Me and my anxiety ….. Being a trained actress and then a theatrical agent, I have always seemed confident and upbeat. Suddenly, one day I suffered a massive panic attack when I was trapped in a lift, at a local hospital where my mother was being treated for cancer.. soon after that everything changed I was frightened to even go into a ladies toilet for fear of being locked in. I could not go into a lift without my heart racing, hot sweats and unable to breathe. I actually used to carry a paper bag, bottle of water and a low dose diazepam tablet as an emergency kit and if any of this kit was missing, I would go to panic mode, even if the paper bag wasn’t in my handbag. The feeling was one of complete fear and I actually felt that I was being suffocated and I could not breathe. I was even taken to the hospital one day as I believed I was having a heart attack. Any confined space became a living nightmare. I would cry for almost no reason and waking in the night alone became increasingly debilitating, frightening and I dreaded the nighttime. I actually believed that I was losing my mind and was really embarrassed to tell anyone, even my doctor as I had always been seen as this smiling, confident, bubbly blonde. “OH YOU LOOK OK “ seems to be a common expression but no one could tell how I really felt. I felt anonymous and insignificant. I went into a spiral of all three symptoms of Anxiety, Insomnia and Paranoia.
Paranoia was very closely connected as I felt that friends and family were probably avoiding my calls and I slowly became so withdrawn. Going on public transport was completely out of the question and even going in my own car was terrifying as I hated being in traffic and the noise of the traffic and commotion. Once, when I was in my car, there was a storm and I could hardly see for the rain on the screen and then the panic started and my heart began to race… Out came the paper bag while sitting in the traffic. I had to as I thought I may pass out at the wheel… I dare not to drive alone for a long time.. I avoided going out and had to be with someone. All this was awful and I hated the way my life was shaping up . I truly believed that I was being avoided by some friends as maybe they thought this was catching or I was actually bringing their own moods down which in hindsight this is probably how I made them feel. The night Insomnia was absolute torture as I just wanted to sleep and switch off the awful thoughts that manifested in my mind but I just couldn’t, in the day I was totally exhausted, I tried Hot baths soothing music, reading, but really helped nothing until I had actually started to speak about how I was feeling and also I was started on a small dose of an antidepressant ( after trying a few ) I had to seek help and my doctor believed that this was all linked to Anxiety and referred me for CBT counselling. I didn’t feel that this was particularly helpful as the councillor felt that I needed to go see a bereavement counsellor as I had recently lost my both parents. I had been caring for two elderly parents before they actually died 14 months apart so I was also hit with double bereavement, losing both parents made me feel totally alone. Anxiety has probably been the most debilitating thing to have actually hit my body as it has totally taken over how I felt and interacted with other people.
Anxiety is such a catalyst for other conditions, even my Asthma was severe and I had hospital admissions along the way. I have other medical conditions that have been made worse by anxiety.
I had a course of bereavement counselling and actually felt that this was the best thing as I needed to be able to cry and talk about my loses. Coping strategies are beneficial as they can help many women. I actually benefited from meditation Apps and found that just the sound of the voice on the App was calming and therapeutic and I also started to ease myself back into Pilates which was helpful for my Chronic Asthma and muscle pain. Even the camaraderie and support of other women was helpful and I looked forward to the classes. Other types of Alternative therapy, like essential oil supplements to calm the mood, is very helpful to me.
My anxiety started slap bang in the middle of Menopause and that’s where this story began …. I know, know that anxiety is a symptom of Menopause and it doesn’t help that at the time we start going into our Menopause we begin many life changes – looking after elderly relatives, children flying the nest, job losses, ill health, relationship breakdowns. We know that Anxiety, Paranoia and Insomnia are very much connected as the first starts the latter and so on, It really is so important to see your GP or get professional help as soon as you have any symptoms or if you are just feeling anxious you can call the Samaritans 116 123 24 hours helpline, CRISIS 0300 456 8342 or a friend/family, as soon as you can, as there are several types of medications that can help.
To be honest I still get anxious and really need to predict how my mood will be before I leave the house and to what type of social event I can attend. It’s all about planning and preparing your mind and to not think too far ahead… It really is taking one day at a time… Try not to overload your day and if you feel anxious a brisk walk outside really can help. I actually got a puppy half way through my depression/anxiety and for me, this has been the best decision ever as it has given me a purpose. I struggled and to be honest I still have bad days but I have started to recognise my triggers and so now it’s managing the triggers and putting my safety net in place! Learn to say no to too much stress and to plan ahead and that really helps.