Maintaining good mental health can be hard work.
I didn’t manage it, and when my third child was a few months old I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety.
I had probably been anxious for 5 years by then, since my first baby was born in 2004. In those days mental health was not something that was discussed often. I hadn’t realised what was going on and had assumed I was weak and needed to pull myself together, everyone else seemed to be able to cope – so why couldn’t I?
But it turns out I wasn’t weak, I was ill.
There is a difference. A huge difference.
You have to first recognise you are ill before you can get any help.
My ignorance meant I didn’t get the support I needed for a long time.
I don’t want anyone else to suffer in silence, and so I have written a list of the most obvious symptoms I experienced that I later realised indicated I was suffering with anxiety. This is a personal list (and we all experience these things differently) but if you identify with any of the following maybe it is time to consider talking to someone about getting some help.
A non-exhaustive list of my symptoms:
- I started the day with a rush of adrenalin. This was not the good ‘energy for the day ahead’ type of buzz, this was panic in my very core about what might happen or what I had to accomplish. My heart would be pounding and I would feel dread about what was to come.
- I catastrophized about everything. As soon as something – anything – even vaguely out of my comfort zone was suggested, or I heard a piece of news I was not anticipating, I would immediately head off the down the rabbit hole to worst-case-scenario land. I would feel trapped in the film in my head which told me of all the potential things that could go wrong. (For me this usually involved illness and feeling trapped and ashamed).
- I made plans but often cancelled. When I was feeling well I would make plans thinking I could cope with them, before realising it was too much and I was too anxious to take part. I often let people down.
- I needed all the information. If I was to go anywhere I would need all the information about the place, the timings, what we would eat, what it would be like. I was trying to control things to minimise my anxiety.
- I had panic attacks. It took me a long time to recognise when a panic attack had hit. It wasn’t like the movies. My stomach would swirl, I would often get hot and often shake. I would be trapped in my catastophizing unable to think logically or be persuaded that disaster was not imminent. I would want to run away, back to a safe place (preferably home) where no one could see me.
This is just a brief list, the highlights if you will. Mental illness is far more nuanced than this. But if you have been wondering if you are suffering with anxiety I would greatly encourage you to seek help: talk to a friend, and make an appointment with your GP. I did and I am so glad of it. Although it was a long road ahead, I have learnt how to live in a way that promotes mental health and wellbeing, my life has transformed completely and all for the better.
I know it feels overwhelming but please remember, this is not your fault and you are not alone in feeling this way. Through talking with friends you may well find others who know what you are going through and can offer you help and comfort on the road to recovery.
Big love x
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