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Saturday, 16 June 2018

Anxiety Bites


Let me explain what it's like to live with anxiety.

Thoughts start racing, hands start shaking. Stomach starts aching, legs are swaying. Rapid blinking. Struggling to stand up straight because my body has become so heavy I might collapse. Everything becomes exaggerated; fears start taking over my mind. Noises are sudden. Paranoia. Trapped, like being in the sunken place.

Can't go to uni without having a panic attack. Yesterday at work everything was fine - I was checking people's tickets and telling them where to sit as they came in to watch Ed Sheeran at Wembley. I'm not a shy or awkward person - I love talking to people when I'm in a good mood, and I am fine with lots of noise and music. I actually prefer it to quiet, because when its too quiet I have nothing to listen to but my thoughts.

I think it was the bodies passing by, moving backwards and forwards, making me disoriented. Plus I was up on Level 5, which is the highest level of the stadium and would freak someone with acrophobia. (People who are afraid of heights or planes can avoid them, yet spiders are everywhere and people just tell me to 'get over' my arachnophobia like it's a choice).

People often ask me what triggers panic attacks. Often its stuff I'm unaware of - thoughts can come into my head; a conversation from months ago about something that upset or annoyed or frustrated me, and then it leads to other thoughts based on that strand, which ends up making it hard to concentrate on what I'm doing.

My fears become magnified - fear that I'll never be in a long-term relationship and know what it feels like to be in love with a man; fear that I'll never achieve any commercial success as an author and musician, fear that I'll drink again and start taking drugs and become a junkie, fear that I'll lose my temper so bad one day I'll go to prison for several years.

People always want to know what's wrong or what the trigger is, but most of the time when I've been upset throughout my life it hasn't been one thing, it's been a range of things that suddenly boil over. I liken myself to a dormant volcano or a steaming kettle. Even if I'm happy with my life situation - which I am at the moment - something in my brain can always come along to spoil it. I try and take things easy; stay hydrated, sleep and eat enough, meditate, take antidepressants.

As I mentioned earlier I'm a pretty confident, chatty person, yet most of the time when I wake up in the morning I'm terrified of leaving my bed in case something bad will happen. I avoid watching the news because it's always a story of a disaster, and make myself apathetic towards it by shrugging my shoulders and saying 'oh well, I don't give a fuck about terrorist attacks; they happen all the time.' I have to do that because if I allow myself to feel it, to feel the tragic horror of this fragile world, I'll lose my shit.

Sometimes I yelp in the night - last night I was shrieking and my mum came in to calm me down. I don't know if its still happening but for a while I was grinding my teeth - at night the anxiety manifests into my dreams; people, places and situations, the three things we admit we are powerless over.

I look at my friends and people on the street and think everyone secretly hates me and thinks I'm a terrible person. I'm suspicious of everyone, thinking everyone I see is out to screw me in some way (and not the good kind of screwing). I expect the worst in people, I expect them to let me down, because if they do its easier to shrug my shoulders and go 'cest la vie.' I try not to give a shit about the little things, make so much progression, but then out of the blue the shakes and the blinking and the erratic behaviour come along.

When I'm in the middle of a panic attack I can't talk or move properly and I can't concentrate on the person I'm looking at. People try and ask me questions yet my brain freezes and my mouth won't make words. I have to stay seated or lying down because if I try to stand up I'll collapse.

Please world, try and understand. Anxiety affects so many of us, and you don't have to be going through severe shit to get anxious. Its a psychological disorder than can be treated, but in the meantime it feels like your brain is overheated. When you see someone having a panic attack, remain calm and collected.

Panic attacks aren't fatal, and no they don't require an ambulance, just a sense of composure and knowing it will pass. Its not the person's fault; they want to live and function like normal - to go to school or work, to buy their groceries or eat, but the stressors of daily living can be too much. Someone gets snappy with me or interrogative and I feel my heart start to race. Even joyful things - rollercoasters, drumming, make my body lose face. Try to see that we're living and trying to get by, and be as considerate as you can my dear passers-by.

Related articles:

https://www.powerofpositivity.com/5-things-people-with-panic-attacks-want-you-to-know/

https://www.calmer-you.com/12-signs-of-an-anxiety-attack-and-6-effective-ways-to-cope-with-it/

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