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.
8 Comments Add yours
I appreciate this post. I, too, have suffered from stress & anxiety over the years. While I am not brave enough to try the cold shower thing…or cut out coffee… the methods you describe sound really grounding. I hope comfort finds you as peace and health!
Give the cold shower a go, it really does set you up for the day, but maybe wait until the summer lol! Thanks for your comment on my blog post. x
I love that I stumbled upon your blog through VEDA. I’m a mom of two and have vestibular migraines as well. I have had panic attacks and anxiety almost exactly like you described and with the same triggers! I used to get anxiety and panic attacks from standing in lines or feeling “stuck” somewhere. It’s hard not knowing if you’re going to start feeling dizzy somewhere, and it can be especially scary going out with the kids by yourself. It sounds like we share many similar experiences! I know it can be so hard! You’ve definitely encouraged me to start looking at my diet more, I’m going to start cutting gluten and dairy and see if that helps any! 🙂
Thank you for writing a reply to my blog, I am sorry to hear you too have vestibular migraines, and how spooky that we have very similar triggers, anxiety etc. It is a horrible condition to live with. Cleaning up my diet has definitely helped but not only that doing my mindfulness more and mindful pilates has helped too, exercise does wonders for the mind and body. I hope you find something that helps you get better and better and one day be free of this horrible condition. You are HELPING YOURSELF which is the key to recovery. Keep in touch and let me know if anything helps as it is so helpful to me and to others too. All the best for now Lara xxx
What a lovely read delighted too know that I’m not alone it’s like you were talking about me thanks for butting it up
I also read and commented on your vestibular blog. Thank you again for sharing your struggles. I too am a 25 year sufferer of anxiety/panic disorder. It’s started when I was 17 while smoking pot. I became a completely different person that day and my life changed forever. I Often try to remember what it was like to feel/be “normal”. I felt like I had been completely robbed of my life that day. Needless to say, after that day I never touched another drug again. And I was only a casual user of pot then. I can’t even begin to describe what I went through that day. It was pure hell. I thought I was dieing. Anyway, the 5 years to follow were the worst years for me with the anxiety. I Became agoraphobic. I lost insane amounts of weight and I was already fairly thin. I have seen countless therapists and tried dozens of antianxiey drugs. Nothing worked for me. Over the next 20 years, I’ve learned to deal with the attacks with self talk. It seemed like that’s all I had. Positive self talk. I lost so many friends, family members, and even my first marriage because of my anxiety. People simply could not understand what it was and they didn’t want to be around me. They all told me that I was crazy. Over the years, my anxiety has changed. I’m not afraid of some things that I was previously but they were replaced with other fears. I have phobias now. I understand the fear of having a vertigo attack in public or even driving. It’s always on my mind. The worst thing that this disease has robbed me of was that it caused me to never have a child. I had such an emense fear of pregnancy, that I never allowed myself to get pregnant. I am now 42 years old and feel that it’s too dangerous to have a baby now. I guess my fear of pregnancy stemmed from my mother. She had such a horrible time with it. She had morning sickness 24/7 for 9 straight months and she did it 3 times. I have an older sister and younger brother. My biggest fear in the world is ( and I’m embarrassed to say) is vomiting. Ever since my first panic attack, I have avoided anything and everything that may cause me to vomit. I have always suffered with motion sickness so I don’t travel. I have never been on a boat or an airplane. My new husband loves to travel and wants to take trips that require flying. I have been a reck thinking that I might one day have to get on a plane. Just the thought of it sends me into a panic attack. Not for fear of crashing but a fear of vomiting on the plane. And, like you, the claustrophobic aspect of it freaks me out.
I have never really tried anything except self talk to get me through the anxiety attacks. And even that doesn’t always help. I am a smoker and have been for almost 30 years. I was told by doctors and therapists that nicotine is a stimulate and that I should quit cigarettes and anything with caffeine. I have never tried this and frankly, cigarettes have been kind of a cruch for me with my anxiety. I’m afraid that I won’t have the will power or motivation to stick with a diet. I have taken on the idea that I have to start facing my fears in order to get over them but when you have a fear of vomiting as severe as mine, how do u face that fear?
Thank you for listening to my story and I thank you a thousand times over for sharing your stories. I felt so alone for so many years thinking that I was the only one going through this.
I’m so lucky I don’t suffer with any of this , but I’m trying to understand my ex husband , we nearly lost my daughter when she was 5 , 13 years ago now , he blamed himself and changed , suffered with illnesses and pins and needles , thought he was having heart problems , headaches , migraines , viral infections , high blood pressure , stress , 4 years ago he left me , said I didn’t know what I’d done to him , would never know how he felt about me , said he would regret leaving but would never tell me , he moved in with a male friend , they didn’t get on , he become friendly with a woman half his age , rub , exercised all the time , 7 months later met someone else and dropped everyone including his kids , moved in with her straight away 8 weeks , started divorce proceedings , told me he had a brain tumour which was a lie , worried about his health heart problems , just before we went to court for the divorce he had seizures , was diagnosed with stress depression and anxiety , the day the divorce was finalised he announced he was engaged and remarried all with 16 months of leaving me , he lost his job through illness and now cannot drive , he says he still has seizure day and night has gained an enormous amount of weight doesn’t go out or do much has little money , has depression anxiety which when we were together he had looking back neither of us realised or confronted it , we had 4 kids high powered jobs always busy , we lost intimacy together although I loved him so very much he hardly sees his kids one the one we nearly lost he has no contact with , but he says he never been happier and is with the love of his life , she. also suffers the same symptoms apart from the seizures , has no contact with her own daughter , he has closed all contact with me , he will have been married 2 years this year , I want to help him but should I stay away , is this all my fault , everything turned nasty between us , he thought I was involved. With a mutual friend when he first left I wasn’t and told him so , I. Think of him every day , the live still there , what’s best for him , to let go , his new wife monitors his calls with his kids and they are never on there own , even when popping to the shops