Trying to stop my anxiety from getting the best of me is one of the hardest things I have to conquer on a daily basis. According to my doctor I have “general anxiety disorder” – meaning that I have been worrying about a number of different aspects of (my) life for six months or more.
For those who have never experienced anxiety before, I will try my very best to explain how I feel, as each and every person tends to feel and experience different things. Anxiety – to me – is the feeling of being engulfed by fear. My chest tightens and my heart starts thumping at a rapid rate, and sometimes I find myself holding my breath while my mind seems to think about every bad scenario that could possibly happen all at once, making me silently panic. But what I hate most is that – depending on how anxious or stressed I am on any particular day – sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night choking in my sleep.
A lot of people do not know the extent or the effects anxiety can have on your day-to-day life, and I was one of those people before I started to feel it myself. Anxiety is not something that is made up or over exaggerated, it is something that a lot of people – more people than we will ever know – suffer from on a daily basis in silence. It is something that isn’t talked about because it is seen as ‘taboo’ and because people are too afraid that they will be looked at differently, that they will be ‘categorised’ and judged by people close to them, or that they will be shrugged off and told that they are making it up or that it ‘isn’t that bad’.
But it is that bad.
I only started to talk about my anxiety recently. Mainly it was putting a strain on my relationship and because I was tired of feeling hurt and ‘mixed-up’ inside. When she asked what was wrong, I would say nothing or that I don’t know – because I really didn’t know – and I was crying – a lot – about anything and everything. It was (and still is) incredibly hard to think that you are not as strong as you thought you were, and to realise that you need to open up and lean on someone when you are having a ‘bad’ day.
A couple of moths ago I went to have a mole removed, and for the first time I talked to a doctor (that I have known since I was a child) about how I was feeling. I had spoken to my partner about it, but never a professional. I was sat on the patient bed having a panic attack, I was hyperventilating and absolutely petrified of the needle he was about to stick in my leg, what it was going to feel like having a scalpel cut my leg and if he had given me enough local aesthetic. At 25 years old, I was hiding in my father’s chest, hysterical until it was over – and then I was mortified! Sounds ridiculous, right? The doctor then told me that he had never seen me in such a state and that I was suffering from anxiety. That made it very real.
After I caught my breath he gave me some really good advice. He told me that how I am feeling is manageable – even if I needed a little (or a lot of) help some days – and that the best thing I could have done was talk about it and ask for help.
A couple of months down the line I am starting to feel better already. I have come to terms with my body and my mind’s cries for help and have realised that I need to take that help in order to feel better and not let my anxiety affect my day-to-day life. What I can say to each and every person that is reading this right now suffering from anxiety is that anxiety is manageable, it’s not in your head, and it can be incredibly hard to focus some days – but it is manageable. Seeking help is not a weakness and you should not feel bad about wanting to feel better, you – like I have – will come to terms with the fact that you will need a lot more help some days than other days, and that is okay. Talk to your family, friends or partner, help them to understand, and tell them that you need them to be there for you. It is an uphill battle that has to be taken one step at a time in order to regain your happiness and have more good days than bad days.
Here are a couple of tips that I use to cope with my anxiety every day:
- Look after yourself. Make sure you eat, get enough sleep and look after your mental well-being. If you feel that you need to talk to someone – then talk to someone. Whether a professional, a friend or a family member, talking about how you are feeling will only help you. In order to look after myself I started practicing yoga again, and it has increasingly helped both my mental and physical well being in a number of ways.
- Take medication. If you seek help from a professional and they prescribe you medication to help you manage the way you are feeling, give it a chance. Taking medication every day may seem scary, but it can help you feel so much better.
- Give it time. You are not going to feel better overnight, so it is important to understand this and to allow your body and your mind the time it needs to heal. Be patient and listen to your body.
If you feel like you are suffering from depression or anxiety, contact the South African Depression and Anxiety Group today. I would love to hear from you and about your experiences with anxiety or depression, if you would like to talk to me please leave a comment below or drop me a line via email.