Fear. Anxiety. What do you think of when you hear these words? For me both are interlinked and it can be hard to separate.
We have fear within us as part of our evolution, to ensure, back in the day, we were able to deal with immediate threats to our life and we could run or deal with the danger. The flight, fight or freeze response as it’s known.
Today, our bodies still react in the same way, however the threat level may not be as severe. It’s misplaced. For me, it can be an overwhelming nightmare. It can come on unexpectedly or can be the result of a build up of fear….fear of the unknown. Some days I just want to hide from the world under a duvet.
Anxiety for me is usually around social situations, being in crowds and feeling trapped – particularly on a train. When my anxiety was at it’s worst, I couldn’t go into a supermarket, the thought of being in a maze of aisles, with lots of people terrified me. It was ironic considering I had worked in a supermarket when I was a student. My trigger had been fainting in public when I went to see Billy Connolly. From their everything outwith my own home struck fear in me. I struggled going to work, but I did go. I had to, as I knew that if I had hid myself away under my duvet, I would still be there now.
I went to counselling and my therapist was brilliant, my first session, I was terrified and didn’t really want to sit down and wanted to run away, I was crying, I was anxious and overwhelmed. But Maria, my therapist, let me choose where to sit, the room had high ceilings with high bookcases all around, many, many plants and a number of different styles of chairs. I sat down and she explained how the session would work. She knew I was struggling but was very kind and let me take my time and explain to her what had happened and how I was feeling.
I had no idea talking to a stranger could help me. I was so grateful to her and the exercises she had me do before each sessions, I found myself looking forward to our weekly appointments and my anxiety gradually reduced. Going into a supermarket became easier as did other social situations, however it certainly wasn’t an overnight fix and it took me months to do it.
But I wasn’t back to being me and it took me ages to realise I wasn’t going to ‘go back’ and as hard as it was to accept, it meant in a weird way, I had grown and changed. The change in me was fear, I was and still am to a point, worried about fainting in public. I didn’t like going out as much and was not keen on social outings. It was hard, I had travelled the world years earlier and now, here I was making decisions to avoid many public outings.
Zoom forward and on a day to day basis my anxiety is generally ok. I did go back to counselling a few years ago as I found myself really struggling with going to work on a train each day, I always felt trapped, claustrophobic, it was too hot and I just couldn’t get out. I learned to reason with myself with help from my therapist, I could get off at any of the stops on the 30 minute journey if I needed too, I took a bottle of water with me and I took my jacket off so I wasn’t too hot. The worst part of it was if I had to stand. My anxiety would be through the roof.
From my second lot of sessions, I made a decision, anxiety was not going to win. And since then, I refuse to let it. If I am having a bad day with it and feel the duvet calling, I say ‘I am not letting you win’. I am refusing to let it be a decision maker for me. I may find myself pushing myself to unbelievable limits when I am in the grips of my anxiety. To you, it may not be a big deal to get on a train, or to go shopping on a busy Saturday. But to me it can be awful. Like I say though, I won’t let it win. So I dig deep and push myself, I do the things I want to do and I don’t do the things I don’t want to do. For example a few years ago my friend was getting married, she was having her hen weekend in Prague, there was going to be about 10 of us. I just didn’t want to put myself through it. The anxiety of being in a large group, sharing rooms with no-where for me to go and hide, I just felt I wasn’t going to be much fun whilst I was away, so decided not to go. It was so hard telling my friend this, but she was soooooo understanding and got it. I was so relieved. I love her to bits but this was something I just couldn’t do.
If you suffer from anxiety, I understand how it can affect your life and I know the feeling of wanting to hide. Know you are doing great, it isn’t something that will disappear overnight and you have to keep on working through it. Get help, go to the doctors, see a therapist, get outside in the fresh air. But don’t give up. Keep pushing. Don’t let it win.
I wanted to share this with you, I don’t let anxiety run my life now, I take it a day at a time, sometimes I can go for weeks with no issues and I enjoy those moments. I have told a number of people my anxiety story, sometimes to people who have confided in me their story, and some I have worked with. By sharing, it can help others realise they are not alone, it is very common and we should be talking more openly about anxiety and our mental health. Please don’t ever feel alone, confide in a friend, or seek professional help, either way talk to someone it may just help.
I use my fear and anxiety to push me now, to spur me on and to know I can do things that would have me running for the hills before. Be sure to do what’s right for your mental health. Follow your own path. Do things you are comfortable doing and don’t do things if it is going to put you under undue pressure and make you worse. Just be sure not to let it stop you from doing things that challenge you in a good way.
Take care, remember you are awesome and most importantly look after you!
xx 🤩 xx