My name is Karen, and I am someone who struggles with anxiety.
I normally struggle on quietly, and cope, although those close to me, usually can tell when my coping mechanisms are cracking and failing. I have always been an anxious person, all of my life, for as long as I can remember. Things that would be mild worries, or trivial to other people, seem like insurmountable mountains to me. Life events that are stressful and stretching for a normal person, are earth-shattering for me. I have been called a “worrier” and am jokingly known as the person who plans for the worst, and fears for what might happen, or who takes things too seriously. When Big Girl was 18 months old, I was diagnosed with Post Partum Depression, but also Post Partum Anxiety, and was referred for Cognitive Behaviour Therapy. For the first time in my life, I felt understood and that there a reason why I react to things the way I do, and I learned that there are patterns of behaviour and situations that trigger and intensify my anxiety. When things are tough, I cope and cope, and then I become overwhelmed and my anxiety takes over. I usually can manage daily life, and am a normal wife, mother, friend, co-worker, but when my mind is in overdrive and the feelings of panic and fear take over, it feels like I am losing control, and that I am fighting the rest of the world to survive. My mind feels literally like a hamster on a wheel, frantically trying to keep up, and I withdraw from my friends, and step back socially, and my introverted personality goes further into its shell. Hard to believe, I know, if you actually know me, that inside, I am trying hard not to scream and run away, when you are talking to me, but that’s what’s actually going on.
This is not normal. This is not me. It comes in patches, and usually after we have had a tough time, or been through a stressful period. My mind will start to play tricks on me, and the feelings start to simmer away in the background.
Last year, sometime in June, I got lost. My normal, happy, coping with life, trying to care for everyone, part of me took a trip and didn’t come back. The black cave that is anxiety, reared its ugly head, and took up residence. I put on a good act, of being tough, and being able to cope, but in reality, getting myself out of bed each day, dealing with life, working, being all things to everyone, was a mammoth struggle. My sleep has been severely disrupted, and because my anxiety triggers me to try and please people, keep everyone happy, to do things, to help people, I took on things that really, I could not cope with because it is easier for me to be constantly busy, to have my mind filled with things that distract me from the thoughts and feelings that the anxiety brings.
In October, last year, I realised I was not well, in myself, and carted myself off to see my lovely GP. She has known me for nearly 18 years and was amazing when I was diagnosed with PPD and PPA and she immediately made me a double appointment for the next week, to give us time to plan what to do, and how to get me help.
Medication does not work for me. Lucky me, I suffer from the paradoxical effect when I take medications meant to help with the symptoms of anxiety. Instead of helping me, and relieving the feelings, and enabling me to start to process and think more clearly, they send me into a tailspin of worse anxiety, and I become jittery and incredibly irritable and hard to live with. I also don’t like the feeling that some medications bring, of being not in control of my body, and not able to focus or concentrate. We have tried a couple of medications, but in reality, whilst they work well for some people, they don’t seem to like me.
However, Cognitive Behaviour Therapy works well, and was incredibly helpful the last time, so I have been referred to a therapist, and begin bi-weekly therapy sessions, starting next week. I am actually looking forward to it. I feel that, at 37, with two small people, and possibly a third at some point, relying on me, to be there for them, and to parent them, I need to be whole, healthy, and able to manage the feelings that brew in my mind, and not let them take over my life. I know CBT isn’t a cure, but it is a tool that will help me, and give me methods to recognise triggers, and stresses, and to learn how to handle them better.
Anxiety, that takes over your mind, and your life is not normal, and it is not normal to feel frightened, overwhelmed, worried and that you are fighting a battle no one else can see or feel. It isn’t something you can just “snap out of” or “stop doing” and it is not something that everyone understands. Panic attacks that paralyse you are not normal or rational. Unless you have felt this way, you have no idea of what it means, and how it colours every aspect of your life and affects those around you. It is not something to be ashamed of, and seeking help is a big step.
I will admit, that I have been scared to share, and felt ashamed, that I have let myself get into this place. It’s hard for me to tell people that I have been struggling. It is not easy, trying to explain to people. I don’t want to be treated like I am mad, or crazy, or fragile, either, actually. I just need to get myself into a better place, and that takes time. I will and can go about normal life, I will work, play, be a friend, be a mother, be a wife, and do all the things I normally do, but I will also be getting help, to deal with what’s been going on inside my head.
So, my name is Karen, I struggle with anxiety, I got lost, but I will not be broken, and I will beat this.