come round mine. I have even missed days of school just because I didn't want to go in as I was scared, or I felt disliked or hated. The tightness in my chest, the knots in my stomach, the nausea rising up through my body - it's all there.
Throughout the past year, I have made drastic improvements, but I'm still no-where near perfect. I can talk to people more easily and I'm getting better at paying in shops and inviting people into my house, but I still can't go in public by myself and school and social situations still prove to be terribly, terribly hard. But, I am trying my absolute best to remain strong and to try and push myself in whatever way I can. It is so, so challenging, it really is. But, all I can do is try my absolute best.
What is anxiety? - Anxiety is a normal response to a form of danger or stress and can sometimes be called the 'flight or fight' mode. This process is when adrenalin is quickly released and pumped throughout the body enabling it to cope better with whatever situation is throwing itself towards your way. The problems arise when this happens out of proportion, or for absolutely no dangerous reason.
The physical symptoms of anxiety are:
- Sweaty palms/hands
- Racing heartbeat and shortness of breath
- Chest tightness (feeling as if it's being squeezed)
- Butterflies in your stomach and feelings of nausea
- Pins and needles in any area of your body
- Sweating or hot and cold shivers
The psychological symptoms of anxiety are:
- Inner tension
- Easily irritated or annoyed
- In fear of loosing all control of the situation
- Dread that something extreme will occur
Are anxiety disorders common? - Anxiety disorders are incredibly common. Many people are affected throughout their life, although some people have it more severely or more mildly than others.
What are the types of anxiety disorders?
Panic disorder - People with this condition have feelings of fear that suddenly strike without reason. Often, this may result in a panic attack, or feeling as if the person is being choked or having a heart attack. These can happen at any time, without you even realising until they actually are happening.
Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) - People with OCD are plagued by constant thoughts or fears that cause them to perform certain rituals or routines. These include obsessing over certain things and not feeling right until they have completed them. An example is someone who has a phobia of germs, so they constantly wash or scrub away at their hands.
Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) - This disorder can occur after a particularly traumatic event, such as assault, the death of a loved one, or even a natural disaster like an earthquake, or tsunami. People suffering with these feelings can often have flashbacks or haunting nightmares about the event.   
Social anxiety disorder - Often includes overwhelming worry and feelings of self-consciousness regarding every day social situations. This can involve feeling like you will embarrass yourself, people will look at you and judge you, or that people could laugh at you for what you say.
Specific phobias - A specific phobia is about something such as spiders, flying or heights. The level of fear can sometimes result in causing stress to everyday, common situations.
Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) - This disorder involves excessive, unrealistic worry and tension, even if there is little or nothing to actually worry about in the first place.
However, there are some ways that you can help people with anxiety and also help yourself:
Ways That I Cope:
- Learn to accept it. Some things in life, you need to understand that you can't change, no matter how hard you try. Anxiety won't go away over night and it will probably be there for the rest of your life, but you gradually learn to cope with it. I just accept it, acknowledge the fact that it's just there, whether I like it or not and then I just try my best to get on with my everyday life as well as I can.
- Find ways to deal with it. Whenever I'm feeling particularly anxious, I now try to remove myself from the person, or the situation. I try not to stay somewhere that I feel uncomfortable, or worried in. I take deep breaths, I open the window to breathe in some air, I take a sit down. I do whatever really.
- Surround yourself with supportive people - I never, ever go out with strangers anymore, like random people unless I'm with someone I genuinely trust and feel safe with. My boyfriend comes most places with me, because I know I trust him and so I can hold his hand and he can always reassure me. If you have someone that you trust, then I recommend that you stick with them and allow them to support you.
- Take each day as it comes. Some days will be worse than others. I had a particularly anxious day today, but I promise you, it does get better. I started off incredibly panicky, but then I was fine, able to laugh and joke about. I did get very worried later on in the day, but it comes in bouts and it never normally lasts that long, so just take it as it comes, try to remember to take deep breaths and just remove yourself from whatever the situation and calm yourself down, as and when you can.
I can assure you, I know EXACTLY  how it feels to be anxious most of the time and to overthink absolutely everything. Trust me, I do understand. But I promise you, it will get better, you will find it becomes easier to cope and you will always be fine in the end, no matter what happens. Talk to people you know will support and help you, avoid doing things you feel uncomfortable with, research ways to cope and take each second slowly. You will find your own ways to manage, so please don't think that you are alone and nobody understands you, because they do, I promise you. I understand and I will only be an email or a message away if you need to talk to me about something. I would say the best things to do are just to do your research about it, try different methods out, surround yourself with supportive people and speak up if you need help. Don't be afraid to ask for some guidance.

 Ways To Help Someone Else When They Are Having An Anxiety Attack Or Opening Up To You:
- Reassure them that everything will be alright. If they know that they will be okay and you aren't disappearing or judging them, then that is important. Don't act as if they are wasting your time.
- Listen to what they want. If they need specific help, then try and help them out. If they want to be left alone, then go away for a moment and allow them to have some personal space to cool down.
- Offer support whenever you can. Randomly message the person and ask them if they'd like to meet up, or see how they are. Just show them that you care and you are always there if they need it.
- Don't judge them. Even if you don't understand what they mean, just show your support and try your best to empathise with them. Don't act as if their problems aren't important and you don't care.
If someone is having a panic attack, try to calm them down if they want you too, or just sit there to make sure they know you are there if you are wanted. If they seem increasingly agitated and nervous, then just walk away for a couple of minutes so that they can calm themselves down in their own time. Try to reassure the person to think of controlling their breathing and relaxing their muscles. Deep breaths in and out and focus on that. Reassurance is honestly key in these types of situations.
Resources To Help Cope:
Childline - or 0800 1111
Samaritans - or 08457 90 90 90
Teen Mental Health -
Young Minds -
Hopefully this post has helped some of you and if you think I have missed something out, or you would like to see a post going into more detail on social anxiety or more specific topics, then please do let me know. I'm always here for any of you that may be suffering with anxiety, or anything else. I know how it feels, I truly do and that's why I want to make sure that you all know you are not alone.



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