Back in February I wrote about my anxiety diagnosis as part of Time To Talk Day. Eight months later it’s World Mental Health Day so to support this and Cardiff University’s #Let’sShare campaign it’s time to reflect and look forward. This is a personal snapshot of anxiety and how I have been and am continuing to get better. I’ve chosen to focus on a few areas so have left out far more than I’ve put in; I’m happy to discuss my experience in the comments.
The story so far
Our recent house move was incredibly stressful for many reasons — unfortunately for me this stress turned into anxiety. What no one tells you is that the stress, and therefore anxiety, doesn’t stop as soon as you move: you’re setting up a home while running one; you’re finding and solving faults and repairs (and of course spending even more money); you’re moulding your new home to be what you want and need it to be. Recovery has been steady and occasionally bumpy but I have got better.
Support at work
I’m very lucky that Cardiff University offers a comprehensive range of wellbeing support, far more than in this summary. I feel it’s acceptable to talk about your mental health at work, so when I spoke to my line manager he listened and offered further support. Fortunately the support package I’d put in place myself meant I didn’t need it but knowing it was there was incredibly helpful. I also found colleagues were accepting and supportive too.
My GP listened to the situation and the steps I’d already taken and the support I was asking for in terms of medication and provided a prescription. After a follow up appointment she told me how to step down the dosage to come off it and made it clear it was up to me to choose this point; this was the right thing for my diagnosis but isn’t suitable for everyone with anxiety. This experience was very empowering and I came off the medication safely at a time that was right for me.
The biggest challenges
Oh how I hate you insomnia, I really don’t want to see 3.00am. Ever. The next day you’re physically and mentally drained and it’s so hard to keep things in perspective or make decisions. I assumed it was just tiredness but it’s actually to do with how the brain works: I found an incredibly useful video from the BBC’s Like Minds (fast forward to 3:55 for the explanation). Knowing that your emotional brain is in control is incredibly helpful for me as I now know I can ride out the storm.
Tying to learn and create
I thought this would be a good distraction and outlet but it’s been tough to maintain. Getting the house sorted has been — and to a certain extent, still is — a huge drain on my energy. Using FutureLearn and blogging felt/feels just too much most of the time, like trying to battle your way through a headwind, ironically even starting the Understanding Anxiety, Depression and CBT course felt like too much. I’ve done very little writing as you can see in my blog posting dates. It’s OK not to do things that are too draining, I know I’ll come back to it in time. Besides, it’s my blog and I can choose my own posting intervals.
Is this the end of anxiety and me?
Definitely not. Getting better from anxiety is not the same as getting better from a cold. With a few blips and hiccups, things have improved and will continue to do so. My friend Laura sums it up perfectly:
Better is not “having no anxiety” or even “having no anxiety right now”. Better is accepting that anxiety is a normal and healthy part of life; better is learning the skills to tolerate anxiety and not let it get in the way of you living your life. Better is knowing what experience and support to draw upon when it rears it’s head in a big way. But better is never “no anxiety”. “No anxiety” is neither possible nor desirable.
I can see an event next year when anxiety could rear it’s ugly head with a vengeance and if it happens I’ll try to blog about it. But I know that, just like this time, I will get better.
I’m happy to discuss these or my experience of anxiety in the comments below.
- Find what works for you. It’s your anxiety and you know it better than anyone.
- Try different things to help and try them more then once: sometimes it can take a while for things to click.
- Look for support from a variety of sources. Don’t forget websites, search for one you feel works for you. I like the Blurt Foundation, Black Dog Tribe, SANE, and Mind.
- If you don’t have a supportive GP find another one. Similarly look for support at work, it may come from a variety of sources not just your line manager.
- Persevere. There’s light at the end of the tunnel and no it’s not the tunnel on fire.
All view are my own and not necessarily those of my employer.