It’s taking me sometime to build the courage to write this post. Not because I was worried what people would think but because I was worried they wouldn’t understand. I guess there is a stigma towards mental health issues in Ireland which makes us feel alone or unable to come clean and ask for help from others.
The daily struggles an anxiety sufferer goes through will sound strange to people that do not suffer with anxiety and many people cannot grasp the situations we find ourselves facing. It’s tough and the worst thing is, when you tell someone (which is rare) how you are feeling you are usually greeted with the few lines that anger me the most “You’ll be fine” , “just breath” “why don’t you just not worry”. These responses annoy me because people don’t understand what you are facing during a panic attack and don’t you think if I could just not worry…I would, and I would be ridden of these horrible episodes.
I’ve spend years now worrying every time I felt unwell that a crazy disease was rampant in my body. A headache..no it can’t be..it must be a brain tumor, a pain in my side…my liver is definitely about to give way. A sufferer of anxiety lives in constant fear and always expects the worse in all situations.
Years I have spent having these episodes, on the floor or crawled up in bed , sweating shaking and thinking that I was sick, only to be 100% 10 minutes later. For years I did not know the words anxiety or panic attacks, although I was experiencing them I was unaware that there was a name, I just thought that I had a problem , I was sick and no one else was ever going to understand.
For those that know me , they see a happy young guy, who travels, works for himself and is always out enjoying a beer or a night with friends. This however is what you see on Facebook and other social media networks, what I like to post , pictures that show myself in happy situations. What you do not see however is the endless hours of each and every day where I am locked away in my room or a toilet somewhere taking deep breaths and or on the ground in agony ready to die, or at least thinking that I am about to die and it’s all about to come to an end. This folks is my anxiety which haunts me on a daily basis, for no reason, without warning at any given time, my panic attacks can overcome me and tear me to the ground.
Those fun filled nights out with friends are always spent sweating uncontrollably, feeling panic for no reason. I cannot sit calm with them, my mouth is so dry and I always need to get a coke or a water, anything to help fix the impending doom. Sneaking off to the nearest toilet where I spend some time feeling like I have hit the end and I am going to be found dead on the floor , are a regular on a night out with friends. Constant tension in my head, unrelenting stress and dizziness just don’t allow me to enjoy myself. On the outside I’m smiling but inside if only they knew, I am searching for the nearest exit and going through all the crazy situations in my head if I am to experience an attack. I am constantly worrying and thinking bad things are going to happen in my head. I am ready to bolt out the door and get away as fast as I can cause my heart is palpitating and I can feel the sweat coming. I don’t want them to see me experience my attack.
Over the years I have made multiple hospital visits, convinced I was dying , convinced I had something wrong, only to be told that I was 100%, although I would never believe them. I would tell myself I knew more than those doctors and again the worry would shadow over me and engulf my day to day activities.
Of course now I have begun to understand some things that are causing these attacks, some foods and my abuse of alcohol to name a few. When it comes to beer its a bit of a cache 22. On a night out with friends as mentioned I am in constant worry, fatigue and need to leave. However the quicker I can get myself drunk that worry is lifted. When I am drunk I do not feel worried , I am energetic and for that short time I am free from the impending doom of my anxiety. Of course..the next day..the hangover kicks in and all over again I am struck down with worry and the panic attacks after a night drinking are so severe that sometimes they have led to hospital visits all because of these bloody horrible panic attacks!
Many jobs and activities I enjoy have been thrown to the side due to my anxiety. Music which I once loved and performing on stage is something I haven’t done in over 4 years. What if I have a panic attack on stage? What will people think, what will people say. The thoughts racing through my head even when I think about are enough to but an end to that. I have had many good jobs also, but I don’t stay, I can’t. I have to leave an continue working for myself, because I can choose my own hours and I can work around my attacks and work alone in the confines of my bedroom. Many job opportunities, potential clients have been lost due to my anxiety. Jobs abroad and big deals, skipped or I have left in the pipeline due to fear and constant worry of what might go wrong and yet not thinking of all that could go right.
I have started making changes in my diet and day to day agenda to help fight my anxiety. Having read Niall Breslins book “Me and my mate Jeffrey” I feel much better, much more at ease knowing that a celebrity but even still another human being is experiencing and has experienced exactly what I am going through.
I don’t read a lot of books, however I read his in full in just over 1 day, because never have words written on a page related to me so much. Never have I been so happy to hear that I was not alone. His attacks and what he was experiencing were the exact same as myself. I would never wish anxiety or panic attack on my worst enemy. I don’t like to say I was happy that another person was feeling the same as I, but in truth a small bit of me was, because for the first time I knew I was not alone, I was not weird, what I was experiencing was common among others, and best yet, there is help.
I have so much more I could write, I want to write but I leave it at this. If you are a fellow sufferer, do not suffer alone, seek help, talk to your friends and family and just know this. As much as you want to convince yourself that this just happen to you, just know, you are not alone.
My advice: Cognitive- Behaviour Therapy- otherwise known as CBT. I have just started and all I can say is, there is hope!