To all anxiety sufferers

Just to give you some background information before I go into how what I say may be able to help and motivate you here is my story.

I suffered from a horrific panic attack about 5 years ago. For anybody who has suffered from a panic attack they know just how scary this is and the first one for a lot of people can be the worst of all because you don’t know what is happening to your body to allow any form of realization or control. Since then I have progressively suffered immensely with anxiety on a daily basis and this has not only affected my social life, but also previous jobs and just general well-being. At times I have been so paralyzed I have been unable to leave my room for days upon end. I sought out whatever help I could get whether that be through drugs prescribed by my doctor, talking things through with therapists (people who have studied but not suffered from anxiety) and even seeking support from my friends and family.

I personally however found myself living in constant fear of having a panic attack. I knew about all these things that would ‘magically’ make my symptoms go away but firstly did not do enough about it and secondly it really isn’t that simple. For some, it is easy to quickly shrug off a heart palpitation. For me and my fellow anxiety sufferers out there this consciously and subconsciously can sometimes set off alarm bells and it can for the next 15 minutes, to the next 3 hours, to the rest of the day or even the next F**king week leaving us feeling terrible. There is also nothing worse than being told to “relax”. Sometimes you can’t relax — and that’s fine, but for the people who have never suffered from anxiety this is hard to understand (give them some slack). It isn’t good- it is really uncomfortable but I promise there is a small silver lining behind all this mental and physical chaos inside your mind and body.

This is where the aim of this post starts. The one person that I didn’t seek help from was MYSELF. I agree that it is very important to gain knowledge on what anxiety and panic disorder actually is. I agree that your lifestyle is a VERY important factor in determining how good you feel. I agree that eating the right food is a natural way to make your body feel good and I also agree that support from friends and family is absolutely essential. Facing the things that most often make you anxious is ESSENTIAL. Quitting caffeine is also unfortunately for most a must and I can fully say I feel much better being caffeine free for the past few years.

Since Early June I made a promise to myself that I would do all that I could to get out of this mess that I have found myself in for the past 5 years. Although beforehand I was actively doing small things to combat my daily problem I realised that it simply wasn’t enough. I made slight changes to my diet, half-heartedly exercised (when I wasn’t too anxious to do so) and was very open with my friends and family about when I was anxious to explain why I couldn’t attend certain things/events because I didn’t feel right. These were all good baby steps but were not bringing me towards my goal. They were just keeping me in the same place I have been in for what feels like over a decade.

So here is what I have done and believe me it has been a battle but I have seen some pretty magnificent results thus far:

I FORCE myself to go to the gym 6 days a week. At first the cardio was particularly stressful but you will find that after getting through the first 5 minutes on a bike or treadmill your body engages with the activity. So by forcing myself to do this I have now kicked away to a 95% affect my fear of my heart rate increasing and dealt with the feeling of uncomfort when exercising due to lack of fitness. Now when I get physical symptoms that kick off my anxiety I feel much better to cope with them. This whole “exercising is important” thing is not a myth, it is an absolute fact. So if you are severely unfit, take small steps and build up. If you need to start doing small things in your room/home before you feel ok enough to get to the gym or out for a run do it and do it now, not next week or next month.

I drink ONCE a week. I love having a drink and socialising with my friends on a Friday/Saturday night whilst watching a few bands. I was however using alcohol, sometimes 3–4 night a week, to calm me down and this was doing me absolutely no favours. I now moderate how much I drink as I found that drinking too much had a very adverse affect on my anxiety whilst hungover and then also had an affect on how I felt during the next week. As Oscar Wilde once said, “Everything in moderation, including moderation”. I will probably still allow myself to have a few blowouts in future but for the time being I am set on helping myself get to a better physical and mental state so these ‘blowouts’ are going to have to wait.

I came off all medication. I found that all these drugs I was trying out (mainly SSRi’s and other forms of anti-depressants) were doing little for my anxiety but just numbing my brain so that I was less able to do something about it. I’m not saying that medication should be abolished by everybody because for some people it can have a really positive affect. For myself however, I wasn’t depressed and all these boosts of serotonin weren’t unfortunately doing much for me. Doctors seem to link anxiety and depression so closely and although there must be reason to do so I think the two are and can be very different. For all the people who suffer from depression that my be reading this post who also suffer from anxiety I am sorry I can’t relate to your particular problem. I have friends who suffer for depression and I do feel your pain.

I actually changed my diet. This doesn’t mean I eat healthy 5 days a week and end up eating crap all weekend. This means I committed to eating healthy, unprocessed food at LEAST 6 days a week. On the day I might eat out I have also tamed myself to choose the healthier option (On Sunday I ate a fully loaded pizza but let us be human about this). I have found this extremely difficult and hard to deal with but my body has felt so much better from doing this over the past few months that I honestly can’t see myself going back too soon to eating the crap I once was eating. I feel great, I am looking better and people telling me that without me saying anything about it makes me feel really good.

I have also set myself goals. I have found that by having goals I have been able to keep myself on track. I have these goals posted everywhere as a reminder of what I am looking to do with my life. As an example I have a sheet of paper stuck to my wall behind my computer screen with my goals, motivational quotes and private abbreviations for things that mean things to me that I don’t want people seeing ;). I find that these get me out of the house or doing productive things whilst at home rather than sitting and watching TV series or watching random crap TV. One goal I set was to get down to 196 pounds/14 stone/89kg. I did that and now I have a new goal that I am working towards to losing even more weight. I have also been dating which is always a good way to occupy your time when single but beforehand I wasn’t in the right place to be doing so.

My simple message from this whole thing is that YOU are the sole person who can help yourself out here. Sitting and waiting for help and expecting everything to get better is simply not going to happen. I don’t believe my anxiety is ever going to fully go away but I am now actually beginning to accept and be OK with that. I am in a better place and for all those out there who are scared or doubtful of ever getting there, YOU CAN. You just need to show yourself A LOT of bravery and tackle your problem head on. F*ck your anxiety, you can win.