It’s okay to have little hurdles in your life that can stop you in your tracks

I thought I would share a couple of little hurdles that I come across on a daily basis, things that are completely mundane but can have the power to completely stop you in your tracks. 

1. Grocery shopping

I hate grocery shopping. I’m the sort of person who takes a basket even when I need to buy a weeks shop. The reason for this is it means I can use the self serve tills. 

Have you ever tried to race a cashier who thinks they are competing in the f*cking Sainsburys games? I have. And I lost. 

It sounds absolutely ridiculous but the embarrassment of being unable to keep up with a cashier fills me with dread. 

What if she/he starts scanning before I finish unloading?

What if she/he decides to hastily start packing my bags and puts the eggs at the bottom?

What if she/he doesn’t start packing and the food starts to stack up against each other and fall off like a grocery slot machine?

Surely you see my point? I would far rather break my arm carrying a overfilled basket so I can calmly swipe and pack my shopping in an organised manner than put myself through that.

 
2. Driving

I used to be a fairly confident driver. I had no problem getting myself places as long as I had planned my route on google maps first. But now? 

The driving struggle is real.

I have absolutely no idea why I now struggle to drive but I think it’s probably something to do with my ability to make up the most ridiculous scenarios in my head. 

For example. 

When passing another car on the dual carriage way they are certainly, definitely, 100% going to pull out on me. 

When in traffic the traffic is never ever going to move and oh my god I need the toilet and I’m going to piss myself and this is the worst thing ever.

My car is going to break down. It’s definitely going to break down in this rush hour traffic. I can hear a rattling noise, I’m positive… 

So every time I drive I get to my destination with the euphoric feeling that I have actually arrived and probably cheated death once again. 

You can understand why, at the height of my anxiety, I just didn’t drive.
3. Going somewhere new

Don’t ever ask me to go somewhere I have never been if I am going alone. I’m just not going to do it. 

A great example of this was the other day when I needed to go to the post office to return a rather large spontaneous ASOS order. I was passing a (really big, in my defence) post office and thought that I would just go and post my parcel there. 

Absolutely no probs. Easy. 

But then I couldn’t see the door. And there was a gate closed so I couldn’t drive in to the car park. But it was the middle of the day and I could see people walking in and out. 

So did I ask someone for help?

Nope. 

I did a u turn and drove away. 

The parcel is still sitting on the drivers seat and that was a week ago. Soon I will have £200 worth of badly fitting clothes from ASOS that I can no longer return all because I can’t go to new places.

Fun and games.
So the point of this lighthearted post is that everyone has little things they can’t quite do all the time, it’s just people with anxiety maybe have a few more. 

I’m no longer embarrassed of these little hurdles because I know they are just that. Hurdles.

And these little hurdles can be a pretty big deal when you achieve them.

It’s okay to feel like you are battling with your mind.

I’ve been pretty good the last few weeks, part of this is because I have been so busy, another part is because my thinking has changed a lot and I’m being a lot more positive.
But it doesn’t stop the nagging feeling I still get. 

I feel like I’m having a constant battle. Trying to stop negative thoughts from entering my head. 
It’s hard.

I suppose I’ve got myself into a way of thinking where if I remain positive and keep myself going the anxiety won’t come. It’s so difficult constantly trying to push anxious thoughts away and reason with myself.

This is why I haven’t even looked at this blog in over 2 weeks. I’m worried it’s going to bring back my anxiety, that talking about it might make it worse.
I know that my anxiety will always be a part of me, I feel I have accepted it. But it’s like the anxiety is always just floating under the surface, waiting to jump out an engulf me, smother me and put me in that dark place where I was.
I’m scared.

Although I’ve accepted it’s a part of me it scares me. The thought it will come back again, full force I mean, not just the odd panic attack. The thought it will come back so hard that I go back to the bubble where I can barely get up in the morning.
In my head I am convincing myself that if I do allow myself to think anxious thoughts and feel anxious I will go straight back to the beginning and have to begin my battle again.
The rational part of my mind knows that this isn’t the case. I’ve made so much progress and I am nowhere near where I was. But that’s the problem with anxiety. The mind’s innate ability to take a thought and make it into so much more than it is. It’s a vicious circle.
So right now I am looking into ways to break that vicious circle. I have begun investigating mindfulness again. I hope that it will give me some clarity and the tools I need to continue this battle. 
I know I just need to live in the now and stop worrying but have you ever told someone with anxiety to stop worrying? 
I’m literally worrying about worrying. 
It’s a battle everyday.

It’s okay to change your thinking.

It’s been almost two weeks since my first CBT appointment and I’m feeling really good about things. This time round things have changed. My anxiety is no longer about a specific thing, it’s a lot more generalised. 

The therapist said something that has really changed things for me. Something I wish I had been told before.

It’s only a panic attack.

Don’t get me wrong, if she had told me that five weeks ago when I was seriously struggling I would have told her to piss right off. 

It’s only a panic attack, are you for real? Don’t you understand that pain in my chest and that overwhelming feeling that I may actually die? 

But these 5 words have made an astounding impact on me and the way I deal with my anxiety. It’s like something has just clicked in my head and my ability to cope with it is so much better. 

Sometimes it just takes looking at things from a different perspective. And that’s what I have been doing. I’m starting to view my anxiety as something that is a part of me.

I’m accepting it.

And it seems the moment I started to accept things was the moment where I really started to feel a change. 

At the appointment I discussed with the therapist the last major panic attack I had, while away for the weekend. 

I explained the fear I had felt, amplified by the fact I was away from home and my husband. My safe place. I explained that I had to get the first train home and battled with panic attacks and an overwhelming urge to jump off the train at each station. I explained that this then caused me to not leave the house for three days and be off work. 

She explained that I had managed to get through it. That I hadn’t ended up in casualty. She explained that I had got myself on a train, alone. She explained that I didn’t get off the train and I controlled my panic attacks enough to get home. She explained that although I was off work for three days I went back. 

She explained that it was only a panic attack.

When I look back on the weekend I now see her version of events. The triumph of actually making it on a weekend away with friends, even if it did have an unfortunate ending. I’m beginning to realise that it is a change in thinking that I need, I need to accept that yes, this is happening to me but it doesn’t have to control me. 
It’s a battle, I’m not saying I’ve stopped having panic attacks but I definitely have seen a difference in how I deal with it and how quick they are over.

I just say those five words to myself.

It’s only a panic attack.

It just seems to help and puts things into perspective a bit. It’s crazy how it’s taken something so simple to make dealing with anxiety that little bit easier.

I’m feeling good.

It’s okay that people don’t always say the right things.

I can’t stop thinking about something someone said to me three days ago. It was an off the cuff comment by someone who doesn’t really understand what I have been through. Long story cut short. I was stressing out loud to the people I regard as my safe group. The ones I can speak freely to, tell my worries with out judgement. 

I was expressing a worry I had and I was told, by someone (who is not in my safe group,) to ‘chill out and not think about it.’

I replied with my usual ‘haha, if only it was that easy.’

But my flippant reply didn’t quite calm the feeling I had inside. Where I realised that although I try to surround myself with people who understand me and my constant worries there are always going to be people that won’t. People that will try to burst that safety bubble I have put around me and make me question myself. 

My self conscious nature meant this one comment made me think that everyone must find me an anxious pain in the ass and this individual was clearly just saying what everyone else was thinking.

But it also made me think about the next step in my recovery. The step where I need to learn to deal with people not always saying what I want to hear. Yes, the people close to me now know the right things to say to me but there is always going to be the challenge of those who don’t. 

I’m so sensitive. In my head I feel people should watch what they are saying when around me.

‘Eh, hello? Don’t you know I have an-xi-ety?! How dare you say something that might upset me?’

I’m beginning to realise life isn’t like that. That people aren’t always going to know my situation and be able to filter what they are saying. I need to take a step closer to reality, a world where not everything goes through the ‘be careful what you say’ filter. 

It’s really hard when you are trying to get better from something when there are so many things that could get in your way. The problem with anxiety is that you can meet it in any situation, the only way to avoid it is to lock yourself away from anything and anyone. 

I’ve tried that and it’s not a solution. 

So my next step is looking for strategies to deal with the sorts of situations that make my anxiety increase. So I don’t have to hide away, avoiding social gatherings for the fear that someone might say something which makes me question myself. 

I am waiting for my first appointment with CBT therapy and hope that will be the first step to achieving this. My anxiety has taken a massive leap where it is becoming unpredictable and I am struggling to control it. I need to get it back in its box and learn how to manage it again. 

I just want to get back to normal.

It’s okay to have a good day

Sometimes I find myself checking myself when I’m in the shower. Checking my head and my chest to see if those familiar anxiety signs are there. Sometimes it can take me a couple of days to realise they are not. That’s the thing about anxiety, when it’s there, it’s really there. But when it’s not, you can fail to recognise the sense of normality and calm you are feeling. Until it’s too late.
Today I woke up and checked myself. I have no symptoms today at all, I feel generally upbeat and I should have no problem driving to work. 

Unless writing this blog makes all the anxiety come back.

It’s rare that I take the time to appreciate when I’m feeling good, when I actually feel like I may be a normal person. Sometimes there is far too much focus on the bad. I focus on the anxiety when I have it and think back to the last time I had it rather than the last time I felt good. I suppose when you are in the midst of it, it can be an extremely hard task to remember how it feels to be anxiety free.

I am certainly not saying that today is the day that I’m going to accomplish all my goals. Although I feel anxiety free I know that the little niggle I feel while writing about it has the ability to turn into a full blown panic attack. About nothing. Obviously.

I am realistic with my anxiety and realise that on these rare days I need to just enjoy them. Enjoy being normal. There is no point trying to push myself into things that are still difficult. Just because I have no symptoms doesn’t mean I’m suddenly going to face going into a busy bar with a new found confidence. 

Look at me! I’m cured.

No. 

Today I’m not cured. I’m just a little bit closer to being able to deal with things a little bit better. Pushing myself into a crowded bar will certainly transport me into my world of fear and panic. But that’s okay, I am accepting the fact I am going to have good days and bad days while learning how to deal with, and ultimately recover from this illness.

So today is hopefully going to be a good day. A day where anxiety pisses off and annoys someone else for a day. And I’m going to not think about it. 

Or at least try.

It’s okay to not be positive

Stay positive. Try to be positive.

Think of the good things. 

These are all variations of the advice I have received on the topic of dealing with my anxiety. Positivity is an extremely powerful feeling and I completely agree that a positive outlook can really help you get through the day to day dealings of life.

But not with anxiety.

On the days where I am crippled by anxiety telling me to be positive is like asking me to become the next Victoria Secrets Model. Not going to happen. Damn.

The thing is, I want to be positive, I know I need to be positive. There is nothing in my life which I should be down about. I am constantly asking myself:

‘What do I have to be down about?’ 

‘Why am I unable to feel positive?’ 

‘Why do I have to deal with this crippling anxiety?’

The reality is; at this point in time, where anxiety has a hold of my soul, I am completely and totally unable to feel any ounce of positivity. But that’s okay. 

I’m not depressed. I know that. But dealing with anxiety is really really hard. No wonder slight depression starts to make an appearance. When I am really really struggling I just can’t. I can’t do much, I just exist, I just try to get through the day. Being positive doesn’t even come into it. 

Someone telling me to be positive makes me want to punch them in the face.

Positivity is a good thing, it definitely is. But in the midst of anxiety don’t allow it to become another thing that you are failing at. The chances are, the people telling you to be positive definitely aren’t, at that precise second, going through what you are. So don’t take their crap advice, save it for a day when you might be feeling up for taking on the world, that moment when after maybe wallowing in your anxiety for 3 hours or 3 days you suddenly just feel a little bit of lightness in your chest. When you realise that maybe the anxious feelings are easing. 

And you start to feel normal. 

And maybe a little bit more positive.

It’s okay to ignore people’s advice

Disclaimer. This is not me saying the people around me are heartless, unempathetic individuals who have no clue about anxiety. This is me just explaining my frustrations. I am not being a dick. I am not saying all people are shit. I’m just highlighting some things that has been said to me in the past and explaining why it didn’t help.

Just don’t think about it.
Of course. That’s exactly where I am going wrong. I just don’t need to think about it.
Yeah right. I’m sorry but if the solution was just don’t think about it I would have not been signed off for three months last year.
Unfortunately, this is just one of many nuggets of advice I have been given over the last two years. I understand that people are trying to help but telling someone with anxiety to try not to think about it is like telling someone to not think of a yellow dinosaur with a pink bow on it’s head.
I bet you just thought of a yellow dinosaur with a pink bow on it’s head.
Try not to worry.
Another variation of this invaluable advice is try not to worry.
Ahh right! Shit, why didn’t the doctor tell me this at my first appointment. I’m such an idiot, of course that is the solution.
Worry is my main problem. It is my anxiety. I am a born worrier and I worry about everything. I worry for everyone else. I have been known to worry about things that aren’t even going to happen. Because that is a major cause of my anxiety. So telling me not to worry is basically giving me a new worry; to worry about not being able to not worry.
Get it now?
Try read a book or watch TV.
Have you ever tried to watch TV or read a book while a stampede is running through your living room? No? Neither have I. But I imagine that is similar to how easy it is to read a book or watch TV while having a particularly bad bout of anxiety. For me, it can just create more anxious thoughts and feelings. When I am really anxious I just accept that I can’t do anything. To be honest, social media is the only thing I can concentrate on as the rate at which I refresh throughout the day means my concentration only ever needs to stretch for a mere two minutes before I have caught up.
So thanks for that advice but not gonna work.
Just go out and look at the birds
This is a personal favourite of mine and it was said to me during the time while I was signed off work. I would say I was probably at my lowest point. Now I don’t really like birds. I accept them. They are quite cute. But that’s it. Why the f*ck would I want to go and look at them? When I can’t get myself through my front door why would birds be the cure that is going to make me have a miraculous recovery.
I do understand what was meant by the comment. What was meant was to get myself out of the house. It was meant in the nicest way. But at that point in my anxiety driven state I just wanted to scream.
DO YOU HONESTLY THINK THAT RIGHT NOW I WANT TO GO AND LOOK AT SOME BIRDS?
No. I don’t.
I did, in fact, reply with:
‘That’s a good idea, I might try that. Thanks.’
The point of this post is that sometimes you can’t expect people to understand because they haven’t experienced what you are going through.
I think the real problem with people’s ‘helpful’ comments is that it feels as if they are, no doubt unintentionally, playing down the effect anxiety has and the fact that it is an illness. Let’s face it, these same people would not suggest to someone with a broken arm to try not to think about the pain. They would suggest painkillers, and afterwards, to aid recovery, physiotherapy.
What I’m trying to say is you might not think it but you probably know what is best for you. Just take the ‘advice’ people give you and have a little chuckle to yourself, ‘if only you knew!’
To be honest. I’m glad my friends and family have this ignorance, it means that they have never suffered the level of anxiety I have. And if that’s what it would take for them to understand I will just continue to take their [slightly unhelpful] advice as I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy.
So the next time someone tells you to look at the birds take it as a positive.
You are doing okay.
You maybe do know whats best for you. Because at least you can come away from the conversation fully confident in the fact that looking at birds will do f*ck all for your anxiety.

It’s okay to take a few days.

Imagine waking up everyday feeling as if someone has a hold of your heart; squeezing it so it is has to beat a lot harder than usual. Then combine that with a dread of getting out of bed, a dread of something as simple as turning on the shower. Unfortunately this is not the usual Monday morning dread I am describing, it is a morning in the life of someone who suffers from anxiety. Anxiety is a complete bitch. It creeps up in the most unwelcome times.
For me, it tends to arrive when I am feeling positive and have recently just congratulated myself on how ‘well I’m doing at life.’ Thanks very much Bitch.
When I wake up with anxiety I have to do absolutely everything in my power to not roll over and go back to sleep. My bed is my safe space; it’s where I know I am in no danger and nothing can get to me. However, unfortunately for many anxiety sufferers the guilt of not getting up can be just as bad; it’s a battle one way or the other.
Once I am up it turns into a game of stepping stones. Very often a case of one step forward and two steps back. I often find myself bribing myself to do things, if I get in the shower I will get to watch a YouTube video. (YouTube has become a good strategy for distracting myself from anxiety symptoms.) I resort to the actions of a two year old child where bribery and tantrums are two common occurrences during this regular battle of wills between my head, and my head…
The problem with anxiety is you never actually believe you have it. Still to this day I think I am just making up my panic attacks. Surely I am just letting them get too far where I can’t quite control them anymore. It’s definitely not a mental health illness. There is no way I have a mental health illness, it’s just that I am a little bit stressed….
The reality is that this is exactly what mental illness is and unfortunately a large part of why there is still a stigma attached to it. Of course anxiety is from my head, it is a MENTAL illness. The difference from my belief however, is that it is how my brain is wired. I cannot control it and it is my body’s way of telling me to slow the hell down.
So once I have had a shower I need to dry my hair. Something that I have done approximately 4000 times since I was 15. (Yes, I did just use my iPhone calculator to calculate that and yes I did allow for days when I definitely did not shower because I am regularly a lazy slob.) So drying my hair suddenly becomes on the same par as climbing Mount Everest. A f*cking nightmare. So I just sit. I sit on my futon and look at myself in the mirror and occasionally look at the hairdryer and look at how my hair is getting curly and frizzy and for fuck sake why can’t I just dry my hair?
Cue heavy breathing and heart palpitations as if I was dying at the top of Mount Everest.
I can’t possibly dry my hair because if I did I will definitely die at the top of Mount Everest…
Yeah, it sounds ridiculous because I am no where near Mount Everest but this is just a metaphor for me to impossibly explain how absolutely ridiculous anxiety can be and how I totally get that it is ridiculous but I just can’t. seem. to. stop. it.
So the fun begins, my body becomes completely overwhelmed with all the emotions I could ever possible feel. Right now my mind is working through my earliest memory of crashing my car, (well, I now definitely can’t drive to work) to last week where I wasn’t quite organised for a lesson. (I definitely can’t do my job, I’m shit at my job)
The panic attack that follows is hard to describe, the best way of describing it is feeling completely out of control where nothing you do is going to make it better. At this point my life is over, I cannot see myself carrying on. This may seem dramatic but panic attacks are dramatically real. I have read that people have gone to hospital thinking they were having a heart attack where in fact it was a panic attack. Surely that shows the impact they can have. The most ironic thing about a panic attack, a symptom of a MENTAL illness, is how sore it is. My heart literally feels like it may explode, I feel horrendously sick and often get a sore head and sinuses from the pressure of crying. This mental illness is just as physical as it is mental.
So once I have got over my panic attack which will involve me scaring the shit out of my husband and ending up, inevitably, in bed in the foetal position, we will decide to phone into work.
To say I’m not coming in.
Because of my MENTAL illness.
Yeah, I’m fucking sticking the middle finger up to that stigma attached to it. Because you know what? I actually need some time to get back down from the stress I’m feeling. Just as if I had the flu. I am taking the time I need to get my shit together.
Because that’s okay.
And I’m one step closer to recovering by doing it.

It’s okay to not understand your anxiety

I don’t think I was told I had anxiety for a long time. I was positive I had depression. I felt down, was sleeping all the time and had no interest in doing anything.
I remember the first time I went to the doctors and him telling me I couldn’t possibly have depression because I was sleeping okay (probably too much) and I was taking care of my appearance. I remember getting home and sobbing my heart out. I felt like I had reached a dead end. I told myself that this meant there was nothing wrong with me, I still looked okay so there couldn’t be.
On reflection I do understand what the doctor was saying and I know now that I didn’t have depression so he was right. But this did not stop the seed being planted that told me ‘you don’t look ill, you aren’t showing symptoms of being ill, so you can’t be ill.’ Something that has stuck with me to this day. Don’t get me wrong, the doctor didn’t completely dismiss me and he told me to keep track of things and come back in two weeks. It’s so easy looking back and saying, yeah, I totally get why he did that now. But at the time two weeks felt like a lifetime.
So when I returned after probably the lowest two weeks of my life he told me he was going to refer me to Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). He never actually used the word anxiety or gave me a diagnosis at this point so I was still completely in the dark about what was wrong with me. To be honest, if he had told me I had anxiety I probably would have laughed in his face. Anxiety? I don’t have anxiety. This is not me feeling anxious about things. There is something wrong with me!
I didn’t understand anxiety. Like a lot of the population.
Anxiety is often thrown about like an adjective. ‘OMG! I have so much anxiety about what to wear tonight!’
Yes sweetheart, you are maybe a little anxious about what to wear but please don’t throw the word about like that. Please have a thought for the 5.2 million of us who have anxiety which results in debilitating symptoms.
I am not for one second saying that people don’t get anxious and I’m very aware of the spectrum of anxiety but it just highlights the lack of understanding there can be about the disorder. And I was one of these people who lacked understanding. And after battling anxiety for almost two years I still do.
So when I eventually got my CBT therapist appointment three weeks later. (NHS waiting list.) I didn’t know what to expect. This was the first time the word anxiety was explained to me. I remember the therapist telling me about a tiger and hunters and how stressed you would get if you saw a tiger in the wild. I remember thinking, who is this woman? This is nuts. I do not care about f*cking tigers. Just tell me what’s wrong with me!
I did not understand.
I now kind of understand the physical aspects of anxiety and understand the links to stress and those f*cking tigers. It’s maybe something I will discuss in another post. But maybe not because I’m not a psychiatrist and I still feel pretty lost by it all.
So CBT did work like a dream for me, even though the tiger lady was a bit out there. It did help my understanding but there is still a lot I don’t know. I learnt a lot from blogs and from reading articles. There is nothing better than reading an article where someone is describing how you are feeling or saying, ‘you know what? I don’t have a bloody clue about this either.’
I suppose this is why I’m writing this. To say that you don’t have to understand it, I don’t think anyone really understands it completely. But what is important is accepting it. Accepting that this is in your make up and sometimes your body is going to pretend those f*cking tigers are going to eat you.
The one thing I have grown to understand is it’s often your body’s way of telling you to take a look at things and gain some understanding of you. What is bothering you. What is happening in your life right now that is maybe making your body react this way.
So yeah, it’s okay to not understand your anxiety but don’t ignore it, listen to what it’s trying to tell you and go find someone who does understand it. (And those f*cking tigers.)
(FYI, I have just been referred again to the tiger lady. Anxiety is an ongoing battle and I have admitted I need some more help to gain a bit more understanding of what I am feeling. I just hope she comes up with a different analogy…)

It’s okay to have no idea how to blog. I think.

So I’m going to do what it tells me to do for my first blog post because I don’t like being wrong or getting things wrong. I have actually left the instructions above so I can keep referring to it while I type. You see, one major aspect of the anxiety I suffer from is where I can never be wrong for the fear of extreme embarrassment. I almost hope people don’t read this as what if the comments are mean? And OMG, I will never be able to cope with those internet trolls I hear about.

So please be nice if you do happen to stumble across this. I understand that the chances of this happening are extremely small seen as though there are 166,000,000 hits when you google ‘anxiety.’ Which seems ironic as when I was googling for ‘anxiety blogs’ at various points over the last few years I actually struggled to find many that I could really relate to.

To be honest, it will probably only be myself and my husband who ever read this. There is absolutely no hope in hell I will be sharing this for my friends to see. What if someone doesn’t like it? That thought is too much to handle.

So when you read my blog you will see that I am just a normal girl. (Or woman. Is being 28 classed as a woman?) I don’t know much about anxiety apart from my own experiences, my grammar and spelling ability stretches to primary school level and I have never wrote a blog post in my life.

This is a blog about my anxiety.

(By the way, I haven’t changed the photo at the top because I have not yet researched the rules of pictures on blogs. I certainly don’t want to take one off google images and get into trouble as that will stop me before I have begun. I also don’t want to put a picture of myself as right now; I’m just not ready for that.)