Anxiety For Me

My relationship with anxiety is a complex one. We have a love hate relationship and sometimes we work together well and then sometimes we really don’t. I’ve had anxiety ever since I was a little girl despite it not being recognised (or even thought of) till I was around 19-20 years old so I am pretty well accustomed to living with it, dealing with it, facing the good and bad days and so on. I like to think I am now at a point where I know my anxiety well (but it still surprises me every now and again).

Anxiety is your bodies way of responding to danger. It’s linked to our natural fight/flight response. I like to describe my own anxiety as such…
Imagine you have just been plonked in the middle of the Serengeti. You’re aware that you are in potential danger so you look around, you can’t see anything but you can feel it. You can feel that there is something hunting you, something has its eye on you and you know it. Your adrenaline is pumping, your heart is racing and you’ve got sweat pissing out of every gland in your body. You attempt to walk to the safety of a nearby tree but you feel light headed, your chest is tight and your stomach is doing twists and turns but you need to get to some sort of safety, so you just run for it. You manage to make it to the tree and you collapse in the shade but you struggle to catch your breath, your eye sight is going blurry, you have pin and needles all over and your whole body is shaking. After a few minutes you feel exhausted, drained and dehydrated but you made it to safety, and here you are able to regulate your breathing, slow down your heart rate and compose yourself.

That’s what anxiety is like for me. Sometimes it can go similar to that, sometimes there is a panic attack to go along with it all as well or sometimes it is mild and I’ll only experience a few symptoms of anxiety.

Anxiety effects our physical sensations, behaviours and our thoughts. I’ve written below the many different symptoms of anxiety and I have scored them (from 1-10, 1 being rare and 10 being always) for how often they appear when my anxiety is active.

Physical Sensations:
– Adrenaline rush – 10
– Dizziness – 7
– Shaking – 9
– Sweating – 100 (yes I did mean to put the extra 0 because it’s an excessive amount of sweating and this always…always happens and it is always the first sign)
– Difficulty breathing – 9
– Light headed – 5
– Tight chest – 7-8 (This only happens just before a panic attack or during)
– Redness – 10
– Hot – 10
– Butterflies – 9
– Cramps – 8
– Urge to go to the toilet – 9 (also the toilets are a great hiding spot if you need to regulate and compose yourself)
– Pin&needles – 8
– Tense – 10
– Achy muscles – 6
– Difficulty concentrating/thinking clearly – 10
– Lump in your throat – 7
– Dry mouth – 9
– Palpitations – 7
– Racing heart rate – 10
– Rapid breathing – 7-8 (again, this is usually just before or during a panic attack)
– Dilated pupils – 5 (I’m honestly not sure about this one)
– Alertness – 10 (You become very aware of the danger)
– Blurred vision – 8
– Vomiting/nausea/pain in the stomach – 6

Imagine being alert but having difficulty concentrating because your adrenaline is pumping, heart beat is racing, you can feel the heat radiating from your body and you’ve got sweat pouring out of you that you feel you have no control over. You’re aware that your skin is visibly red and it’s obvious to others that you are ‘not okay’. I can’t tell you the amount of times I have been in this situation.

– Fidgeting – 10 (Something that works for me is having a bracelet on my wrist. It is always my go to when I need to fidget).
– Avoiding situations – 8/9 (There are often a lot of situations that come up in my life that trigger my anxiety. If I can avoid them and I want to avoid them then I will, if I want to avoid them but can’t, then I just crack on with it).
– Avoiding people – 10
– Avoiding places – 9
– Difficulty making decisions – 8
– Startled easily – 8
– Escape/run away – 9/10
– Only going with a friend – 7
– Not being assertive – 9
– Dissociation – 4
– Being irritable – 10
– Distracting yourself – 5
– Disturbed sleep – 8 (getting asleep becomes a challenge)
Then we have coping behaviours (or can also be known as ‘safety behaviours’). These are behaviours that you do to help you cope with being in an anxious situation.
– Drink more alcohol – 10
– Smoke more – 0
– Holding something in your hand – 10 (This. I have to have hold of something or be fidgeting with something)
– Avoiding eye contact – 8 (actually getting a lot better at making eye contact now)
– Medication – 0
– Having an escape plan – 8
– Leaving early – 8
– Eat more or less – 8 (usually more of course)
– Self talk – 8

– I am in danger – 10 (for me, the feeling of being in danger is usually stronger than the thought)
– Imagining the worst possible scenario – 9
– I won’t be able to cope with this – 10
– I can’t do this – 10 (9 times out of 10 I usually can)
– You absolute idiot – 10
– Emma, why did you do that? – 10
– But what if…or what if this… – 10
– Emma you absolute twat – 10
– You need to be more vocal – 10 (This thought usually goes around my head when I am in social situations)
– Something terrible is going to happen – 7
– Everyone is watching me – 10
– I’m going crazy – 7 (but I genuinely think this sometimes, whether my anxiety is present or not)
– People are judging me – 10
– They are going to criticise me behind my back – 10
– Replaying anxiety themed events (either events that have happened or imagined) – 9
– Worrying – 10

Below is a list of just some (we’d honestly be here for days if I listed everything) of the triggers to my anxiety. Some of the triggers are what used to set off my anxiety before I went through therapy (Before therapy) and some are triggers that still happen now (Now). Anxiety for me is:
– Preferring to wear baggy clothes – Now
– Sleeping more due to mental exhaustion – Before therapy
– Not wanting to leave my bedroom (this is usually because of my social anxiety. I tend to stay in my bedroom because the thought of socialising triggers physical sensations, behaviours and/or thoughts) – Before therapy and now
– Convincing myself that others don’t like me – Before therapy
– Worrying about being too exposed (this relates more to what type of clothes I am wearing/where I am wearing them and what I am doing) – Now
– Sitting in corners or on the edges of a social group (I dislike sitting in between people, too much going on for me) – Before therapy and now
– Picking the skin off my thumbs – Before therapy and now
– Crying out of confusion – Before therapy (sometimes happens every now and again)
– Worrying about going to a different petrol station, supermarket, corner shop, pub etc – Before therapy
– Avoiding saying hello to someone I know – Before therapy and now
– Cancelling plans – Before therapy and sometimes now
– Paranoia about what others are saying about me when I am not around – Before therapy and now
– Going through random moments of irritability – Before therapy and now
– Coming across as bossy when in reality I am a soft arse but I feel like I need to assert some sort of dominance so they can’t see that I am a soft arse (this only happens when I am aware that my anxiety is active) – Now
– Coming across as moody when I am just anxious (the moodiness is usually because I have a lot of thoughts racing through my mind) – Now
– Lack of patience (Something I am again improving on) – Before therapy and now
– Overthinking every detail, word, action, situation etc – Before therapy
– Worrying I have offended people – Now
– Blushing (another tell tail sign for me) – Before therapy and now
– Being particular about my space – Now
– Verbal stuttering or slurring my words – Now
– Struggle to accept criticism – Before therapy and a little bit now (but again, I have made great improvements on this)
– Avoid confrontation – Now (mostly because it’s never usually worth it and I just can’t be arsed)
– Being obsessive over details (if something has been organised I like to know the dates, the times, the people, the location, the plan. Every little detail, I have to know) – Before therapy and now
– Apologising all the time – Before therapy
– Being aware that my anxiety is visible which makes me more anxious/paranoid – Now
– Coming across as ‘short’ or ‘quiet’ because sometimes I find talking to certain people a huge fucking challenge – Now (still fucks me off every time when people don’t understand this)
– Craving alone time – Now (and always will be)
– Struggling to cook whilst others are home – Now
– Cracking under pressure – Before therapy and now
– Being unable to understand simple things due to my overthinking – Now
– Not being able to leave my house to walk my dog – Before therapy
– Relying on alcohol/drugs for a confidence boost – Before therapy (I don’t so much rely on alcohol/drugs now but if I am feeling socially anxious then I will usually go to some sort of substance to help me not be so introverted)
– Doubting myself – Before therapy and now (again, I have made some great improvements)
– Being unable to be on my own – Before therapy
– Using my phone as a way of ‘escaping’ a social situation – Now
– Always wearing my hood up on my jumper – Before therapy (relates to exposure)
– Seeking reassurance – Before therapy
– Going to banks – Before therapy
– Panicking under pressure – Before therapy and now
– Creating too much imagined situations/scenarios in my head – Before therapy and now
– Panicking when people speak loudly around or to me – Now
– Planning/organising things months in advance because ‘just in case’ – Before therapy
– Rushing through tasks – Before therapy and now
– Not being able to leave the house without make up – Before therapy
– Telling myself I did something wrong when I didn’t – Before therapy

And so on…

My anxiety actually isn’t as bad as what it used to be. I have managed to gain awareness of my anxiety which over the years has allowed me to figure out my triggers, figure out my symptoms, predict when a panic attack might occur and how to bring myself back. I will experience a anxious physical sensation/behaviour and/or thought a few times a day but I’m able to now manage them and not allow them to snowball into these bigger situations. Granted, they do still snowball every now and again but I know how to prevent that snowball from getting huge. I know how to maintain some sort of balance within my mind.

Anxiety is the most common mental illness and it often goes hand in hand with other mental illnesses. I’m at a point now where I am able to joke about my anxiety but still remain in control if it does try to take over. Not everybody is at that point, not everybody knows how to get to that point so just take it easy on them. That one plan they cancelled with you could have led them to be filled with worry, doubt or fear, it could have resulted in a panic attack or they could end up shutting themselves out from the real world. Be there for them, respect them, try doing something they want to do and just listen. You don’t have to understand you just have to listen.

Thank you for reading,

Sending my love to you all,

Emma xo

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