My Mental Health | Anxiety Does Not Discriminate
I was once told that I shouldn’t have anxiety because I have everything I want.
I had a nice enough upbringing, my parents are still together and although they’re both from very poor backgrounds, they didn’t struggle as much for money by the time I started high school.
I graduated from university to become a nurse, managed to buy a house with my husband and we have a child.
I have great family and friends. I have more than enough and there are unfortunate people out there far worse off than me through no fault of their own.
So why do I have anxiety?
I don’t really know.
It’s horrible, I hate it and it can make my life a total misery. The side effects are shite and can affect my loved ones as well as me.
When I was 17 I had my first panic attack.
I had no idea what was going on and genuinely thought I was about to die. I had a part-time job at a bakery and my boss was a bitch, was studying full time at college and also struggling with driving lessons.
I was trying to get some work done at college one day when my phone started ringing. I could see it was my boss but I was in a lesson, so ignored it. My heart had already started pounding as soon as I saw her name on the screen.
She kept ringing over and over again, to the point where I found myself staring at my phone deciding that I must be in big trouble and probably fired.
My heart pounded harder and faster until I could hear and feel it in my ears, while my hands and feet started tingling with numbness.
I felt dreadful, and then my hearing went. I began getting tunnel vision until all I could see was a patch of the keyboard in front of me. While all this was going on I felt like I was going vomit and that I couldn’t breathe.
It felt like it lasted forever and I was terrified.
I remember someone grabbing my hand and pulling me up to my feet while saying my name. I have a blurry memory of the hand still holding mine to lead me along a corridor, which it felt like I was floating along.
I “woke up” outside, sat on some concrete steps with my head in my hands and my ears ringing loudly. It was a friend of mine who’d taken me outside for some air – she spotted me sat at the desk looking grey and gasping for breath, staring into space.
I was very confused and shaky and didn’t really understand what had just happened. I actually thought I was just a bit ill and that was all and didn’t really talk about it much.
It wasn’t until a few weeks later that I realised I’d had a panic attack, brought on by my boss calling me. That was the trigger, but it was the result of months of extreme stress.
A few weeks later I had another panic attack on the bus on the way to college, although it was much smaller that time.
I had no way out of it that time as I was alone and sat at the back of a packed bus. I just had to try to control my breathing and wait for it to pass. That’s when I decided to quit working at the bakery and also quit my driving lessons. That saved me from panic attacks for a while.
Years later I’d started training as a nurse and in my second-year things started falling apart.
Nurse training was extremely hard anyway, but in my second year, my parents went through a very rough patch and were going to split.
I moved out to live with my boyfriend (my now husband). I failed assignments and struggled to concentrate on my studies, and found myself having to attend a meeting where a panel decided if I should stay on the course or not. It was fucking horrible.
The night before my meeting I had a huge panic attack but again, I didn’t acknowledge that this was a problem.
Fast forward a few years again, a few months before I got married. Work was stressful already but I got moved to work on another ward that was even worse to work on. I had no idea what I was doing and the workload was just too much.
It was the straw that broke the camel’s back – on top of the stress of planning our wedding and the financial hit we’d taken from buying our first home previously, being told I was being transferred to work on a ward I hated working on just destroyed me.
First world problems I know, but to me, it was all too much. I found myself calling the new ward’s manager in floods of tears and just told her I could not face going in. She completely understood.
I was signed off sick for a few weeks with a sick note from my GP for stress and anxiety.
This is when I started taking Propranolol to reduce the symptoms of having a fast heart rate all the time with palpitations. I was offered Diazepam or antidepressants too but declined, as I didn’t want to feel spaced out any more than I already did. The Propranolol really helped.
I had to start going to counselling through occupational health at work and it was long overdue.
This was the first time I’d ever addressed my anxiety and after a few weeks of sessions I realised a few things; I’ve had ongoing anxiety since I was a child and it stems from a deep fear of angering my Dad.
He never laid a finger on any of us and is very loving, but he’s always had a bad temper. I’ve just assumed that other people will react angrily if I disappoint them ever since.
It got even worse in high school where I experienced some bullying and then spiralled from there.
Having more responsibilities as I’ve grown older has certainly worsened things.
I had to stop taking Propranolol when I fell pregnant with Archie, then because I breastfed him for over 2 years I couldn’t restart them.
We’d already started trying for a second baby while I was breastfeeding so I still haven’t restarted them, but I know that once we’ve completed our family I will need to stat them again.
So that’s my story so far with anxiety.
It’s always there, bubbling away in the background and I accept that. But I also accept that I will always need help with it and that I have to use extra coping mechanisms to get through day to day life.
These can be as simple as just sleeping or cancelling plans so I can be on my own and gather myself together. Sometimes I have really bad days where I don’t even want to get dressed or brush my hair. I could be a lot worse – I meet patients who can’t even speak when their anxiety is so bad.
One thing I have learned is how to help other people with who have it in the process, as well as trying to help myself. That’s one big positive thing I take from this all.
How do you deal with your anxiety?
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I’m a primary school teacher and I’m a mum to a beautiful, bright and bubbly six-year-old. I witness the ups and downs of wellbeing in children every day. Every parent faces the same dilemma – how to ensure the wellbeing of our children – particularly from a mental health perspective in a world that is more pressured than ever in more ways than one.
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