Hello my lovelies!
Yesterday I noticed that #selfcareweek was trending on twitter, and after a quick google it turns out that yes, this week (Mon 13 Nov – Sun 19 Nov) is National Self Care Week in the UK.
Now I will be the very first to put my hand up and admit – I am terrible at self care. Absolutely terrible. I eat pretty poorly, I drink far too much Pepsi Max, I very rarely exercise and I spend most of my time (particularly at the moment) in bed or curled up on the sofa with my phone or watching re-runs of Friends and Say Yes To The Dress. I am well aware that I need to make some serious changes, but my big issue is lack of motivation due to mental illness.
When I say ‘mental illness’ I cringe. Mainly because I never refer to my problems as an illness, because I don’t “feel sick” but I do know that my problems are real and genuinely just as debilitating as being physically sick.
I have suffered with anxiety and panic attacks since I was a child, and depression since I was about 13. I remember having panic attacks when my mum would drop me off at school in the mornings, I would panic and cry and literally chase her back all the way home. She would then walk me back and into the classroom. Once I was there, I was fine, but the initial drop off always caused problems.
I didn’t actually recognise those as panic attacks until I was much older. They continued throughout my childhood, into secondary school where they were on and off for a while, and then fully flared up once I had left school completely. It was then that I realised it was an ongoing problem, a doctor diagnosed the disorder and all those years of being told I just “lacked confidence” suddenly made sense.
My depression has also been on and off, with varying triggers (stopped seeing dad, seasonal affective etc.) but feels a lot less serious than my anxiety disorder because although it’s there, it’s not causing as much disruption to my life and I find I handle it better. It’s easier, I guess, to find something to cheer you up than it is to stop worrying!
Before I go any further, I don’t want those reading this to think that I’ve jumped on the bandwagon of anxiety and depression. Unfortunately, a lot of media, corporate blogs (I’m looking at you, Buzzfeed) and social networks have spouted the words so often, that hundreds and thousands of people are now self-diagnosing all over the internet, which ironically completely eradicates all of the “awareness” that any of the above were trying to spread because it invalidates those who really are suffering.
I’m sure you’ve seen them. “26 Problems only Anxious People Will Understand” and then the post goes on to list the 26 most generic nerve-inducing things that literally anyone could relate to, such as:
3. If someone takes more than five minutes to accept your Facebook friend request, it means they hate you.
11. Sending a text and not hearing back IMMEDIATELY can make you feel like the world is ending.
and (I’m sorry) it is BULLS**T.
Nothing is more infuriating than reading pathetic click-bait “articles” like this, because you can guarantee that all of the comments will read “Omg, I can so relate, I must have an anxiety disorder, it all makes so much sense now”
It is NOT the same thing. And it’s infuriating for people like me, who have nearly lost jobs because they have so many panic attacks and days where they can’t even face leaving the house, and now your sister’s, friend’s cousin is claiming she has an anxiety disorder because she added said friend’s brother on Facebook and he didn’t accept in 5 minutes. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?
Having an anxiety disorder is living with the fear that the worst case scenario is going to happen every. single. time. It’s running 5 minutes late for work and having a panic attack so severe you can’t actually go to work in the end, and then spending the whole day convinced you’ve lost your job. It’s hiding in bathroom stalls while you try to stop every last breath escaping your lungs and wanting to tear off your clothes and burst open your ribcage so you have room to breathe. It’s not doing anything out of routine, because if you do something bad will happen and then it’ll be your fault for not doing what you usually do, because you wouldn’t have been in that wrong place at the wrong time. It’s being on edge all the time, a constant level of stress and worry and heart palpitations and doctors telling you that there’s nothing they can do or that you “just worry too much”.
Every social aspect of my life has suffered because of this condition. I’ve had employers tell me I have to go on anti-depressants to prove I’m trying to “sort myself out” otherwise I’ll lose my job. I have hardly any friends and I rarely see the ones I do.
It is not fun.
It is not glamourous.
It should not be romanticised and definitely is not the same as feeling a bit nervous on your first day of work.
Living with an anxiety disorder is something I wish I never had to endure. I have tried anti-depressants/anti-anxiety meds, herbal remedies, therapy, “facing my fears” and sadly the only thing that currently works for me is to permanently avoid my triggers at all costs, until I can find some miracle cure that gets rid of this hell I’m living in.
If you genuinely feel that you are suffering, I completely sympathise. But if that is the case, please go to a doctor and be professionally diagnosed and let them help you. I’m not going to promise you that they will be helpful, or that they’ll provide a cure, and you may need to see several before you find one that actually listens and understands, but please get help. I’ll be the first to admit I am not handling my condition well at all, and I do not recommend you do what I do by avoiding life altogether and hiding at home. It’s not healthy and it’s definitely not fun.
For those of you that have already been diagnosed and know exactly what I’m talking about, I’m really sorry you’re experiencing this too and I wish there was some way for all of us to live normal happy lives.
And for those of you who live or work with someone who suffers, please bear in mind what they must be going through. Find out what helps them and try to avoid telling them not to worry, or even worse, that they’re “just being silly”. Possibly the most infuriating part of living with an anxiety disorder is that you are fully, 100% aware of the fact that your worries are ridiculous and that the worst case scenario is very unlikely, but you also can’t stop feeling the way you do. The human brain is a cruel thing.
And after all of that, it’s important to note that anxiety has many different forms, symptoms and people will experience it in different ways. What’s important is recognising what normal levels of anxiety are, and when your levels of anxiety are abnormal, and have developed into an anxiety disorder. Mind, the mental health charity, have some excellent information on anxiety here.
If any of you feel comfortable enough to, please share your self-care tips or the way you keep control of your anxiety below. You may be doing something I’ve not yet tried!
Take this week to practice some good self-care, regardless of whether or not you have any kind of illness, and I will also be making more of an effort to take care of myself too.