Now you’d struggle to browse the inter-web today without noticing the mention of #timetotalk, which is all over social media today. Time to Talk is a campaign to encourage the discussion of mental health, and take 5 minutes out of your day to talk. So I thought this would be the perfect time to share my story and my experiences with mental health.
You probably don’t know, because i’ve not really talked openly about it on here, but I suffer from anxiety and have done for over 10 years now. I am happy to say over the past 3 or 4 years i’ve managed to reduce my panic attacks to perhaps once a year, instead of the previous multiple attacks a day I was suffering from.
This all began around the age of 13/14 and to this day I have no idea why it started. All I can remember is going on a trip into town with my friends to our usual saturday hang out of ‘the hippy green’ and feeling all funny as I stepped off the bus. I didn’t know what was wrong with me, I just knew it wasn’t right and suddenly I was sick. At the time my friends and I laughed it off, purely because it was so sudden and we were all like ‘OMG ALICE HAS JUST BEEN SICK HOW RANDOM” – but I was fine after that so just carried on with my day. Over the next few months this occurred more and more, and by the summer of 2005 this has become a regular thing. It was a vicious cycle, the more I was having these ‘moments’ the more anxious I would get about getting them when I went out. I slowly began associating specific activities with panic attacks because I had happened to have had one on one occasion. I couldn’t go into town with my friends anymore without having a panic attack, I couldn’t go into the city centre at all and it terrified me. I wasn’t able to travel on the school bus, I couldn’t eat out in cafes or restaurants.
It had gotten so bad that I constantly felt anxious for around 4-5 months, every single daily activity caused fear within me. One thing I suffer from most when I am anxious or feeling low, is I lose my appetite, i’m the opposite of a comfort eater. Now you can imagine feeling anxious for that long a period of time affected my eating considerably and within a few months I dropped nearly 2 stone. I was well aware that something was wrong, my clothes were hanging off me and I was constantly cold. I knew it wasn’t an eating disorder, it was never about food, that was just how my body reacted to it. I had no clue what was going on with me, and this scared me. I thought i was going crazy, I thought I was insane, and I thought I was the only one. It wasn’t until my mum dragged me to the doctors that I finally got an answer.
I began CBT (Cognitive behavioural therapy) at the start of end of year 8, and truthfully I don’t really remember too much of what happened there. I just remember talking to my psychiatrist about what was going on, how it made me feel and when it was happening to try and find a common cause. We couldn’t and I was diagnosed with having generalised anxiety disorder. At the time I didn’t think the CBT was really doing anything, but in the long run its helped me so much! It taught me ways to re-programme my mind when I was feeling anxious, focusing on something else and using ways of distracting myself, (these included singing “i’ll be okay” by Mcfly to myself) – looking back some of these seem a little silly but they worked.
I must say one of the main things that helped me was my mum, if she was to ask me to do something – like go out for lunch – I would automatically say no and curl up into a ball of fear. So she began surprising me with trips out, which at the time I was angry about. But it was her way of pushing me out of my comfort zone and I learnt to stop saying no and much and start saying yes. The more I pushed myself the easier it got and slowly the panic attacks started to lessen.
Thankfully I am now at a point in my life where my panic attacks are a very rare occurrence – I still feel anxious from time to time but I now know how to cope with them and stop an anxiety attack happening. The biggest part of my panic attacks were being sick here there and everywhere, and I’m proud to say i’ve not been sick in over 5 years, which for somebody who was sick on a daily basis this is a huge deal for me. Talking to somebody and seeking help was the biggest step for me, but it made me realise I was normal and what I was suffering with was actually really common, especially with females around the age of 13/4 – I reckon hormones set it off.
So I urge you to talk about mental health. Wether you yourself are suffering and are worried about people judging you, talk about it. Perhaps you know somebody with mental health issues themselves, check in with them every once and a while and talk about it! There is a terrible stigma with mental health and we need to stop this and just TALK ABOUT IT.
– My inbox is always open if you want to talk-