If you had asked me 5 years ago what anxiety felt like, I would not be able to tell you. I had never experienced anxiety ever before! What I might have said, and it would have been a guess is…..butterflies in the tummy feeling??!? Mmmmmm not quite!
My anxiety started very suddenly, like pressing the on switch! I have just written a blog about the CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) I had for my GAD (General Anxiety Disorder) and how it helped me. So now its time for me to share my anxious world with you in the hope that it might resonate with some of you and hopefully I will not feel so alone in how I feel.
My anxiety has been caused by my vestibular condition, well thats what I have been told anyway, I do believe that is mostly true, say 80%. However a part of me thinks that maybe I had it before but instead of anxiety it was in the form of claustrophobia. Maybe my fear of small spaces, being locked in somewhere, a lift breaking down or being in the dark, might have had some grounding and part responsibility for my GAD (general anxiety disorder). It is an interesting concept and one that I might never be able to figure out for sure. Whatever the underlying cause, I know that my anxiety was in full swing in 2013 ever since an incident on the M25 motorway when I had my big dizzy attack, which left me with post traumatic stress.
I believe now I have my anxiety pretty much under control, however there are some days when I could easily loose control, if I wasn’t alert! Some days I wake up with a jittery feeling, let me explain that further – my heart rate is up, pins and needles in my extremities, a fuzzy head, a slightly outer body experience, I am more irritable and slightly more nervous. These are the days I have to adjust, I know that I have to shift my focus slightly. Instead of hiding away from it and trying to ignore it, like I used to (which never worked by the way), I tackle it head on! I even embrace it, I go head to head with it like a duel. Like the triggers of my vestibular migraines, I have learnt to not ignore them but in fact challenge them, if you do not face them how is your brain ever going to conquer them! It needs to learn and be trained how to deal with them.
I mentioned in my CBT blog the other day, that I called my Anxiety a name, I will never share that name with you, its my personal anxiety name! It would be like sharing one of my passwords with you! By giving it a name, I can tell it to go away, I can say hey XXXXXXX, I do not need you today! You are going to be locked away in a jar or kicked away by me! Normally the techniques I gained from CBT work very well, unless I am having a particularly dizzy day, a day full of headaches, vertigo attacks, an insecure day. These I call VERY BAD days, full of Vestibular Migraine symptoms and anxiety, and they are a battle, these are the days where some of my techniques are not enough. These days can run into weeks….So what do I do to cope…
I know on those really bad days, I need to practice more mindfulness, have a colder shower then normal (that centres me very well, oh and tightens the skin so thats a bonus!), do my Headspace app, have a bath and use my hot stones with lavender essential oil, go for a walk, do mindful pilates or other exercise, basically try and have more ME time etc.
Let me talk to you about what fuels my anxiety…
Sometimes people ask, why have you cut out sugar, caffeine and Alcohol? Let me explain why I have cut these things out for good…
- Sugar is a stimulant, sugar is bad for my anxiety, it gives me a rush, energy, aliveness which = jitteriness, not a state of calm, it fuels my anxiety, it makes me hyper and makes me not think straight. The bonus is its more healthy to do so, maintains my weight better, does not rot my teeth and much better for my migraine symptoms. No more refined sugar for me!
- Caffeine is terrible for my anxiety, again a stimulant, same reasons that I mentioned above eg better for my Vestibular Migraines. I used to drink quite a few cups of coffee a couple of years ago, I loved it as it got me through the day. It took me a while to identify this as a trigger, I did used to then drink decaf coffee but I soon swapped to green tea, kombucha and peppermint etc. So much healthier for you and no more dehydration!
- Alcohol used to be my BIG vice, I loved the stuff, not only did I go out drinking with friends but it became my friend after the kids went to bed, my sanity. As soon as 7pm came around before I knew it I had a large glass of wine planted in my hand, then another, then another, most nights! I stopped drinking the day of the M25 motorway incident. The post traumatic stress I experienced after that day had such a profound impact and why drink alcohol when you are dizzy every day, why fuel the fire. I do not know if it would be bad for my anxiety as I didn’t have anxiety when I was drinking, but I can imagine, like caffeine and sugar, its pretty bad for anxiety. I do not miss it, I have learnt to have more fun without it and have fantastically productive weekends hangover free!
Another trigger for my anxiety is health worries. It only takes a twitchy nerve in my leg to get my heart pounding! It can be anything, such as a slight pain in my chest, a twitch in my eye that lasts longer then normal, pins and needles in my feet that will not go etc I will turn to my husband very often and say Why is that doing that? There must be something wrong with me, is it my heart, am I going to keel over? The endless health worries drive him bonkers I am sure! I always seem to have some ailment every day now but have learnt to try and not let it get to me, just part of getting old I suppose! I could write a book on it though!!! “50 shades of ailments” it’s got a ring to it don’t you think ?
One of my main worries is feeling anxious when I go out of the house, sometimes I get myself all wound up hours before I am to exit the house. What if I get really really dizzy and fall, what if I have a panic attack, what if I have a vertigo attack, what if the lights are too bright somewhere, what if its too crowded, what if, what if…..drives me bonkers. I am anxious about being ANXIOUS! I never used to be like this, I used to leave the house without a care in the world, now I have this ridiculous routine of pacing around my house only to simply just step out of my front door to walk to the post office! I have to say though recently I have got much better, thanks to me increasing my mindfulness activities in the evenings, it sets me up for the day ahead. I also think I am better because I am eating better and exercising and lost some weight, does wonders for your mind and body. Plus also loosing a bit of weight means I can get dressed quicker so not so anxious about my clothes not fitting me!
I am not sure I will ever be free of my anxiety, although I do pray that one day I will be. I will do my damnedest to keeping fighting on, I will not be beaten, I will not stop enjoying myself and my children because of it. I do have goals I have set myself for this year, they are very hard goals for me, but I hope to achieve them, I will try my best anyway! I have to do them at my own pace! I know how I feel and I know what I have to do!
Here is a very helpful website if anyone is wanting to find out a bit more about anxiety. https://www.anxietyuk.org.uk/our-services/anxiety-information/ I would love to hear from fellow anxiety sufferers and hear how you have learnt how to deal with your anxiety or what triggers set yours off.