It has only occurred to me this year, that I struggle with anxiety. And it’s funny saying that, as I am studying Adult nursing in University.
Even though this is my first entry about my mental health journey, I hope you’re not reading it as a “oh poor me” kind of story, only that there may be others out there, like me that are struggling to ‘label’ how they are feeling. I not only will be writing about the daunting times, but also the hopeful and uplifting times.
I am currently in my final year of my nursing course in Kent, however I have been unfortunate to not have had a placement with mental health. Dealing with bad mental health that is. I have had family members and friends that have suffered from depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety. Even though I still didn’t understand fully what they were going through, I would never advise them on what they should do, but always offered to listen and show support.
When I had my first panic attack, I ironically did not know what was happening. Only that my heart was racing, my body felt like it was buzzing , I was crying uncontrollably and I felt very much afraid. I think I had at least five panic attacks in total, over the duration of one month, before a phone call with my mother telling me what was happening to me. Following another two panic attacks, I decided I really needed professional help. I felt okay with speaking to those close to me, however I personally didn’t know what to do with myself. I felt like I had lost control over my emotions and mind set.
I visited the GP with my fiancé and my doctor recommended for me to go on anti-depressants. Being told that just sounded strange to me. As though I was being told that I was failing in life and not being strong enough to handle everything. Not being the certain multi-tasked woman that I ‘should’ be. Right there and then I requested to go the natural route, with hoping to get CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy). With feeling like a failure I thought I’d feel more impressed with being able to handle my anxiety by myself, a skill of coping that I would be proud of. I was afraid to take medication in case I grew dependant upon it. Plus if ever I had to come off the medication due to another or from illness, I would have to deal with the consequences of withdrawal.
There were six CBT sessions, and it was from there that I learned a substantial amount of myself. Firstly; why I had anxiety? For me, I discovered that I have always had it, since childhood, partly with how I was brought up. For me, I needed some control over my life. One example I have is that I hate being late for transport. I am such an anxious traveller, and tend to take it out on whoever I am with. I find it very difficult to self-assess and to be self-aware. And am still learning to deal with that.
I have found that the scent, lavender, is my new best friend. When I smell aromatherapies such as that, I fell my body losing that tension and it feels automatic to breathe. It’s usually then and there that I realise how I’m feeling. Not always knowing why I am feeling the ways I do, but it still helps me to focus on the present and to be aware that I need to calm down, otherwise a panic attack is close by.
With lavender, I also add a few drops to my bath with lavender epsom salts which soothe the mind and body. Helping those aching muscles, as well as a good nights sleep. Or I will simply spray a few squirts onto a scarf and breathe it in while watching TV or listening to music. After an attack I tend to rely on relaxing smells.
I live by the ‘Calm’ app daily as well. I will either do my meditation alone at home on my bed lying down, in the bath or even when going for a stroll as there is a lot of options for walk type of mediation I want. I then will put on a sleep story at night, with someone like Steven Fry reading a lullaby.
- Sacrifice the caffeine, ie: coffee, tea, large amounts of chocolate, energy drinks:- it doesn’t help with the anxiety, having those jittery feelings.
- Try to have a normal night routine:- I found that having such a mixed variety of sleep patterns gives me sleep paralysis, where my mind would be awake but I could never open my eyes or move my body. Not many people know that it exists, but it does and it has occurred to me at least 5 times in my life so far.
- Try to get up early:- This way I found that having the most natural light of the day really helps my mood. And I always feel happier with how productive I have been from that morning.
- No screens in the bedroom:- this means no TV’s, mobiles, laptops or screen devices. The screens emit a blue light that sabotages your sleep but also your mind picks up that the bedroom is not for sleeping, therefore disrupting the sleep process. This is why most people prefer to leave work at home, that way when there’s a feeling of calm and de-stress. It’s the same for the bedroom. Bedrooms are for sleeping, living rooms for reading, watching TV etc, the library/ the office for working. Meditation is always said to be practised, that the mind picks up on it’s habits. The same can be said for lifestyle routines.
- The key is to allow the attacks to happen, there’s no point in holding it back! Then there’s the advantage of having it over and done with. That way hopefully over time with learning how to deal with the attacks afterwards it’ll become easier for the mind to recognise it and they’ll occur less and less frequently.
- Exercise!! I do yoga and swimming, the more gentle options of exercise, however I miss doing weights and fitness classes. For me there’s the whole body dysmorphia (can talk about that in another post) and not having the energy for such activities.
“There’s just so much going on in my mind, sometimes I can’t keep up with what’s going on around me.” – Amanda Jade Briskar.