Right now as I’m typing this post my heart is racing. I can feel myself heading into fight or flight mode and I’m aware of that because all I want to do right now is be somewhere safe. Whether that’s under my duvet or having a hug from my mum, my brain is starting to send signals to my body saying ‘nope, nice try pal, I’m not having any of that, I’m out’.
It started with worrying about money. Today is payday and I am in a sticky situation with my finances right now so I managed to work myself up in a frenzy this morning which lead to me messaging my boyfriend, mum and best friend about it. I also ended up on Google, looking at forums and getting myself into a right tiz and before I knew it I couldn’t stop the barrage of negative, snowballing thoughts which flooded my head.
It’s hard to explain as even though you might struggle with anxiety yourself, all anxieties are different. My anxiety is different to yours and yours is different to the next person’s and so on, so I will try and explain what an anxiety attack is like for me.
WHAT ATTACKS FEEL LIKE FOR ME
An attack for me is like watching a really crappy straight-to-DVD movie; but it’s about my future. I’ll be sat at work, minding my own business and then I’ll think of payday and my money situation, before you know it I’ve watched the next 5 years of my life play out in my mind. I envisage my friends being so ashamed of me that they slowly phase me out, I imagine my parents feeling disappointed that they have to support a daughter in her late 20s and I picture my boyfriend’s face as realization dawns on him that there’s other women out there who don’t have these problems.
The hard part is being strict with myself and telling myself that these are simply thoughts that entered my head and they are not factual things that have actually happened but that’ easier said than done. I feel the panic course through my body when I have thoughts like that and it’s a real effort to stay grounded, stay in my seat and to let it pass over. The comfort lies in the many times I’ve suffered attacks before and have come out okay the other side and by ‘okay’ I mean able to rationalise and think more logically.
Today I also tried writing down my feelings. I physically put pen to paper and wrote down how I felt in that moment. I then did a conference call, went to the loo and came back to the piece of paper and re-read it. It made me sad to think that I’d genuinely thought that negatively, even just for 2 or 3 minutes and in a way, that’s good. I didn’t come back, read the paper and agree. I’ll never invalidate my own thoughts because part of my management of my anxiety is to stop using the words ‘stupid’ or ‘ridiculous’ to describe my thoughts or feelings because that creates more of a conflict against the anxious part of my brain which is trying to convince me of the opposite. I just try to acknowledge them as ‘anxious thoughts’ and that’s where I leave it. When you’re fighting anxiety the last thing you want to do is feed it by putting yourself down by throwing around words like ‘stupid.’
Now that an hour or so has passed I’m starting to see the haze clear a little (because that’s also what an attack is like for me, it’s like a foggy day where you can’t really make sense of anything and are just stumbling around in the dark for a bit looking for something to hold onto). I can begin to see things for what they really are; including myself. I begin to give myself more credit and respect again without just putting myself down and I begin to try and see all of the positive attributes I hold as a person and I try really hard to let go of the things I’d been telling myself an hour before in the middle of the attack.
I also feel proud that I didn’t act on my attack. There have been days where I’ve needed to leave work or call my boyfriend and unleash nonsense down the phone at him to console myself but I am proud that today I dealt with it – and survived. On top of the anxiety I don’t have the added embarrassment of having to drop everything and go home and nor do I have to enter into a difficult conversation with my boyfriend or friends about it which can sometimes drag the attack out and ultimately makes me suffer more before I finally get over it.
Thinking and living more positively was pretty much my only goal for this year and I think even on the days like today when things get so hard I feel at breaking point it’s important to acknowledge even the smallest of triumphs.