Almost 4 years ago I started this blog and although so much has changed in that time one thing that has remained with me is suffering with anxiety.
4 years ago I wrote about how I first realised I had anxiety but over the years I have learnt so much more about myself and the condition and I wanted to share that in a quick blog.
I started having anxiety attacks when I was in Sixth Form due to being under pressure with school work what I wanted to do with my future. At first I didn’t know what was happening to me and went to the doctors thinking it was some sort of heart condition because I had uncontrollable palpitations constantly. Once I started to learn more about anxiety and how it was affecting me I started to feel so much better.
Lack of control is one of the major things that causes me anxiety, hence why knowing what it was, and what I could do, helped me so much. Knowing that control (or rather lack of it) is a trigger for me has helped me to overcome so much over the years. If I am going to be doing or experiencing something new I need to take as much control of the situation as possible. I know what I like and what I don’t but sometimes in life you have to do something you don’t like in order to do something you do like, short term pain, long term gain.
An example of this for me is flying. I have never enjoyed flying and get seriously anxious before a flight (to the point where I’ve seriously considered not going on holiday) but in order to travel the world and see and experience amazing things it has to be done. My mum told me that and it has stuck with me. I now love travelling so much, more than I ever thought I could. 2 years ago I was the person who went to Spain and Wales for holidays and that was it. Those places satisfied me and I hate flying so why would I put myself through hours of stress on a flight when I am happy with Spain? In March 2019 I went to Dubai on holiday and that trip changed me forever. To experience a culture so far away from what I am used to was incredible. To see the sights, places, traditions, food etc. opened my eyes to the world that is out there.
I find that a positive attitude helps massively when I am feeling anxious. If I am going to experience something amazing then it is worth the anxiety. Knowing that I will overcome the stress and fear and be rewarded with a brilliant memory keeps me going.
Now I’m not sat here writing this saying “I’m cured, it’s as easy as that”, far from it. I’m saying that this is how I try to control my emotions. Knowing I have control of my emotions and the situation also helps me to feel less anxious. Recently (November 2019) I pulled out of going to a concert on the day of the concert because I was overwhelmed with anxiety. I hadn’t been to a concert in years and the lack of control got to me. I am a creature of habit and like routine, it helps me to keep control. It may sound stupid but the reason I was anxious about that concert was the seating. I suffer terribly with vertigo and although I manage the condition, sometimes it can make me feel very ill. I was petrified that the seats we had were too high up and I would feel dizzy. I convinced myself of that and thought it would be pointless going to the concert if I was to feel ill. Not only that but once I was there I would essentially be trapped there. If I became unwell and had to leave it would be more embarrassing than making up an illness and saying I couldn’t go, which I did.
Only 2 of my friends know I suffer with anxiety and speaking to them about it (as they both suffer similarly too) helps massively. Although anxiety, depression, and mental health in general, is talked about a lot more openly in society these day I still feel there is some stigma attached to it. I am lucky that I can manage my anxiety myself without need for medication but there was a time that I was suffering so terribly that I thought I would have to take the medical route.
In August 2016, not long after I wrote my original blog about Anxiety and stress, I began feeling extremely anxious. I was stressed at work and the constant pressures were getting to me. I started looking for a new job and the stress of everything got on top of me. I was in a constant state of angst. I can only describe it as a wave washing over me. I could feel it building and once I had that feeling there was nothing I could do to stop it drowning me. I wasn’t sleeping and once I got to sleep it was broken sleep. I would wake up tired and stressed that I hadn’t slept and this all added to the anxiety. I was still going to work and putting myself in a stressful environment for 37.5 hours a week. When I got home I was still feeling stressed and that made me start to worry that I’d never feel normal again. It was never ending. The thought of having to take medication to help with the symptoms filled me with even greater worry as I felt then I would have lost all control of myself. I didn’t want that to happen so I needed to try and take control of the situation.
Sleep (or lack of) is another major trigger for me. If I have a few nights of bad or broken sleep I start to feel anxious. I stopped eating past 8pm and although the advice is to avoid screen before bed I find I fall asleep a lot quicker, or quite often whilst, watching YouTube. I can switch my brain off an have a longer and deeper sleep. I do suffer with episodes of insomnia and I have realised that this is normal for me. Again I avoid taking sleeping tablets to help with this as the thought of being put to sleep scares me. Knowing I have control of the situation and that it is normal (well my version of normal) helps me to cope.
I honestly don’t think there is any job out there that doesn’t have at least some stress but my job was causing me to be stressed more often than I wasn’t. I had a manager who (looking back on it now bullied me) was extremely hard to work for and I was coming home from work mentally and physically drained. I left that role and (assistant manager) and became a pharmacy advisor. I moved to a different store (the store I started out at) where I knew a lot of the team and it was the fresh start I needed. The difference in pay wasn’t noticeable (especially as where I worked as Assistant Manager was 20 miles away and now I was working round the corner) and I felt a lot happier and less stressed. I got along really well with my colleagues and that made the days so much easier. After almost a year in the pharmacy role I noticed I was feeling a lot more stressed. Unfortunately we were (like most pharmacies and retailers) extremely understaffed and under constant pressure from customers and patients. When you’re dealing with people’s medication it is very stressful. We need to make sure we have the stock of the tablets and prescription days before a patient is due for them. We have to make sure the doctor has prescribed the correct strength, quantity and form. Make sure it doesn’t interact with any other medications that person may be taking and make sure the tablets on the shelf are all in date. Multiply this workload by about 300 patients and you have one stressful job. The pressures from management were relentless and some of the patients could be extremely horrible so I decided I wanted to get out of pharmacy. That was such a good decision for me. I have been in my current role (Assistant Manager) with a new company since January 2020 and I am so much less stressed than I was, I’m by no means saying my job isn’t stressful but I’m no longer taking the stress home with me.
What I have learnt over the last few years about myself is how resilient I am. I know that I need to challenge myself but also (and more importantly) listen to myself. I have found that if I want to do something I will make it happen and if I really don’t want to do it then I won’t do it. I went to New York in February 2020 and my friends and I booked to go to the top of the Empire State Building. I hoped that I would be able to pluck the courage from somewhere to be able to force myself to endure the height. I was in the queue about to go up, shaking like a leaf and I thought to myself ‘it’s really not worth it’ so I didn’t go up. I sat at the bottom and waited for my friends and don’t regret it one bit.
I’ve learnt to listen to myself and do more of what makes me happy.
If you are suffering with stress, anxiety, depression or any other mental health issue then speak to someone. A friend, a parent, a colleague, a teacher, a doctor. Anyone who can help you. Don’t suffer in silence, there are people out there who can help.
Anxiety UK: https://www.anxietyuk.org.uk/
NHS (UK): https://www.nhs.uk/