Wednesday, 29 June 2016

The Anxiety Diaries: Making the step towards change

Welcome back to my blog!
 
Instead of talking all things beauty, today I'm going to talk about something a bit different. I've wanted to film a video surrounding this subject for a LONG ASS time but i feel like it's something that can be explained more efficiently in text. I'm starting a series on my blog called The Anxiety Diaries. I was very much inspired by other bloggers to construct this series, but I also wanted to use this as a therapeutic technique for me and hopefully for you. The first part to this is obviously the introduction but im going to take you through the nature of my mental health disorder and how I have finally learnt and encouraged myself to take a step into the future. I'll also take you through tips and tricks that have helped me.
 

My Story

 
The onset of my mental health disorder started in the second year of university in 2015. I had suspicions that something was not quite right years prior to the onset, but it was something I turned a blind eye too. The symptoms I had initially experienced were: Excessive worrying i.e. "What if I don't hand this in on time" and "I hope my loved ones are okay when im not there to look after them, in the event that something bad happens". I had also experienced a symptom called depersonalisation-derealisation. I want to use a certified definition to explain phenomenon but I feel like I am able to describe it, tailored to my experience. Imagine feeling like you're in a dream, a movie or a game. Nothing feels real and you do not understand your surroundings and consequently question your existence. This sends an alarming signal to your body because you become scared. Additionally, you experience memory loss because that section of your life is that stressful your mind will do everything it can to protect you. I tend to shut off to the world when this happens. I want to be alone, I lose concentration, I appear very zoned out! Scary huh? Imagine this every day and your body still does not adapt to this feeling. This symptom was persistent throughout the past 5 years of my life and certainly was and still is the most concerning of the bunch. At this time, I put this pair together and blamed it on the stress of university.
 
A year or so down the line, I am currently here writing this blog post. Im afraid to say my symptoms have increased in quantity and intensity. I now deal with this on more or less on a daily basis:
  • Chest pains (These make you feel like you are having a heart attack)
  • My heart pounding in my chest (Almost like its jumping)
  • Burning sensation in my muscles (Again, suspected heart attack)
  • Pins and Needles in my arms
  • Breathlessness and a tight chest
  • Persistent headaches (Through my temples, at the bottom of my head, behind my ears. My head almost feels heavy, tense and fuzzy)
  • Hypersensitivity to loud sounds
  • A general notion of feeling like im going crazy.
  • Trouble sleeping (I am usually over thinking or when I feel myself drifting into sleep my brain will wake me up. As a result I feel like I am 'falling' and jump into a state of panic)
  • Muscle Tension
  • Overthinking situations
Little did i know, but all of these symptoms interlink with each other. for example, the muscle tension may cause the pains in my chest. I then interpret the pains in my chest as a heart attack and consequently think im going to die. This heightened emotion sends me into panic mode and I sometimes end up having a panic attack. LUCKILY, my panic attacks have decreased (touch wood - I don't want to tempt fate). As a result of this commotion, I still remain tense and the cycle starts again. I have now come to the realisation that this negative cycle must and needs to stop.
 
Now there ARE days and there will be days when YOU are more likely to deal with these symptoms effectively and brush them off. Other days, you will want to curl into a ball and accept defeat. At times, it has driven me to a state of depression. I had thoughts go through my worried and over thinking mind: "its getting worse, where will I be this time next year", "I cannot deal with this anymore", "I wish i was able to think, act and feel normally". Interestingly, anxiety and depression have a high co-morbidity with each other and again I want to try my best to stop these symptoms before it gets to that stage. I am less likely to be resilient against these symptoms when mother nature visits! ( Just a text to say im not preg would be great ). This is a very important point, because I can now recognise when I am more vulnerable to my symptoms, and take extra measures to remain strong.
 

Making the next step to recovery

Based around my experience, I will list some points below on how to take that brave step towards recovery.
 
  1. Remember that the symptoms you are experiencing are just symptoms alone. This means that when the root problem is fixed, the symptoms usually disappear.
  2. Speak to your Doctor. This is a very important point to make. I was very scared to speak to my doctor because I couldn't explain how I was feeling and I didn't think he would believe me. But its more common than you think and they have heard it all before so please be reassured!
  3. Make links between your symptoms and how to tackle them. I will touch upon this In the next section.
  4. Have motivation. If you don't feel like you have enough power one day, do not worry. it happens and there is always another day. Never put any excess pressure or stress on yourself.

Treatment

I want to split this section into separate parts. I do not know what had caused my anxiety so I wrote down some possible explanations and went from there. These may or may not be different to your experience. Everyone is different and that makes us beautiful.
 


SSRI's

After visiting my doctor, he recommended I go on a 10mg dose of Citalopram. At first, this scared me and I mean it really scared me. This was when it all felt real. I never wanted to go on serious medication especially at 20 years old but I was so desperate to feel normal, I tried them anyway. I took them for a week and it was the worst week of my life. Everything I was feeling was multiplied by 10. I had chronic headaches and it felt like electricity was buzzing through my head. I felt very sick and out of it. I also had intense nightmares that alerted me further when I was awake. Now don't let this scare you because everyones body chemistry reacts differently with medication. You may have zero side effects plus taking the meds at night can minimise the experience of these side effects. I did stop taking these meds because I wanted to use them as a last resort.
 
Now bear in mind the cause of anxiety. SSRI's usually only work if your anxiety is due to a chemical imbalance in your brain.
 

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)

I was referred to undergo CBT to change my thought processes. I did not actually get round to this therapy, however I did start off with some self help books and reading websites online. Self help books helped me to UNDERSTAND what I was going through and therefore normalised it for me. If I understood why I was experiencing anxiety on this level, surely I could control it?
 

How I am making the step towards change

I sat down one day and said to myself that I have had enough. It's time for me to take control of myself. I had written down what may have caused my anxiety. The information I had read around this made me more educated about the nature of the disorder and subsequently made me feel more powerful and in control of what I was going through. I had noted down all of my symptoms and how I could control them also.
 
I am currently trying to remove my anxiety completely and here's how. I have tried SO many things! I am also attempting to follow a process of elimination.
 
  1. I am getting my implanon implant removed. There has been a suspected link between female contraception and anxiety. whether or not the link is clear, I want to try it to see whether it calms my anxiety. If it does not calm down, I will also come off  the mini pill. I was using these two forms of contraception together to stop bleeding. I want to see whether the imbalance of hormones is affecting the anxiety.
  2. I am cutting out nicotine and coffee completely. Im sure we are aware of these neurological stimulants and my brain needs much less stimulating!
  3. I regularly eat healthy and drink lots of water but I will be exercising a lot more to see if it boosts the mood of my mind.
  4. I am creating plans to minimise the effects of my symptoms (see below)
  5.  

How I am minimising the effects of my symptoms

This is something I am yet to try and give feedback on. I will be trying these steps to see If they help my symptoms and of course I will be updating you in due course.
 
 
  • My heart pounding in my chest (Almost like its jumping)
  1.  By this point, I am paying too much attention to my body. Try and distract yourself, followed by thoughts such as " everythings normal, my body is trying to trick me into thinking something is wrong".
  2. Try deep breaths. Breathe in for 5 seconds, hold for 2 seconds and breath out for 5 seconds.
  3. If this doesn't work, try belly breathing to stay calm about the situation.
  • Burning sensation in my muscles (Again, suspected heart attack)
  1. This usually follows muscle tension or muscle spasms. Try stretching your arms out and relaxing.
  • Pins and Needles in my arms
  1. This usually follows muscle tension or muscle spasms. Try stretching your arms out and relaxing.
  • Breathlessness and a tight chest
  1. The main solution for this is to focus on your breathing and stay relaxed.
  2. find a comfy position where you are able to breathe clearer.
  3. I find that menthol oil on my chest and under my nose helps.
  • Persistent headaches (Through my temples, at the bottom of my head, behind my ears. My head almost feels heavy, tense and fuzzy)
  1. I am yet to find a solution for this symptom. Try rubbing your temples or above your neck whilst closing your eyes.
  2. Take some pain relief
  3. Take yourself away from screens such as computers and phones
  4. Drink lots of water. Dehydration will make your headaches worse.
  • Hypersensitivity to loud sounds
  1. This is quite difficult as I am rather hyper vigilant to sounds. Where possible, play the sound that scares you and tell yourself repeatedly that its ok.
  2. Irritability can occur as a result of being scared by loud sounds. Try breathing exercises.  
  • A general notion of feeling like im going crazy.
  1. This usually follows depersonalisation. As hard as it sounds, take yourself out of the situation and control your thoughts. Training yourself to control your thoughts is very difficult.
  2. Distract yourself as much as possible. Get up and walk. Socialise if you feel like it. Adult colouring has helped a number of people to stay calm and stabilize themselves.
  3. Listening to white noise has helped me! It almost makes it super hard to think and therefore think drastic thoughts.
  4. Anxiety tricks you into thinking you are going crazy. Tell yourself that it's lying to you.  
  • Trouble sleeping (I am usually over thinking or when I feel myself drifting into sleep my brain will wake me up. As a result I feel like I am 'falling' and jump into a state of panic)
  1. Relaxing before bed helps to get me off to sleep. I use an app called pacifica. It takes you through muscle relaxation whilst playing relaxing sounds in the background.
  2. Write down your thoughts before bed. This helps to avoid overthinking.
  • Muscle Tension
  1. A body massager really helps to leave your body feeling relaxed. Buy your own personal one so you can use it whenever. This has helped me massively.
  2. Muscle tension causes chest pains and headaches, so tackling muscle tension, will help tackle the following symptoms.
  3. Go to the gym as this will tire out your muscles and boost your mood!
  • Overthinking situations
  1. This requires a lot of discipline. Focus on your thoughts and ask yourself if its true or whether your mind has made it up. Everyone overthinks from time to time, but anxiety will make it worse. Ask yourself if it makes logic sense.
  2. I find it helps when I think of my thoughts like water. If I have something on my mind, I take it for face value and let it float through my mind. I then take the over thought situation and let that follow suit. It's easier to embrace every scenario but remember to not believe everything your mind is telling you.
  • Chest pains (These make you feel like you are having a heart attack)
  1. Belly breathing will help prevent a panic attack from happening as a result of chest pains, especially if you have health anxiety.
  2. lightly massage the area as it can be a build up of acid
  3. Chest pains are usually the result of muscle tension, so try stretching and relaxing your muscles.

I will be keeping you guys updated on this process. I hope and pray something works for me as I would rather stay away from medication. I hope this has helped you in some way. I have come a long way and learnt alot. Just because i have a mental illness, does not mean i am any less of a person. I feel like it makes us who we are. We learn so much as a result.

 

s x 

 
 

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