Anxiety and Depression, two topics that for many years were taboo despite being the most common mental health problems in the UK, but now, thanks to Mental Health Awareness Campaigns such as those from the charity Mind, these illnesses are spoken about a lot more openly.
Anxiety is something that almost everyone feels at some point in their lives. Whether they’re taking that all important exam or job interview or going into the unknown, the feelings of panic, worry and uncertainty can lead them to feeling tense, irritable and fearful. It can affect the ability to concentrate, and eating and sleeping patterns. The adrenaline that can be released during anxiety episodes can cause the heart to beat faster and senses heightened and this can take a while to subside, making you feel agitated for longer or even lead to a panic attack, such as feeling dizzy, sick or short of breath. It’s when these feelings of anxiety persist that every day life can be more affected.
Looking back I’ve had anxiety since I was young but it’s only really manifested itself in recent years. The feeling of breathlessness and constant worry, as well as disturbed sleep. I would worry about everything from death, losing loved ones and the end of the world (barking mad yes I know!) to what people thought of me, whether they liked me and exams and work.
The major turning point and realisation of my anxiety took place just before I got married in 2006. I was having a really tough time at work. There was a lot of pressure, bitchiness and mind games taking place and I was really wound up and stressed by it all. I suddenly started suffering from what appeared to be laryngitis and due to the nature of my work I couldn’t really carry out key roles of my job as I literally had no voice and my throat was agony. I ended up having to have time off work because of it. However every time I seemed to get over it and return to work it would return again. I was getting a lot of grief for being off ill and I made the major mistake of googling my symptoms to see how I might treat them, but this only made things worse. My symptoms could have been related to any one of a number of devastating and in some cases terminal illnesses and I got myself so upset that I became tangled in a vicious circle of fear and worry that I couldn’t get out of. I was convinced I was really ill but too scared to go and be checked. Every day I would cry and disappear into a world of my own. My anxiety took over and as a result my behaviour changed. No one bar my husband knew what I was going through or how I felt and as a result of me bottling so much up and being frankly a bit self-obsessed not only with my worries but with my wedding planning too I even lost a couple of friends.
I went to see a counsellor and learnt about the vicious circle of anxiety and how anxiety essentially is created from an issue and has knock on effects. These effects and anxieties can make us go round in a circle and without breaking this circle or nipping the real issues in the bud the circle will keep going. The symptoms I was experiencing were apparently also symptoms of anxiety and in the end my husband, counsellor and doctor convinced me to take action to get out of my vicious circle and to have blood tests and swabs to prove there wasn’t actually anything wrong, other than me winding myself up in my own mind. The tests of course all came back negative and amazingly within a matter of days my laryngitis symptoms disappeared! The fear that I’d had, had been confronted and dissipated, which meant my anxiety symptoms disappeared.
I suffered another period of anxiety just over a year later in a new job when certain issues arose that I had to deal with. Because of everything that had happened in my previous job I found it quite hard and my anxiety flared up again, although not as bad. In the end I ended up leaving the organisation and it felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders.
I had a few years of anxiety free living after that and I felt truly great, this was until just after I had my eldest daughter in 2011. An innocent comment from a neighbour about some young guys hanging around and looking suspicious triggered a fear in me that someone was going to break into my house and I felt really worried and threatened, so much so that for 3 weeks I sat in the house with door locked and blinds closed too. I totally freaked out and every time I did go out I was convinced we were going to be burgled. I managed to pull myself together with the help of a very mild dose of happy pills on this occasion thank god but since then my anxiety has manifested itself a lot more regularly. I found it very hard during my pregnancy this time when I couldn’t take my medication. I seemed to be a lot more emotional and erratic and I began to worry about how I would bond with my new baby. I didn’t feel the bond I had felt with my first bump and it worried me. I was paranoid that I would get post natal depression.
When baby arrived I bonded immediately and was so relieved. However as the first few weeks went on I started to feel really low for no reason. I didn’t feel hatred towards my baby at all or anything like that. I just cried lots and felt really emotional. I realised I was depressed and I immediately went back on my happy pills, especially at the request of my hubby who was worried about me and they made a difference instantly.
I know my anxiety is here to stay, it’s something I am having to still learn to live with. However the one thing I have learned is to be open and honest about the way I feel and to let those close to me in. Talking is great therapy. I just have to be aware to not talk too much and bore people silly or drive them away! lol!
I guess the reason for this post is that my husband has of late commented on our daughter’s temperament and her ability to get agitated and wound up easily. He thinks she has a lot of my personality and it has got me thinking about our family history and whether anxiety and depression can be hereditary or in the genes. I know that there is a history and this is something I aim to explore further.
Have you any experiences of anxiety or depression? How do you manage it if so? I would love to hear your thoughts.