The power of Twitter is pretty cool don’t you think? Through Twitter I linked up with Alex, founder of Pushing Back the Shadows. He created a place, online, those suffering with depression and anxiety, and those helping them can go for support. He has kindly agreed to talk about his experience with anxiety with ShamelesslyMe, and for that I am grateful. Thank you Alex for sharing your story.
Introducing An Anxious Alex.
What sort of situations make you anxious? Is there a rhyme or a reason or a trigger for it? Not always, is there.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve always had some little niggling signs of anxiety. Getting nervous in social situations, always second-guessing everything, frequent rumination over the multitudinous events in my life. It would sometimes keep me awake at night as I questioned every little friendship, every interaction and every other aspect of social interactions. Unfortunately, it was never formally diagnosed until August 2016…but I would say the signs were always there.
August 2016, though, was when it exploded.
I distinctly remember sitting on the bus, heading to my job when I experienced my first big panic attack. At the time, I was working in a call centre for a bank, dealing with customer accounts and processing transactions or general enquiries for them. It was frequently busy, with umpteen calls queuing and managers breathing down our necks to ensure customer wait times were at a minimum. Naturally not stressful in the slightest…I don’t think!
Anyway, as I said, I was sitting on the bus when it happened. My chest felt tight, my heartbeat skyrocketed and I felt all hot and sweaty. It was as if the confines of the bus were closing in on me. My mind was racing, processing and reprocessing countless thoughts and all my senses were being bombarded. I felt as if I was going to be late for work – ridiculous, as I always made sure I left enough time to arrive early – and I felt as though something really terrible was going to happen. Not pleasant in the slightest! If you already suffer with anxiety, you’ll know what I’m talking about.
That was the first one. Needless to say, there were many more after that. I reached a point where, on each journey in my commute, I was getting up to three panic attacks per journey (that’s three in roughly forty-five minutes). Eventually I went to the doctor, got diagnosed with anxiety and depression and they began to work on what they could do to support me. I was given antidepressants and booked in for CBT and therapy to start cracking the problem. A little bit of stubbornness set in as well and I decided I was going to keep working, despite work being a potential trigger for me.
Now, interestingly the doctor never prescribed me any anti-anxiety meds. He decided CBT was the way to go for treating the anxiety, as he wanted to try and get me managing it myself before going down the path of medication. Unfortunately, that meant finding my own ways of coping with it, some of which turned out quite well and others that really weren’t good at all. Be advised, there is a trigger warning for the next part of the post.
One of the worse coping mechanisms was that I started self-harming. Triggered by my depression, it was a way of taking my frustrations out on myself. I blamed myself for not being able to cope with my conditions. After that initial burst of self-hatred, however, it developed two other catalysts. First, it was a way of feeling when I was caught in a depressive spiral. My depression makes me go numb and hollow, you see, and there was no other fail-proof way of getting myself to feel than inflicting physical pain upon myself. The second was to give myself something to focus on – caught in a panic attack with a hundred and one thoughts racing around my head, it was something that could hold my attention. Imagine that you have a blinding headache and you stub your toe suddenly…well, you’re headache is forgotten for a moment because of the pain in your toe. It was basically that principle. Two reasons for me to keep doing it and doing it and doing it.
Eventually, I found different ways of coping. Distraction techniques such as playing video games or blasting music and cutting myself off from the rest of the world seem to work reasonably well. Another surprising one is a fidget spinner that my godson bought me, which seems to focus my attention and calm my mind. It’s interesting how social fads can become coping mechanisms. Today, I employ those three that I’ve just mentioned most of the time. Self-harm still beckons and calls me but so far I’ve resisted. Let’s hope I keep going.
That’s me. That’s my struggle. I still struggle, if I’m being honest, but I’m determined that it will not beat me. Several times it nearly did, but thankfully I’m still here so I can write about my struggles and offer support to others going through similar situations.
That said, I’m still an Anxious Alex.