When will this end??!!! That was always one of my favourite questions to regularly scream in my head, out loud, at myself, my friends, my family whilst I was going through Anxiety. What a joyous question for my housemate to come home to after a hard day at work. “How was your day? Did you pick up milk?” “WHEN WILL THIS END?!” Poor Drunkard. Maybe it was me that pushed her to alcoholism…(joke).
It’s often the way that when you’re up to your eyeballs in something, you can’t see any change whatsoever and every day feels the same. It’s only when you look back that you can spot significant turning points where things have very slightly started to progress.
If you leave your mind to do what it wants, every day, ever so slightly, something within your brain is healing. I assure you it is happening, it’s just the slowest steps in the entire world. It’s not even steps, it’s like a mini shuffle, like snail pace shuffle. And some days you won’t move at all (woopee!). And some days you’ll go BOING-BOING big steps backwards (even better!?) but for me the BOING-BOING-Backwards days, always led to a BOING-BOING-BOING-Forwards day the day after (Ooooh yehhh, lovin’ life!) then I’d get too excited and back we’d go again the day after (ahhh shit). But I got to a point where, when I was having the most crap day in the entire world, I was able to think: Oooh goody this means tomorrow could be marginally OK. Can’t wait! If nothing else, it teaches you the virtue of patience…
A panic attack. I’m not going to offer any kind of advice. I am just going to say: It Ends. Just know that IT WILL. Believe it. Do nothing. Just believe that it will end, and the day will plod on again when it’s over. Contrary to the storm going on in your mind and the emotional black hole you are being sucked into, the world around you is actually still turning (What?! How can this be?). So don’t run from it or fight it. Whether you’re in a meeting, a crowded space or in the bathroom, you can’t get out of your own head so just plod on with what you were doing and let it happen.
I found it almost humorous, when I looked back (MUCH later on) that I could be in a raging hell of a panic attack at my desk in a silent office, literally with the worst thoughts imaginable blanketing my mind, on the brink of screaming, running, jumping out a window then as clear as day, out of the silence and tap-tap-tap of keyboards, a colleague would turn to me and say: “My boyfriend and I had an argument about socks this morning…” And there I was, back in that room, weirdly able to respond and function in a fairly normal way. Sorry Natalie, can you say that again, I was about to knock myself out with a heavy duty stapler because I thought the world was ending. (Errr, call HR…)
No one can panic forever. It just feels that way because when you’re in hell, time moves pretty damn slow. One day you may even start to enjoy being in hell. Too soon? OK. For me, it wasn’t even the physical symptoms that upset me so much – raging insides, heart about to burst out your chest, complete detachment from the world around you. It was more the way my anxious mind managed to pinpoint and drag up every single worst fear, worst memory, horrific scary thought stored away in there. Incredible?! Your brain stores things you never even realised it stores. Wow, where the hell did that thought come from? I must be seriously f**ked up?! What films have I been watching?! In time, you might even find these thoughts interesting, watch them go by and label them, like some kind of sick version of the Generation Game…
Stages I went through. I had zero faith for a very long time and spent every day anxious, believing that every day would be the same for the rest of my life. If I couldn’t fix it today, why would I be able to fix it tomorrow? But despite months of these thoughts, things changed and I started to know that there would be an end to this condition.
Please note I was the worst possible person to experience something like this because I basically did everything wrong, for quite a long time. I also was one of those people who didn’t really get, and had no interest in getting, mental health issues. Can’t people just perk up? Yes, ashamedly, I was one of those. My journey went:
- Breakdown (does it really matter why? Nope. Becomes irrelevant)
- Symptoms of anxiety beginning.
- Bury it.
- Symptoms of anxiety becoming worse. Fear. Denial. More fear. Anxiety symptoms worsening.
- Ignorance – blaming everything around me – other people, jobs, situations, past experiences.
- I know! I must have a physical illness! Multiple blood tests, diet changes, change in habits. Felt worse.
- Mild realisation that I may have Anxiety, that severe Anxiety is an actual condition.
- NO – More denial. There must be something else.
- Anxiety is a real thing though and people experience it…
- NO, not me. No way. Wouldn’t happen to me. I have to figure out the answer.
- Anxiety symptoms getting worse…
- Self hatred – WHY CAN’T I FIX THIS?! I’m FAILING. Panic!
- Finally stopped running. Perhaps this problem is real and it’s in me?
- Initial acceptance that this is me.
- Further acceptance. Anxiety easing.
- This is SHIT! Lots of crying, breaking down randomly at the tiniest trigger.
- Anger. Why me?
- Acceptance. Relief…Ok this is me then. I have an Anxiety Disorder. Is that that bad? No I suppose not, maybe I’ll just accept it and starting being kind to myself…
Then as you move forward and find areas of your life where you can be happy and free again, you can introduce social activities, healthy eating, exercise, relaxation, hobbies, surrounding yourself with positive loving people, which are things beneficial for a healthy lifestyle in general. But it is important to note that I am not saying to do these things to get rid of anxiety! Just do them because you want to do them.
So, to sum up…yeh it is pretty shit…but it has to get really really shit before it can get better and despite what you may think, yes it is changing all the time. And yes it will end. In the meantime just let it happen. Maybe try and enjoy it??! Too soon? OK…