This post is a very personal view of anxiety, panic attacks and depression but I hope that being open and honest about a subject that still has a stigma attached to it will help at least one person who reads it.
I have suffered from anxiety and related issues since I was a teenager although I was unaware at the time what all my weird symptoms were. The chest pains. breathlessness, hot prickly feeling up my neck, shaking, dizziness and the feeling I was about to die became a regular occurrence in my life. Following a personal traumatic event in my 20’s the symptoms increased at a terrifying rate and I found my life revolved around the unpredictable and relentless attacks.
At the time I was a mother of three young children under the age of seven and working part time and it was so difficult to carry on as normal without alerting anyone to my condition. I can remember struggling to do the school runs as I had bouts of agoraphobia which meant I was literally unable to leave the house. I lied and pretended to others that I had the flu, a twisted ankle, a migraine, in fact anything to divert the attention away from the real problem.
I’m ashamed to admit that I missed family functions, parties, meals out, school events, opportunities to travel, weddings and funerals because of this issue. And still I kept quiet. It was a lonely existence trapped with my own thoughts and fears, like some hidden treasure that I was unable to share with my family, friends and work colleagues. I am certain over the years that I have lost good friendships and job opportunities because of this extreme anxiety. That makes me rather sad, not just for myself, but for others that I know suffer the same consequences because of this issue.
I worked in customer services which meant interaction with the public which became a serious issue for me. I not only was having frequent, unpredictable panic attacks but I had started to worry continually about the attacks happening. It became a never ending cycle of fear. And I lost my job.
I sought help half heartedly from my GP and from various self help books and more recently from the internet. I went for counselling, CBT and various other complimentary therapies. Some of these therapies worked for me but only for a short while. CBT is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy which is a talking therapy which can help the way you think and behave. You are given techniques to try and stop the worrying and panic thoughts before they occur and cause you issues. Rather than attempting to resolve past issues the therapist will help you work on dealing with current problems and thoughts should they arise. It worked a little for me ( although only for a short time ) and is definitely worth a try. Please remember I am not medically trained and everyone is different so please talk to your GP or Health Care Professional for more advice.
In early 2012 I returned again to my GP feeling desperate and deflated as I struggled again with social events and even the everyday shopping in our local town. Getting in my car and driving became a daily ordeal as I attempted to live a normal life through the ongoing panic symptoms. The symptoms worsened the further away from home I drove until one day I stopped driving. It was as though my mind and body had given up ( or given in ) and I was faced with this overwhelming feeling that I didn’t want to leave my house ever again. And, for a few months I didn’t. I managed to hide the issue from friends who slowly disappeared from my life, probably fed up with my never ending excuses and cancellation of days and nights out. I went out with my husband who was so patient and kind with me but I hated been away from home as the stress was too much and we cancelled our holiday that summer.
By the spring of 2013 I was slowly managing to visit local shops with my husband or friends, although going anywhere alone was still a massive hurdle for me that I just couldn’t get over. And then something dreadful happened. My darling dad died very suddenly and the shock was enormous. I struggled to cope with his passing and depression hit me hard, but more than that, I felt extreme guilt at the fact I had been unable to visit him regularly because of my anxiety. He lived an hour journey away from me and I am ashamed to admit that in those final months before he died I didn’t visit him as I wanted to because of my fear and inability to leave my house.
How do I feel about that now ? Absolutely terrible. I am still racked by overwhelming guilt and sadness that I didn’t get to see him as I wanted to. I can never get that time back now and I will forever carry round the guilt and regret.
Over the following two years my symptoms were still hanging around my life like a bad smell. I could be feeling fine for a few days and then BANG…I would be overcome by a massive panic attack in the middle of Marks and Spencers and would run out feeling a failure yet again. I think by this stage I had resigned myself to a life of anxiety and all the mental health issues that I associated with it. After all, after thirty long years I thought this was it. ‘Grin and bear it’ don’t they say ? Or ‘pull your socks up’ is another one I heard often.
So I toddled off to my GP again. I’m not sure why I went as I thought I knew what she would say. Or so I thought I did. I was ( and still am ) very lucky to have an amazing and supportive GP. She is not just kind and empathic but she spends the time listening which I found many people don’t really do when faced with someone who has mental health issues. She also came up with a suggestion that would change my life. She suggested Mindfulness, Meditation and Relaxation as a possible solution for my problem. Above all that day, she made me laugh. She made me realise and feel that I am ok, I am normal, I am worthy and I am a wonderful person. Anxiety and Depression is NOT a failing or a weakness. Its just something people have, like a broken leg or a cold. Whatever my GP said to me changed my whole perception of my issues. IT was just a little annoyance that I had to find a way of dealing with it to lessen its impact on my life. I left her surgery feeling energised and determined that I WOULD find a way through this. I will always remember her wise words ” Do NOT let this control your life. You MUST control IT” I arrived home clutching my piece of paper with just three words. MINDFULNESS, MEDITATION AND RELAXATION. I figured that if I could get my mind and body into a relaxed state then the anxiety wouldn’t feature so highly in my life.
Oh and perhaps another crucial impact in my life happened in September 2015. I became a Nanna for the first time. There is nothing more heart warming than seeing your daughter holding her first child and realising that this tiny bundle of joy will become the incentive to lead a more peaceful and content life. I hate to write the word ‘normal’ but that’s how I felt. I wanted to be normal. I wanted to drive freely to visit my grandson. I wanted him to experience the world with his Nanna, visit the park, animal farms, the seaside, family events, his birthday, school plays….oh the list goes on and on. My grandson became my pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, my reason to throw everything ( including the proverbial kitchen sink ) at this demon that had controlled my life for so long.
And that’s exactly what I did. With the help of my family and close friends I slowly started to emerge from this dark cloud. Support from your loved ones is crucial and should never be underestimated.
As for the Mindfulness, meditation and relaxation as suggested by my GP, yes, this was my biggest help in improving my situation and I cannot praise it enough. I bought books and scrolled the internet looking for information and help but I just couldn’t make it work for me just by reading. Why ? Because I think my body and mind wasn’t relaxed enough to take it all in. I knew I needed to some how get my mind totally relaxed enough to take on board the suggestions. I therefore came across Hypnotherapy as a possible way of helping me achieve this. I was honestly quite sceptical about this form of therapy, probably due to the hypnotists we see on TV nowadays. I certainly didn’t fancy ‘clucking like a chicken’ after a hypnotherapy session.
I eventually found a local hypnotherapist and after a few sessions I noticed a huge difference in my outlook on life. I felt calmer and less anxious particularly in shops and crowded places. However when I had huge gaps in my appointments ( bearing in mind these appointments were quite expensive ) I noticed that my anxiety was creeping back a little. I realised that to keep it at bay I needed to be practising hypnotherapy and relaxation on a more regular basis. Every day in fact !
So I looked around for another solution and quite by accident I found IT ! I read on the internet about a British Hypnotherapist called Glenn Harrold who was producing CD’s, books, and Phone Apps for Anxiety, Insomnia ( something else I suffered from ) and even Panic Attacks. He even produces an App for Mindfulness. So, for £2.99 I took the plunge and downloaded one of his Apps to my phone.
I immediately started listening to Glenn’s ‘ Overcome Anxiety’ session and within two days I noticed a difference. It really was that noticeable. There were no long, expensive therapy sessions and no added stress with finding a suitable therapist. It was just me and my phone and thirty minutes of my time. I would awaken from the sessions feeling relaxed and peaceful. I know ‘peaceful’ sounds dramatic but that’s how I felt. I listened every day, sometimes twice a day and it wasn’t a fluke. This REALLY worked. I downloaded other sessions that Glenn has recorded. My favourites are ‘Deep Sleep’ and ‘Mindfulness For Anxiety’ and not forgetting ‘Fear Of Flying’ which I will discuss in another post. My fear of flying definitely deserves a special post all on its own ! For more information on the work of Glenn Harrold and the full range of his CD’s from stopping smoking to weight loss to thinking positive to developing self confidence and much more please click here
So, where am I now in my life ? Well thanks to the hypnotherapy recordings by Glenn Harrold I can now drive to see my grandson ( two hour round trip ) I can go to the shops on my own and actually come out with some shopping instead of leaving it in a trolley, abandoned while I exit the store quicker than Usain Bolt. I have been to the theatre and cinema and although I still like to sit at the end of the aisle, I now actually watch the complete performance instead of leaving my poor husband sat in his seat looking like Billy No Mates as I make a dash for the fire exit.
Yes, I still have my little ‘blips’ as I call them. But I now handle them differently. I float through the anxious moment. I let the panic rise over me and disappear, rather than reacting and fighting it. In my experience fighting makes it worse and only prolongs the sensations. As I feel the symptoms I hear Glenn’s voice in my head, ” You are in control ” and the panic symptoms subside and eventually leave and I can carry on with my day as if nothing had happened. I listen to the recordings by Glenn every day to make sure I continually feel relaxed and stress free and this works for me.
If you are reading this and you suffer silently from anxiety, panic or depression then you have my sympathy and empathy. Please know that you are not alone. I know the worst thing is suffering in silence and trying desperately to keep your condition from friends and family. There is such a stigma attached to anyone living with mental health issues and its BLOODY wrong. You are no less valued than if you had a broken leg or flu. I get so mad with society that treat this condition with such contempt. If only we could show compassion to those who suffer mental health issues instead of making them feel a lesser member of society. One of my biggest heartbreaks was telling a dear friend of my issues and she reacted really badly to my news. In fact she never visited me again or rang me and that was three years ago. Although devastated at first, I now believe our friendship was never meant to be.
I hope that by writing this I can help at least one person to know that they are not alone. I know it seems daunting and you wonder if you can ever get past this stage of never ending panic attacks and anxiety. I would say to you, never stop trying looking for a solution, whether that is CBT or hypnotherapy. The world is such a beautiful place and it would be a shame if we missed experiences because of this horrible affliction that affects so many people.
Please comment below. Let me know your thoughts and your own experiences. Has anxiety, panic or depression affected you personally or a member of your family ? If so, what worked for you ? I would love to hear from you.
I will leave you with one of my favourite quotes which I have on a post it note in my bedroom.
” Don’t cry over the past, it is gone. Don’t stress about the future, it hasn’t arrived. Live in the present and make it beautiful ”
With much love