Oh, hai. So I'm gonna talk about something totally personal to me, yet something that's shared by millions of people every day. And I NEVER talk about this stuff. For the first time in seven years I've only just managed to talk about it to someone and it felt good, and after that I was able to tell someone else, which also felt good, so now I'm gonna tell all y'all.
(Please note that this isn't a cry for attention or sympathy. I'm just sharing my story with the kindling hope that it might help or comfort people who suffer in a similar way).
When I was seventeen I inexplicably developed a case of social anxiety. I don't know much about the hows or whys but I can tell you this: it totally messed me up. Back then I was in college (all you Americans call it High School) and although I had some awesome friends, some days I couldn't bring myself to leave the house much less go on crazy social adventures out of hours.
Schooling was an issue. I missed so mainly classes. Sometimes I'd be off for weeks. I got into so much trouble. People thought I was a slacker but I was happy to fuel this image because it was easier than admitting I actually had a mental problem. I ended up dropping a load of subjects that I loved simply because I couldn't bear to be in a classroom situation. I kept art because art was conducted in a studio. In an art class there's little conformity compared to an academic classroom, plus I could leave the room at my discretion when the situation became too suffocating.
At its worse, I finally decided I needed help. I went to the doctors. I was laughed off. I remember sitting in the surgery crying because I was so sad and terrified of that awful, dark anxiety that had such a grip on my life, yet the doctor told me it was a phase. My case was dismissed because I was young, I suppose. A raging ball of teenage hormones. I was made to feel like a complete idiot and decided not to talk to anyone about it again.
Two years later I decided I needed to rely on myself to change. What helped me? Buddhism and meditation. Herbal remedies and peppermint tea. I shit you not. I sound like a massive hippy but, hey, it helped me go to university (college for y'all 'muricans).
Don't get me wrong, it didn't totally disappear. I still got 'attacks' every now and again, but I learnt to wrestle it down, for the most part (I DID miss my first day of university though, heh).
So when, a month ago, I started getting the old Buddhism book out again, I should've noticed the signs. Too much going on at once: the anniversary of the death of my little sister, family confrontations, relationship issues and being bullied at work.
And then last night I woke up at 3am and had a panic attack. Yaaaaay /sarcasm.
BUT. This time, I actually TALKED to people using WORDS (and a few tears). My long term boyfriend (who had no idea what the heck was going on when I suddenly and inexplicably had to leave a dinner at a restaurant with a group of friends a few months back, bless his patience), who was actually really gentle and understanding and didn't tell me it was a phase. I feel so much better because now he'll actually understand when I become a stammering mess while attempting to merge with society, and then loosely blaming it on 'a headache'. I also talked to my co-worker, who offered very sound advice and has promised to support me 100%.
I FEEL SO MUCH BETTER.
I don't think my anxiety will ever go away completely. I live primarily in sunshine, yet with the knowledge that rain will return at some point. BUT. I know that there are a lot of us out there. Depression. Anxiety. All dat shiz. And if you wanna talk or vent or cry you can in the comments. I'll listen. Maybe I can help. Maybe someone who reads your comment can help. Maybe it will help just to get it down in writing. If it helps you, you can keep coming back to this blog and venting over and over. I don't mind. That's why I've written it.
IT'S GOOD TO TALK. I wish I'd known that seven years ago but opening up is hard for me, especially in today's society where everyone is so judgemental and dismissive of mental illnesses such as depression. Don't you love the old 'Why can't you just get over it' response?
Here's a list of things that help me. Maybe they'll help you, maybe not. But it might open up some avenues that lead to partial if not complete recovery.
Herbal tea – specifically peppermint. When I get anxiety (specifically before entering a situation that will give me an anxiety attack) I find it therapeutic to sip on peppermint tea. It calms an unsettled belly and focuses my mind.
Herbal remedies – The one down from prescribed medication. Let's be honest: no one wants to be on medication anyway. Herbal remedy 'Kalms' helped me loads, though sometimes I felt that their effect was perhaps purely psychological.
Meditation – Clearing my mind allowed me to focus on my problems one by one, analyse them in a detached way rather than during a heightened state of panic.
Breathing exercises – Particularly helpful when IN said situation. In through the nose, out through the mouth. Again, a calming effect.
Lingering on the outside of situations – In particular, I always choose desks/chairs at the back of classrooms/workplaces. Near the door would be the best. It defeats some of the suffocation of being surrounded by a lot of people in a situation I can't necessarily escape from. If I'm near a door I feel comforted.
Lastly, talking. It helped. It helps.
So if you wanna talk, you can here. Share experiences, advice, lend an ear. What helps you through bad situations? How do you fight your way out of a rubbish situation?
If you don't wanna talk, then I hope you defeat your demons in a way that suits you best
- most herbal teas lack the main element of regular tea and coffee which exacerbates the anxious state, i.e. caffeine, the choice of flavour comes down to personal preference...my own would be lemon and ginger.
- herbal medicine - Hops, being an hypnotic, constitutes the main element of Kalms and has long been recognized as having a mild neurological and physical sedative effect. There are lots of others and much has been written about them, I keep a supply of Jamaican Dogwood having found it to be productive at reducing the physical tension associated with anxious states.
- diet - I cook for myself, and have done since I was fifteen, my anxiety levels have always increased when I shortcut with prepackaged meals or fast food, so I try to avoid them. Anything the body can not process will put strain on the system, physical stress contributes to neurological stress thus being aware of what foods do not digest well can remove this factor from the anxiety triggers.
- meditation - this often gets lumped into the 'hippy dippy' category of anxiety therapy and I have never been one myself for the classic image of meditation, but then meditation comes in many forms. I find a meditative focus in constructive activity which can be anything from doing the washing up to artwork, for the relaxation state sitting at the park or at the beach with my dog watching the world go by serves this purpose (other pets are available if dogs are not your preference).
- putting yourself IN situations which cause you anxiety - no matter how hard a person tries to avoid these situations they will, more often than not, sneak up when the person least expects. Thus, rather than allow them to be an unpleasant surprise decide on a time and place when you will do the thing that brings up anxiety in you. Controlling when this occurs helps to prepare a person construct coping strategies for when the unexpected situations happen.
- Talking - Start with someone you trust, the more you talk about it the easier it gets, bottling anything up inside leaves it metaphorically bouncing persistently around the inside of the skull impacting on everything else in there.
And a final word...Anxiety can have a positive side, for me the heightened adrenal state comes in very handy when I am presented with an insane deadline for a project, it then becomes a motivator of productivity rather than the general populous' perception of an inhibitor of action.
Your journal was absolutely amazing. I find it very supportive, even more so since I use a lot of your helping methods (I love peppermint/licorice tea, and meditation.) I would like to ask though, How did you get out of your shell? I'm really shy, and it's really hard for me to talk to people, even if I don't get panic attacks. However, I really want to make some friends now that I'm going to a university, I just don't know how.
Thank you for such an uplifting post, and congratulations on your achievements!
I just wanted to vent out that I dislike very much society's urge to put labels on everything. Like giving it a name makes it any better. I read a book once, which opened my eyes. Veronika Decides To Die, by Paulo Coelho. He writes ( or the character thinks) that people these days are bored and start getting mental illnesses, cause there's nothing else to worry about, no war, no hunger (in Europe). That's kinda how he wrote it. Now please don't get me wrong, I don't mean to put away the seriousness of anything. I just dislike it when society tries to put people into boxes with disease labels on it. For example, somebody I know (somebody very close) has got movement and voice ticks and concentration issues. I don't know how, but the doctor decided to put on her the label of Tourette, which is bullshit in my opinion. But now that it's got a name it's like the big scary monster and some family members look at her like she was really sick. Ok, she got conditions and ticks and difficulties in school. But everyone got his or her flaws and differences. But some people just feel the need to put a label on it. It's like a huge society sickness. People-labelling. xD (See, now I did just the same thing. )
Something you did or rather did not makes me want to look up to you. You decided to deal with it on your own, instead of pushing it aside with some medication, taking away all responsibility from yourself, like : I'm sick, I can't change it, duh. My respect to you for taking the problem as it is and working on it by yourself. Society got lazy. People let some doctors who read a few psychology books label them and take the pills which fit the situation. It's so unnecessary in some cases. If people just would get away from this "I'm sick, it's hopeless, it's a mental illness." Like mental illness is some huge horrible monster.
Of course not everybody is like this. I'm only ranting about the people who are this way. And I know that some mental illnesses are real illnesses, with chemistry going wrong in the brain. Like depression. (Real depression, and not "I don't know what to do I got two problems at once, it's too much, now I've got depression")
What do I actually want to say? I'm not sure. xD I just think I wish more people were like you and could at least try to help themselves. And again, my respect for handling this so well yourself, because there are people who can't. Because of that, thank you for sharing this, there are probably people you helped with that.
I know from myself that sometimes it's more helpful to talk to a good friend instead of go to therapy and talk to some woman who gives a shit about you but is paid to listen to your ramblings.
I hope nobody gets me wrong here, I just wanted to let out my opinion about some things from my own experience and I thought that this place could be right.
Thank you for reading all this and good luck and strength to everyone who's got a problem of his or her own.
Back in fifth grade (I was 9 or 10) my parents got back together after a two year separation. Should have been good, right? Except then they had to move since they were both living in relatively small places. My dad's apartment building was FULL of kids with divorced parents, there were like 20-30 kids I was friends with plus some other kids on my mom's street. I lost contact with all of them, leaving me with the 4 or 5 friends I had from school. I immediately went from this super social kid who made friends with literally everyone I talked to, to a person who cut herself off from people. I became super lonely, then sad, then depressed, then angry at myself for being depressed about my parents getting back together, and then just angry in general. By the time I was in 7th grade I was suicidal and trying to think of a way to kill myself literally every single day.
Eventually I met my current best friend who refused to be put off no matter how hard I tried to push her away (I know, it's not good to rely on another person to combat depression for you but it worked). Until that point the only thing getting me through were my books and the fact that none of the obvious suicide methods were available to me. The only person I've ever talked to about it is one of my sisters, my best friend vaguely knows and so do a couple of people from my tumblr since I've talked about parts of it but generally I don't like to talk to people about it because it sounds ridiculous to say 'I was suicidal at 11 years old'.
I'm doing fine right now, but reading your post made me want to share and say I'm glad you're making it through and I'm hoping for the best for you.
If someone needs help it's not necessarily a bad thing (actually I started studying psychnursing this year so I could be the one to help people), but you have to remember that they might let you down, intentionally or not. They don't always make very stable support is all I'm saying, even if we are really social creatures.
What a lovely thing I've read today
I just felt like sharing this with you because your boyfriend helped you too.
Talking about it helps. It doesn't stop the fact that I go, but it's helpful because once you tell one person it becomes easier to talk to others. It's good to warn people around you that this could happen, so that if there ever comes a time that you feel the pressure they know how to react. I think what I have is somewhat similar to what you have, because I have that anxiety build up too. The only difference is that when it gets to high I keel over.
There are a few things that help me when I feel like I'm about to go, and you can try them if you want:
• Humor. If people around me start to panic, I freak out more. But if someone starts to poke fun at me or make me laugh it really helps to calm me down. Honestly, this is the best thing for me. I keeled over once in middle school and busted open my chin. The Dr.'s said that I might need stitches, and I was freaking out (like crying and blubbering like a baby). Then in comes my mother who says, "You know, you kinda look like the Crimson Chin!" She then proceeded to make 'Crimson Chin' jokes for the whole time I was in the hospital. Oddly enough, it helped me calm down.
• Distractions. I know this is easier said then done, but finding a good distraction can help you a lot. For me, its mostly focusing on something to stay present, but I bet it could help calm down your brain if your on the brink of a meltdown. For me, spelling works, math questions, and song lyrics. When I'm about to get a shot I will recite (physically or mentally) songs like 'Bust A Move,' 'Fresh Prince,' or 'Bohemian Rhapsody.' Give it a try something and see if it helps!
Thank you for sharing, and I hope all these posts help you feel more confident and not alone
I'm going to try some of those remedies you posted and hope it helps. I'm fine with being a hermit and not making new friends (I do adore the ones I have), but I'd like to be able to talk to people when I have to. I can't count the times I didn't buy things I wanted, or ask about items in stock at a shop just because I felt sick just thinking about approaching someone in the store.
I can't thank you enough for your advice and time. It's comforting to know that people understand and all.
Sorry for taking so long to respond, also. I read your reply a few times but it took be a while to sort out my brain enough to respond. Had my wisdom teeth removed Friday and I'm still pretty out of it form the pain killers. X_x;
~savage: Best wishes. Even random other DA members like me care about you. Remember therapists can help you part time but only you can help yourself full-time. Do that. Find that purpose. Be more awesome in ever-increasing ways.
I am glad you are doing better, and I hope you can always stay in the sunshine! Good for you for being brave enough to share your story. Also, it's amazing your boyfriend was kind and gentle when you needed him most. You are blessed!
I also love that you say y'all considering only the south says y'all lol