It’s no secret that in the past I have opened up about my experiences with anxiety attacks. This subject is one very close to my heart and one that will always remain so. As sassy’ and light hearted as the majority of my other posts are, this is a little bit more of a serious one, so apologies in advance. It was about a year ago that I wrote a post on how to deal with anxiety and while I don’t want to repeat myself and bore some of you, I feel it’s so important to continue bringing awareness to anxiety by sharing my story with you all and reminding those of you that perhaps do suffer with anxiety, that you are by no means alone – we’re in this together Queens. There was a time where I didn’t know why my physical symptoms were coming on and why, after every night out and having no alcohol, I would spend the night, and the majority of the following day, hanging my head over the toilet. Of course, like any sane person, I was curious as to what the hell was going on and why this was happening, but out of pure embarrassment I allowed it to continue for a good four years before addressing the real problem – looking back, this was the most ridiculous thing I could have done but hey, we all make mistakes don’t we.
A few summers ago it got to the point where, because of the associations I had built up, I couldn’t even go out for a meal and be around alcohol because it would trigger an anxiety attack. I’m sure you can imagine the frustration that came alongside this, especially when, the why is this happening was the real question mark. I think, with any problem that you don’t know how to solve, it’s the fear of not knowing how to fix it that really gets to you and this was a prime example of that. Had I actually attempted to understand and go out of my way to find answers, I would have been able to help myself a lot quicker but of course, at the time, you can’t see that. After finally opening up about it and going to the doctors, I found myself with therapist (not baby). Before initially going, I can remember saying to everybody around me that there’s nothing they could say or do that would help but, all of my doubts aside, I went. I don’t know why, but I felt like there was a negative connotation attached to therapy, like if I was to go, I would be openly admitting that I was ‘crazy’. Admittedly, this was a really naive and stupid thought to have as so many people go and have therapy to help themselves and gain an alternative and perhaps, more professional perspective on things and situations.
I want to start off by pointing out that I am by no means a psychologist (obviously) but I found that Cognitive Behavioural Therapy genuinely helped reduce my anxiety attacks. I had six sessions that basically involved talking through when they began, what the symptoms involved, how often they happened and my general history. The aim of CBT is to change the way you think and behave and to help you overcome overwhelming problems in a more positive way by breaking it down into smaller, more manageable parts. In each session, we broke down the problem into separate parts such as the physical symptoms I was having, my feelings before and after it occurred and my actions. I don’t know why, but seeing it all broken down made it far less complex and being able to actually identify what was happening (something I hadn’t known for years) did make it much more manageable.
After each session, I was told to go away and focus on one of the things that I had associated with anxiety attacks and try and expose myself to it (at a level I felt comfortable with). When you have an anxiety attack, the place, the time, the people that were there, even what you were wearing at the time can all become something that reminds you of when you had the anxiety attack. At that point, you are pretty much screwed as this then can trigger you to have another one. It sounds so obvious and stupid when you see it written down but whether people believe it or not, sometimes you can’t control your mind and what it’s thinking. Incidentally, your body is then in fight-or-flight mode, which to break it down is a physiological reaction that your body has when it thinks it is in danger. Your adrenaline then kicks in and that’s essentially what causes you to have an anxiety attack. Would I have known or understood this had I not been to a therapist? No, which makes me grateful that I actually got my shit together and went to see somebody. After a few months of exposing myself to situations and things that I had built an association around, alongside advise on what to do to help calm the anxiety attacks, I found myself confronting them head on and breaking that connection I had made. It actually got to a point where, I had been out for dinner and drinks, gone to bed and woken up the next morning thinking, ‘What the f, I didn’t have an anxiety attack’. At this point, I knew I had made some serious progress and could, to put it bluntly, carry on with my life. A year and a half on, it’s actually become a rarity that I suffer with anxiety attacks. Don’t get me wrong, if I’m in a really intense situation I can feel it coming on and if I was to go into a club on a Saturday night it could trigger one, but, as an every-day thing I have found (touch wood) how to mange my anxiety.
Whether I am ‘cured’ so to speak, is another question, and one not even I could answer, but a year on I am in a much better position than I was and I’ve given a middle finger to anxiety. For anybody not knowing what the next step to take is, I would definitely advise speaking to a professional and somebody that has a lot of experience in helping reduce the effects of anxiety. If, like I was, you are embarrassed, I can honestly hold my hands up and say that I can see where you are coming from, but, since speaking openly about it, it really isn’t an abnormal or strange thing, there are so many people that have similar experiences and it shouldn’t by any means be a censored topic.