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Anxiety really sucks

I know I've been quiet of late but I'm back. It's hard to know where to start.

I've had a challenging couple of months and I haven't been well enough to blog. The biggest problem is that I've not been able to talk openly due to the circumstances and that was stressing me out as I've actually needed the support more than ever.

I'm not prepared to go into details but what I will say is I've been the most anxious I have ever been. I wanted to write about my symptoms and just how bad anxiety can be. It's so far from being nervous before a test or interview. Anxiety is completely consuming and there is no escape or relief. If you think about a time when you've been nervous and then imagine that those nervous feelings don't go away, they are with you every minute of the day and keep increasing so that other things in your life also begin to make you feel unsettled, uneasy, worried, jittery, and anxious.

My anxiety has exploded like a firework. I have experienced symptoms all day long and throughout the night whilst hiding behind a smile and try to carry on as normal when I've been at work. It has been far from normal for me. It has been crippling and exhausting.

My anxiety got so bad I developed a constant tremor in my left leg, my stomach is on a constant spin cycle affecting what I can eat and due to feeling so physically sick I've not been able to eat until late afternoon. I've felt dizzy, out of control, not fully present like I was outside of my body if that makes sense. Inside my body has felt like a pot of boiling water bubbling away and there has been so much effort in trying to hide my fidgeting or lack of eye contact or panicked breathing.

I've had nightmares and severe intrusive thoughts that I was going to be attacked and murdered. So much so that I screamed at two window cleaners in my yard, believing they were going to break in and rape me. I've been obsessed in securing my home like a fortress and have spent a fortune on gadgets to make me feel safe.

We all have a scale or point of reference from the negative things we see in our day to day lives that our minds wander to in times of distress as a comparison if you like. Working for the police for over 12 years my point of reference is probably quite different to most because I see and hear about the most awful and traumatic incidents happening to people every day.
You may read this and think it's ridiculous but for me that threat was imminent and real. I was terrified of going out but then I became just as terrified staying in. Imagine that your heart is racing all day long, that it is thumping so hard you have a pain in your chest. Imagine that you can't sit still because pacing the floor stops you noticing your whole body trembling with fear. This has been my every day for the past few months.

At first I kept busy, tried to keep my mind focused on something other than the thoughts whirling round my head. I took to decorating, laying laminate flooring, sorting cupboards, constantly cleaning... I would do anything other than sit down and relax. I became impulsive, chopping 5 inches of my hair off one evening was a warning sign!
I tried mindfulness courses, meditation, repeating affirmations, relaxing music, colouring, sewing, card making, reading. I finished my christmas shopping by October and all presents were wrapped by mid November. I actually ran out of things to do.
I'm never laying laminate flooring again!

My wall of positivity. Favourite photos and inspirational quotes

Impulsive. Decided to just cut my hair myself!

Turned out alright though!


The moment I sat still, the panic would set in. This has been unlike any panic attacks that I have previously experienced. Panic attacks for me are fairly short-lived, this was constant.

After keeping busy and trying every grounding and breathing exercise I knew this wasn't going away and I needed to get myself some help as I really couldn't cope any longer.

Fortunately, my employer uses the Employee Assistance Programme, which provides independent advice, support and counselling. In my role as a Blue Light Champion I have always encouraged people to contact them for support, but had never done so myself. I built up the courage to ring the number and I was immediately transferred to a counsellor and spoke for 50 minutes until they calmed me down. Within hours I was then given an appointment for private face to face counselling near to where I live which was booked for two days time. You are given a weekly face to face counselling session for 6 weeks, free of charge.
I am honestly so grateful for this service as know it would have been impossible to get anything as quick through the NHS, it's frightening to think what would have happened to me if there was no support available. There are so many people suffering with no access to support and I know how incredibly lucky I've been.

Having somebody independent to talk to confidentially was brilliant. They didn't judge me and helped me to understand that my anxiety was a completely normal response as I had no control over what was happening and that I just needed time to process things. Talking things to death really helped me make sense of everything.

I was still experiencing the leg tremor, and even when I felt in control and less anxious it was an unwelcome reminder that I wasn't okay.

Off to my GP for a regular meditation review. It had been the plan to start reducing my medication in November due to how stable I'd been but instead, my medication was increased by 50mg.
The first week of the higher dosage was rubbish. Whether it was a combination of being so exhausted from my body being in constant fight or flight mode, or just the extra hit of Sertraline I fell into a pit of depression. I took annual leave from work as I was too worried about having any more sickness on my record after so much time off last year. For a couple of days I couldn't even get out of bed; I was an emotional wreck and felt so lonely and desperate.

Thankfully the medication has stabilised now and in the main, the leg tremor has gone and only makes an appearance when I expect it to.

I'm looking after myself and taking things easy because I haven't got the energy to do more. I've had to get extensions authorised for a distance learning course I'm doing because I'm still struggling to focus and I'm exhausted after being at work all day. I'm feeling calmer, more in control and feel like I'm getting back on track.

A lot of people talk about recovery with mental illness but I don't think you ever fully recover. I manage my mental illness and learn ways to live symptom free but I'm acutely aware of how much I also need the medication.

I'll be doing a few blog posts over the next week about some work that I've been doing for Time To Change. Stay tuned!!!

Remember, even though you feel it at times, YOU ARE NOT ALONE. There is always someone to turn to and to everyone that has tweeted their support on the days I've really struggled.... a massive thank you.

Natalie x

Comments

  1. Thank you so much for your honesty, you are amazing! I have just been signed off work due to severe anxiety so all you have said sounds so familiar. My hall has also been given a lick of paint and cupboards cleared out!!! It's fab to hear someone else talk in the same way my brain works so thank you again xx

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