It’s all in your head

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Since I wrote my previous blog “Fuck You Anxiety” – I had a massssssive surge of e-mails / following and questions related to it as well as some praise for sharing part of my story. That’s not really the reason I shared it – I just wanted to let other people who feel the same, know that they’re not alone.

A few years ago, when I was completing my university degree, I went on a bus from Hamilton to Glasgow and whilst on this bus, for absolutely NO REASON WHATSOEVER, I had my first every bout of anxiety. I suddenly wanted to get off the bus, and couldn’t, because we were hurtling along the motorway. That’s when it all started. No joke. A bus & a bit of a sore stomach. That’s it. I went through a period of a few months where I could barely leave the house. Fast forward to 2014 and I can honestly say that although anxiety still affect me daily, it doesn’t control my life as much as it used to. I constantly challenge myself to get out of my comfort zone – but I also know when to take a rest from the battle as well. And I’m okay with that.

I’m not going to go into any more detail about what triggered my anxiety in the beginning – but I will say that it is related to my IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) in which I have the irrational fear of being ill whilst I am not at home. Being in a situation which I can’t get out of quickly. Which is a bit fucked up because I actually get a huge buzz from being out of my comfort zone, and I challenge myself constantly. I’m sure others with IBS will know exactly what I’m talking about here.

So I’m going to write a little bit more on the subject today – because anxiety affects more people than you realise, and I really hope that by sharing this, in some way, I can help you realise that 1. You are not alone, and 2. There are a lot of things you can do about it.

What exactly is anxiety? Well, for someone who doesn’t know about it as a medically diagnosed disorder, they assume that someone with anxiety simply gets nervous about something. Being anxious is that fluttery feeling in your stomach that you get before your driving test, before your final exams, after that first date when your phone beeps with a text from her.. And yes, that is anxiety. But for me, anxiety is an overwhelming surge of self doubt that is so strong that it will not only cause me to feel physically unwell, but it completely and utterly rules every single thought that ever goes through my mind. For me – anxiety is being surrounded with HUNDREDS of positive comments from people, having amazing friends & family but then getting hit with one or two negative people and focusing on only the negative. It eats away at me for days, weeks and it’s so powerful that it’s difficult to get back out of it again!

For me, anxiety is the constant analysing of what other people are saying about me and thinking about me. It’s the “what if’s”. It’s the constant war that goes through my mind DAY IN, DAY OUT – every single day that passes without fail. If you could see into the mind of someone who has anxiety – you would see quite a few different “personas”. It’s like looking into a room filled with people all arguing with one another. One person says do this you fucking idiot and stop being so stupid – X,Y & Z will never happen. The the other person says – “but what if….” I’m not saying that someone with anxiety has multiple personalities because that is an entirely different ball game – but what I am saying is that it is a constant war of the mind – and it is never ending.

Most people make unconscious decisions every single day about what they are going to do. The sun’s out – let’s go to the beach. Friday night, at a loose end, let’s go to a restaurant for dinner. A drive. Out with friends. But for someone with anxiety, and I am mostly relating to my own situation here – everything is a military operation, planned in advance in order to satisfy my mind that I am going to be okay. This in itself is absolutely shit – because I am one of the most spontaneous people you could ever meet. I LOVE LOVE LOVE to do things on a whim. I love to travel. I love to eat out. I love being random – because that’s who I am. Having anxiety does not really allow me to be that person very often anymore. I often find myself getting SUPER excited about something, planning it all, talking 100mph about it and then suddenly “BUT WHAT IFFFFFFFFF…..and what will people thinkkkkk” starts. You guys might have seen that I went to see Rihanna last year at Sunderland Stadium of Light right? 55,000 people and me – standing at the very front – in my absolute element. You might think how on earth did I do that if I have anxiety?? On the outside you saw photos of me having the absolute time of my life (and I was, it was one of the best days of my life!), but what you didn’t see what the WEEKS and MONTHS of mental preparation that I had to go through in order to do that. Meticulous planning of driving routes, parking places, walking distances to and from (the list is endless). It was mentally EXHAUSTING but holy shit balls on fire, it was one of the best feelings ever to have achieved that with relatively no blips whatsoever. FUCK YOU ANXIETY! That’s 1-0 to me!

I haven’t had an “anxiety attack” for about 6 months now, because I have learned the signals and can now stop them from blowing out of proportion before they actually happen. But I have had a few belters in the past. It starts with nausea, finishes with sweats, shaking and irrational fears of stuff that realistically will never even happen. Some people have likened an anxiety attack to a heart attack – but personally I have never experienced this, thankfully! You know the weird thing though? They happen for absolutely no fucking reason whatsoever. You can be asleep and wake up having one. You can be sitting watching TV and BOOM. You don’t have to be anxious, to be anxious.

I am constantly concerned about causing people disappointment. What if I suddenly at the last minute have to cancel a class because I can’t get out the bathroom? What if I can’t go out in town with my friends as planned because my head is hosting World War 3? I can’t really plan too far in advance anymore (which is good for my spontaneity I suppose) when it comes to social situations, because I’m unsure about how I’m going to feel on a particular day. I do however, plan meticulously for big events. Sometimes (and this is rare now but still happens occasionally) I have to cancel plans at the last minute. The thought of letting people down eats away at me quite a bit, even though on the outside I radiate an “I don’t give a fuck what you think” aura. I often say yes to plans with people or friends when deep down I know my head won’t actually let it happen. I just want to come across as normal. So I say things I don’t mean sometimes. 

I have to think of the consequences of every single thing that I eat for fear of what it’s going to do to my IBS. If I even get one thing wrong when it comes to my nutrition – it can make me ill for a full week. I just had to get that in there somewhere, because I know a lot of people often ask me how I manage to be so meticulous with my food, and where my willpower comes from. Well, there you have it. If I eat crap, I feel crap. And I don’t want to feel crap because it makes me anxious. End of. 

Perfectionism. I am a perfectionist and I have OCD tendencies when it comes to things being done correctly the first time. I am VERY hard on myself. If I can’t get something absolutely perfect, I would rather just not do it at all. The positive thing about this is that every single task that I undertake, after a huge amount of procrastination for fear of not doing it perfectly, it will get done to 100% of my ability. First time. I hope that made sense. Although I appear confident on the outside as a group fitness instructor – that first night of a new release absolutely TERRIFIES me. For fear of fucking it up and not getting it perfect. “But we won’t know you did it wrong.” True. But I will know. Perfectionism comes hand in hand with being a virgo, and being an anxious virgo. But I quite like it.

So. What can be done about anxiety? This is 100% from my heart. Anxiety to me is all about the perceived threat of something which most probably will never happen. Over the past 10 years, I have been on beta blockers, Prozac (fluoxetine), some other shit with a big long name; I’ve had NLP, cognitive behavioural therapy blaaaah blah blah. None of it helped. Exercise helps, and I have made it into my career and passion because it allows me the flexibility to say no when I need to. It allows me an escape when I need to. The hormonal response of exercise lifts my mood and I can honestly say it has changed my life. My job is such that I focus on other people for the vast majority of my week and I absolutely LOVE my job. I am NOT lucky. I have created this for myself through hard work and determination; and with anxiety, this has been even more of a struggle. So – headphones in, world out – for 1 hour every day – is what keeps my anxiety at bay. Surround yourself with POSITIVE people – who radiate energy no matter how far away from you they are. Surround yourself with like minded people who share interests with you. Surround yourself with polar opposites so that you can LEARN from them. Stay away from drains. Don’t let ANYBODY drain your buzz. 

I would like to create awareness of anxiety by writing this blog. I don’t want anybody to feel sorry for me because I don’t feel sorry for myself whatsoever. It’s part of who I am and I’ve wholly accepted this. This needs to be addressed NOW so that more and more people know that they are NOT ALONE with it and that you CAN CAN CAN CAN dull the effects of it with a wee bit of help. If you know someone with anxiety – please don’t patronise them with statements like, “just think positive and come out with us – you’ll be fine, nothing will happen” or “it’s all in your head, nothing bad will happen”. Yes – you might be right – but to us, the fear is very real, no matter how fucked up it might sound to you. If you want to support someone with anxiety, just show them that you’re there for them when they need you. If they cancel plans at the last minute, don’t make a big fuss about it. Shit happens.

You’re not going crazy. You are NOT alone. Anxiety is VERY COMMON and although I believe it cannot be 100% cured, the effects of it can be massively reduced through lifestyle choices. I would urge ANYBODY who is suffering from anxiety that needs help to talk to someone about it. Someone who understands. Get rid of the negative people from your life who don’t understand or refuse to understand. You don’t need that in your life.

So – in September this year I am going on the vacation of a LIFETIME. For 10 years, I have suppressed my true love for spontaneity and travel because of anxiety – but this year I am saying FUCK IT. In September myself and a friend have booked a 3 week holiday to California. LA, Hollywood, Vegas and Huntington Beach. I have DREAMED about going to these places for as long as I can remember but the war in my head kept saying… what if…? I know it’s not going to be easy, and I know there will be times where my head might win – but I am going to give my fuck it attitude it’s very best shot. How am I planning to prepare myself for this? I’ve considered hypnotherapy & NLP and may try it out before I go but mostly, I am going to not give a flying fuckery what anybody thinks about me. We are going to go out there, and absolutely rock it!

If anybody has any questions, or just relates to this and wants to talk to me about it – just check out my social links on this blog.

The anxiety isn’t gone – but I’ve learned how to live with it 🙂

Rachael

 

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