When you can (finally) see the light

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If you’ve been through some difficult times but are finally starting to see a reprieve from the storm, then congratulations. It takes a great deal of mental strength, patience, time and setbacks to see a way forward from whatever you’ve been dealing with (in my case, managing what has sometimes been overwhelming anxiety). My personal storm has lasted about a year, but was probably building and building for many years prior before unleashing with a furious intensity. I can now finally say that I’m starting to see the light at the end of this tunnel, and learning ways to manage the thoughts that can rapidly descend into full blown panic.

Everyone is dealing with their own set of issues, and more often than not issues that cannot be seen on the surface. Sometimes I think that more obvious and visual issues would be easier to deal with, but then I remember that we are all on our own journey and have our own challenges to overcome. For too long I was hiding what I was really going through, pretending I was okay but barely functioning. On the inside I was in turmoil just trying to get through a day at work without freaking out and running to the bathroom, where I could at least be alone if a panic attack came on. I don’t think my colleagues had any idea of the extent of my anxiety, and how it was making simple tasks seem like huge hurdles in my mind. I’d go to bed thinking about work, dream about it, wake up in the middle of the night gasping for air and dread the next morning where I’d have to face it all again. I knew I was rapidly spiralling out of control, but I couldn’t see a way out from this hell. It was only when I nearly fainted at my desk one day from the overwhelming panic running through my body, and dizzily made my way outside for fresh air that I knew something needed to be done. And so I quit my job, somewhere I’d been for four years after doing a degree just to get there. I quit my life as I knew it, and silently moved home without really telling anyone the truth.

I expected things to get better from Day 1 of freedom, but I was a fool. It’s now been 4 months and I’m only finally starting to feel better, after going through some really stormy days where simply getting out of bed was a challenge. I’ve recently started working again, something that in my eyes seemed like a huge hurdle to overcome. I couldn’t imagine going back into a workplace, meeting new people, learning new systems and maintaining my cool, but I’ve done it and I’m proud. Of course, some days are still really hard and sometimes anxiety descends on me with no warning or apparent reason. This is what’s so frustrating about it – not having any obvious trigger can make simple tasks like going grocery shopping or driving seem like a trap. You live in constant fear of feeling anxious, wondering when it will hit you. Will you have an easy escape? Will you be in front of people? It’s not easy changing your mindset, working on different thinking patterns and focusing on your breathing to bring you back to ground, but it IS possible.

I’ve read everything there is to read about anxiety issues and armed myself with the facts. Panic attacks can’t kill you – yes, the physical symptoms may seem life threatening (tight chest, tingling hands and feet, racing heart, dizziness), but they are just the body going into flight or fight mode when it senses danger. For people suffering from anxiety though, the body is constantly going into this flight or fight mode for no reason – and this is the crux of the issue. For anyone reading this and feeling the same, I would say try everything you can. Meditation, exercise, cutting out caffeine, talking to somebody, slow breathing practise.. the list goes on and I’ve tried them all. I think a combination of healing techniques, mindfulness and motivation has slowly led to a change in my thinking. I know there is still a long road ahead but at least I can say I’m committed and I’m going to get through this, and so will you 🙂

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Photo credit – rose_and_heart

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