Bedbugs and Mental Health part 1
Last week I wrote a Facebook post in which I shared a technique my friend passed on to me, aimed at helping you through a panic attack. I also added in some advice of how to help someone who is experiencing an attack. I shared the technique because earlier that night I had to use it to help me through what feels like my gazillionth episode of overwhelming panic and the disturbing aftermath that comes with it.
Anyone who has ever experienced or witnessed a panic attack/anxiety attack, whatever you want to call them, will agree that they are absolutely brutal. Even thinking about the effects of them now is making me slightly on edge.
However... I reckon there is a positive side to these paralysing attacks. They are usually accompanied by physical symptoms, which are visiable and audible to people around (difficultly breathing, dilated pupils, sweating, shaking, crying, running away, unresponsive to communication etc etc). Whilst you are in the full on clutches of an attack, the people around you get a a very brief glimpse of what is really going on inside your head (for some people,like me, on a day to day basis). It affords someone the chance to realise you might just not be as ok as you say you are and take action to help you.
The problem is that once these attacks have 'subsided' the underlying route cause of the attack, the emotion of anxiety itself, also sinks back below the surface, hidden and undetectable to your family, friends, collegues, the guy in the shop, the lady at the bus stop. They can no longer see the whirlpool or negative emotion which is constantly spinning away inside your head as you try to converse with them in a normal manner. And that's probably the worst thing about them, after everything they put you through they still allow the wee moron of an Anxiety Disorder to creep back below the surface for you to deal with on your own.
Panic attacks are one of the many many symptoms someone suffering from an Anxiety Disorder may exhibit. There are many types of Anxiety Disorders which fall onto a broad spectrum of severity. 1 in 4 people fall prey to an Anxiety Disorder at some point in their life. They are very common. The likelihood is you or someone close to you already has had to or will have to deal with overwhelming anxiety and all the bells and whistles that go along with it (depression and anxiety are very closely linked).
But...again i reckon there is a massive plus side to these crap statistics - it means there are thousands of people out there who are able to pass on their first hand tips, support and guidance on how to cope and move on from this episode in your life. Basically as nation we struggle with this collectively but because someone, somewhere once decided that anything that slightly relates to Mental Health should not be spoken about openly as it was embarrassing or made you weak or whatever other BS that lends it's name to term Stigma, some of us are left feeling like we'd rather not knowledge share publicly for fear of being judged. Thats wrong to me. Very wrong. Don't get me wrong you won't find me at the top of Buchanan Galleries stairs with a microphone shouting about my issues (starting with a blog post - baby steps) but I will force myself to talk about them when I feel it's appropriate because sometimes I come into contact with someone who has then opened up to me about their experiences helped me learn tips and tricks to get better. AND in the process I've found out that I'm not 'mental'. I'm just human, like everyone else. It's as common as the cold albeit a lot harder to recover from. But it happens. 110% do not be embarrassed. Human, not weak, not mental - human.
If you see someone struggling please let them know you've got their back and most importantly mean it. And for those of you that are struggling and come into contact with someone who makes an off the cuff comment such as 'she's at - can't see what the problem is' or 'attention seeking more like' don't get angry - get grateful. Take a wee step back and a deep breath because the positive in this situation is that its highly likely that the person in question, fortunately (and i mean that sincerely), has never experienced what's going on in your head. That is truly a great thing - I wouldn't wish this on anyone.
You can drill down into a thousand different ways of coping and not one size fits all but here's my general plan and advice for keeping your mind healthy and your lifestyle balanced...
Routine - create a healthy one and and try really hard to stick to it. Help each other out with it - one of my best mates struggles with depression and sometimes falls into the trap of not getting out of bed. When this happens she comes to stay with Davie and I for a bit, we get her up whether she likes it or not, she gets back on her feet (literally) and back on her journey. All good job secure cause she showed up for work = less stress = confidence she can do this. To do lists/planners/calendars/apps loads of ways to plan - have a back up plan to help you on your way if you get caught off course because it will happen some days.
Eat well. Good nutrition helps your immune system and energy levels which take a pounding when anxiety strikes. If you can't face the shops get it delivered. If you can't order it in get someone to go for you or with you.
Exercise. Last thing you want to do but it will help. Promise. For me it's hitting the bag in the gym (or davie if when he consents to a bit of one sided sparring ) boxing, weights, swimming, running, yoga - it's all the art of mindfulness. When I'm boxing all I can think about is where my hands are landing, where my feet are, how my hips are rotating, the sweat running down my back. I'm not concentrating all my energy on the fact that maybe I have developed mouth cancer overnight or that I might have bed bugs (will fill you in on that one later - that's maybe next weeks story - we don't have bed bugs btw).
Mindfulness - loads of you tube videos on this. Meditation works wonders for me.
Speak to someone - Doctor, councillor, help line some one. The doctor told me after a complete breakdown I had a pretty severe anxiety situation o my hands. I'm not the type of person who likes rehash the past - i see a problem i want to fix it as it is now. NLP works amazingly well for me. Coach Jamie Mckenzie has been a game changer for me getting better after three months of being too scared to leave the house to go to the post office/supermarket/work. Mind when I said have a back up plan in point one - that's why (you can get in touch with him via fb or the website)
Don't suffer alone. If you want to contact me directly you can through the NewLife website or fb page. Just shout - im no expert but I'll try my best to help where I can.
Research - my best pal used to be Dr Google. He diagnosed me with everything imaginable - turns out he was a a shoddy doc cause what I had was a form anxiety (health based) and he missed that one. Now when I find myself wanting to Google 'weird lump in my mouth' (ulcer btw) I Google 'symptoms of health anxiety' and find reality again.
Congratulate yourself daily on your successes. It can be as simple as going to the shops for a pint of milk, getting your favourite shirt ironed and on your back instead of spending that time examining the way your worded a text you sent to someone 5 days ago and trying to establish if it was in any way possibly offensive.
Or it can be bigger things like getting through that panic attack or finally making it to the post office and nothing life altering happening.
Sorry about the long winded post but it felt right Davie and I share some of this experience. He has to live with my moments of doubt/paranoia and fear so it affects him too. I've no doubt he'll have some advice for anyone is his shoes too. People often come to NewLife looking for exactly that - a New perspective on their Life so if this helps anyone it's worth it.
In the mean time mind and share your coping techniques and advice with each other - this wee post is a good place to start...
And as an overly anxious person it's only right I caveat this with - I'm not a doctor or anything like that - this is just my thoughts, experiences and a few google statistics. Also I'm really sorry if this upsets, offends anyone, comes across preachy or anything else negative - it's really really not meant to - my intentions are good- promise ;-)