2016, one of the worst years of my life. Anxiety struck in the form of panic attacks, chronic depression and the introduction of a me that I had never known. Before what seemed like a single second in time that changed my life forever, I would have described myself as out-going, confident and bubbly. I loved meeting new people and exploring new things, which now, seem like two of the most daunting experiences ever.
It took me about two months to figure out what the hell was going on with not only my mind but my body too. I was experiencing what I can only describe as convulsions at least three or four times a day, alongside shortness of breath, constant tears and what seemed like a lifetime of rocking back and forth on my bed, and these were only the physical effects.
As for my mind, I couldn’t figure it out. One second I was happy, I didn’t care and I wasn’t going to let whatever this was take over me. However, the next second contained the thoughts that always won, the self-doubt, the self-hate, the lack of confidence and the constant feeling of being a burden on what seemed like everyone around me.
I kept the new found me bottled up for about two months. The people closest to me recognised a change in me, but for the most part I put on a front and people didn’t notice any difference (quick hint; don’t do this). The night it all came out was probably the scariest night of my life. The anxiety just came over me like a shadow and I couldn’t hide it anymore. I had just arrived home, my Aunt took me out for dinner and drinks, I couldn’t face drinking and persuaded her to bring me home ASAP. When I got through my front door it was like it was time, it was going to happen in front of my Mam and my Aunt and there was nothing I could do about it. I exploded. The shaking. The crying. The screaming. The fear in my Mam’s eyes. Everything that had been going on for the two previous months just came out. Anything after that is pretty much a blur – I spent that night in the hospital being questioned about drug abuse and other things which just didn’t occur to me. I left feeling more confused than ever, but like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders, my Mam knew and now there was hope for getting the old me back.
It wasn’t that easy. The old me still isn’t back, after counselling sessions, months of trying to get back to myself, I have finally accepted this new version of me. The version who wakes up some mornings and doesn’t want to get out of bed because I am so out of my mind sad, for no apparent reason at all. The person who, when surrounded by the right people feels like that bubbly, confident me I once knew.
Living with anxiety isn’t easy, for me, it’s a constant battle where your mood can change at the flick of a switch, but, with the right mindset and support it can be controlled. My panic attacks come and go, I can go months without them or I can be crippled with low mood and panic attacks for days on end. It doesn’t go away – but you learn how to feel better about it. The only advice I can give to all you gals out there is to open-up, pick someone and just tell them. Let someone in, someone you can trust and someone who you know will listen to. Even if you don’t know what’s causing your panic attacks, speak out and speak loud. I can guarantee you that what you are feeling right now, somebody out there has felt before. Never feel alone, don’t let it win.
One last piece of advice would be to find something that takes you away from the attacks. Personally, anytime I felt that shake coming on, I’d play Jess Gylnne/Home, it didn’t always work but it allowed me to get out of my own mind for a second and concentrate on my surroundings rather than what was going on with my body and mind. Things like rubbing a cube of ice on your arm, a certain scent that tickles your fancy or saying a certain word can help you go through the motions of the panic attack so much easier than just letting it take over your whole body.
And remember – don’t be so hard on yourself.
Thumbnail by Arvee Marie