‘Stop asking people who have not been where you are going for directions’
We all have a story, not everything happens for a reason but I believe it’s our job to give it a reason. I have spent a fair amount of time not feeling very good, with no explanation or understanding as to why. You can deny your emotions but they will always show up, a bit like pushing a beach ball underwater, science doesn’t allow it – it will rise up angrier than before. Just like forcing a ball under water I was ignoring feelings of self loathing and self sabotage by distracting myself with other priorities.
Change can be a trigger for people who suffer from high anxiety as with change comes a lack of certainty and that means a lack of control. The strain of being unable to regulate my emotions had taken it’s toll and one morning at work I had my first ever panic attack during a meeting. I started speaking and somewhere in between my words and my thoughts I lost everything I had ever known, I froze, I blacked out, I couldn’t hear or think let alone talk. It felt as though someone was picking at parts of my brain with a pair of tweezers and my entire head was shaking. I lost complete control, like a button got pressed and I just shut down. The debilitating sensations were nothing I had ever experienced and not being in control physically was one of the scariest moments of my life.
‘Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional’
At times I can’t explain what panic means to me, I can’t find the words to convey how traumatizing it is. For many years I thought people who said they had panic attacks were attention seeking and I would wonder why they couldn’t just get over it. Mind over matter! Now from my own experience I understand how physically debilitating anxiety and panic attacks can be.
After experiencing my first ever episode I became terrified that it would happen again and so I avoided social situations making my fear worse (a very common thing to do.) Everyday I felt dizzy, tight chested, nauseous and fatigued with a constant brain fog and moments of severe blurred vision. I wasn’t hungry, skipped meals and my periods stopped. My body went into shut down mode and everything in my life became a threat. My biggest fear was people’s judgement and anyone finding out that I was ‘mad’ so I completely shut myself off. I would come home from work, clothes drenched in sweat and go straight to bed at 7pm absolutely exhausted. I became so numb from overwhelm I couldn’t even cry anymore, I didn’t laugh, eating was a chore and I slowly stepped into a mild depression.
Labelling my experience as panic now is easy but at the time I had no idea what was happening to my body, I was terrified. I booked an appointment with my GP and was diagnosed with Generalised Anxiety Disorder towards the end of 2016. Although the doctor had given me an answer I was convinced that these physical symptoms couldn’t be linked to my mental state and so I went into denial. My denial consisted of blood tests, physical examinations, urine samples, antibiotics, ultrasounds and even an MRI scan. I believed the Doctor had got it all wrong and I remember praying for a different answer and that something would explain what was really happening to my body. The hardest part for me was that I couldn’t give a tangible explanation as to why all of this was happening, I had such a privileged life there was no real reason that I could tell people as to why I was so unhappy and stuck. This lack of understanding created a huge amount of shame and even more isolation.
‘By going out of your mind you come to your senses.’
The turning point was the day I accepted my anxiety. I now recognize my anxiety as one of the best things that has happened to me because of everything I gained from it. I have felt a lot of grief at times for the person I used to be knowing I will never be able to meet her again. That process is hard but I also recognise I am proud of where I have got to and I wouldn’t have got here without the old version of myself.
I quit my stressful (underpaid and overworked) job at the time, and found something that gave me a work/life balance and a company that supported my mental health. I took control of my diet and nutrition cultivating a routine of wellness. I found my coping mechanisms like meditation, journaling and walking so that when warning signs appear I manage them better. I educated myself by listening to podcasts, reading books, and the more I opened up and spoke to other people about my mental wellbeing the more I realised everything I was going through was completely ‘normal.’
I am now connected to how I feel and have a better understanding of my stress levels. I am aware of my core values and I have my own direction rather than being dependent on other people’s opinions and approval. I am in the driver’s seat and I am running this show. By focusing on self care, self acceptance, compassion and being kind to myself I have been able to rediscover what is important to me and reshape my identity, enforcing boundaries in every aspect of my life.
‘When we stop re-reading the last chapter of our life, we leave room to write a new one’
This is just a part of my story and I have chosen to let it empower me rather than define me. I am not playing victim. I am still learning, I have good and bad days. Days where I have direction and confidence and days where I feel lost and confused. My journey to wellness fluctuates just like anybody else’s. I am far from perfect but I am committed to cultivating a life I want to live. An open mind, living in compassion, gratitude and acceptance. I will never be ale to give those things to other people if I can’t be them for myself.
My aim now is to help people before they get to a place of ‘burnout’, I wholeheartedly believe in prevention rather than reaction. We need to normalise conversations around mental well-being and create a space to feel and process our emotions. I have a Personal Performance Development diploma with the Coaching Academy. A certificate in Counselling Skills and have completed the online Mindfulness course with BeMindful. I offer a range of services and these are bespoke to each person. Find more information on what I offer here
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