If anxiety was a person I’d punch it right in the face

My journey through anxiety and more – Part XI

dark skinned lady with white wrap covering her most of her face, tears in her eyes
Anxiety and panic attacks
broke me

This is the 11th in a series of “My journey through Anxiety, panic attacks, depression and psychosis. Please click here for Parts I, II, III, IV, V , VI, VII, VIII, IX, and X if you wish to read the backstory (It might make more sense).

For those of you who don’t know, I started writing about my journey six months ago and only ever intended to write it in four posts. However, it’s become clear that my journey through mental illness was a lot longer and more painful than I remembered. That’s made it difficult to get the words down on paper at times. I’ve taken many breaks and written lots of other posts in between, giving me time to reflect and bounce back a bit stronger each time.

I’d had enough!

……….. I told him to pack his things and leave before I got home from night shift in the morning.

Night shift on a mental health ward

Lady in red dress and white sandals hanging from a rope around her neck
Shocked? You should be! Female patient strangled herself

After our patients had had their night medication, the support nurse went to complete the half hourly observations. This meant checking each bedroom or cubicle to ensure everyone was accounted for and alive.

I was in the office when a roar from the end of the corridor alerted me and I raced towards noise. Oh, Jesus! A female patient had strangled herself with the belt from her robe. Her face was a horrible shade of purple and she appeared not to be breathing. My anxiety levels just shot through the roof and I felt the colour drain from my face.

I helped untangle the belt from round her neck and felt for a pulse, but there was nothing. Jesus, I’d only been a mental health nurse for two months and I was near paralysed with fear. “Get the crash trolley,” I yelled down the ward to Maria the third nurse on duty. Sarah was a favourite of mine and there was no way I’d let her die, not on my watch.

Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) on a mental health ward

Down on my knees now, I fumbled, trying to find the right place to press (the breastbone is pushed down firmly and smoothly, so that the chest is pressed down between 5–6 cm) then started CPR (at a rate of 100 to 120 chest compressions per minute – that’s around 2 per second, British Heart Foundation).

I could feel the sweat dripping down my back and the trembling in my arms as I continued 1.2.34.5……… 30, for what felt like a lifetime. All the while, I was trying to keep calm, as this was no place for my impending panic attack. Concentrate, concentrate Caz, you can do this, concentrate. Finally Maria arrived with the crash trolley and I asked her to take over while I ran to call the Crash Team.

Crying with relief

I turned to sprint back to the office but stumbled and fell forward with a thud and landing awkwardly. I immediately felt searing pain in my right shoulder. Still, I got up as quickly as I fell and dashed to put a call out “Cardiac arrest on Violet Ward.” This relays a crackly radio message to the Cardiac and Rapid Response Teams. When they get that message, they race from the general side to the Mental Health, side pretty damn quick.

Four doctors dressed in scrubs, running down a corridor
Emergency Crash Team running to
an emergency

I’d all but forgotten my own burning pain as I ran back see what was happening. On my way, I guided any inquizitive patients back to bed and tried to reassure them all was well.

I took over the CPR and rather stupidly, wept with relief when Sarah started showing signs of regaining consciousness. Her eyes were flickering and she was trying to catch her breathe. She now had a pulse, albeit a weak one. Just then, the Crash Team arrived and took control.

Caught wearing a tired grey bra

Male Doctor, white scrubs and stethoscope
Duty Doctor —Image from Freepik

Sarah had survived, but was still taken over to the general side to be observed overnight. The Duty Senior Nurse was in our office making sure we were all okay when someone let on that I’d fallen. The cute young Duty Doctor came to see me and all I could think was “What bra have I got on” when he asked me to undress to assess any damage. Only I could be wearing a comfortable but tatty old bra that looked like I’d washed the floor with it! The shame.

Despite the agony, I didn’t complain too much so the Doctor suggested I go home and return to A&E tomorrow if the pain got worse. It was just past eleven p.m. and I called to let the boys know I’d be on my way home. Only it was Ian who answered, drunk and stoned, so I hung up and got a taxi home.

He should have been gone. Aaarrgghhh……. I sure as hell was in no mood for more of his spiteful crap. Once home, I ignored him and went straight up to our bedroom when I got home. I managed to sleep with some pillows propping up my right arm and woke at dawn, in agony.

A slap in the face

Lady with right arm in a sling
Broken collar bone — Image from Amazon UK

Back to the hospital, where they confirmed that I’d broken my collarbone and torn my rotator cuff tendons (muscles and tendons that attach the arm to shoulder blade). I was put in a sling, given strong painkillers and sent home to rest up. But before I left, I went to see how Sarah was. I got a slap in the face, albeit a light one, cos she was mad that we’d saved her. Of course, I told her, I’d do it again.

My painkillers were starting to kick in and I was feeling kinda woozy so any anxiety I’d had about facing Ian all but disappeared. For f*ck sake! The whiff of beer and cannabis about knocked me out as I opened the front door. It was just two in the afternoon, for crying out loud.

Still, I was delighted to see all his boxes stacked in the hall, “Wakey, wakey, time to go,” I sang cheerfully.

The drunk driver and a mad man

Ladies face with tears of pain
Crying in pain

“Can I borrow the car?” slurred Ian as he staggered towards me, hand out for the keys. It would have been funny if he hadn’t been so serious. “Nope! Get a taxi,” I smiled. With that, he lunged at me and grabbed my wrist viciously. “Aaarrgghhh!” I screeched in pain and anger, hanging onto my arm and cursing under my breath.

At that, I heard “Mama,” and Nic was hurtling down the stairs behind me, “What did he do, did he hurt you Mama?” I hadn’t realised he was home from school. Ian shot out the front door and Nic was charging round the kitchen like a madman, cursing furiously. He yanked the front door open and threw out every one of Ian’s carefully packed boxes. Ian looked on helplessly as glassware, cd cases and electronic equipment crashed down onto the road.

The neighbours were out, wide-eyed at the the scene unfolding and I don’t know what was funniest. Ian’s look of helplessness or Nik holding every last piece of luggage high above his head before throwing it as far as he could. The door thudded shut! Nic was trembling and pale with anger, he turned to me tearfully, whispering “I’m sorry Mama.”

We hugged and cried, but this time we cried with laughter. Ian was calling across the road “Can you get us a taxi?”

Over to you

Big red question mark with little white character leaning against it, pondering
Clipart.com

I’ll end here for now and hope you’ll stay with me for the next part. In the meantime, I’d love to hear your thoughts and please feel free to ask any questions.

Anxiety and panic attacks on honeymoon

My journey through anxiety, panic attacks, depression and psychosis – Part X

Black and white photo young woman in tears - everything is fragile
Anxiety and depression made me feel so fragile

This is the 10th in a series of “My journey through Anxiety, panic attacks, depression and psychosis. Please click here for Parts I, II, III, IV, V , VI, VII, VIII and IX if you wish to read the backstory (It might make more sense).

For those of you who don’t know, I started writing about my journey six months ago and only ever intended to write it in four posts. However, it’s become clear that my journey through anxiety and panic attacks was a lot longer and more painful than I remembered. That’s made it difficult to get the words down on paper at times. I’ve taken many breaks and written lots of other posts in between, giving me time to reflect and bounce back a bit stronger each time.

It’s not what you’d expect on honeymoon, is it? I mean, married for one day, in Sunny Corfu with my new hubby, I should be in heaven, right? Oh no, not me! I had anxiety and several panic attacks throughout our first night. And not for reasons you might have thought. If you read my last post “Done with anxiety and Panic Attacks” here, you might remember……

Home from honeymoon

The young women in sun hats and summer dresses, laughing
No anxiety here
Ben White @ Unsplash.com

He continued as he started, creating merry hell. He was legless and chatting up anyone under 30, thinking I’d be jealous — I wasn’t. Oh, I forgot to tell you, he was ten years younger than me. Ha, not so anyone would notice.

So, after honeymoon-gate, did it get any better? Once we got inside my house, my eldest son greeted us both warmly, and welcomed us home. He laughed, telling Ian to get the kettle on, saying “You live here now,” which he did indeed. It was the first time I’d thought about the fact that he was now moving in with us. I had that sinking feeling in my stomach and it didn’t feel right.

After dinner drugs

After a chatty takeaway dinner the boys went off to their rooms to study, leaving Ian and me in the sitting room. He cracked open yet another beer can and began rolling a joint. “Oh no you don’t, not in this house and certainly not in front of the boys,” I cautioned. I knew he’d smoked the odd joint at a party, but there was no way I’d have cannabis in our home.

“Man, I f*cking live here as well, don’t I? Ye’ve never stopped us before like, and you’re not stopping us now,” he retorted. Attempting to cajole him, cos I didn’t want a row, I suggested he go out to the garden. He stormed out, huffing and puffing, almost taking the door off its hinges then allowing it to slam shut.

“It’s alright, the wind caught the door”, I lied to the boys who were peering down over the landing. My heart was hammering, and I could feel the anxiety engulfing me, rapidly. Christ! Then I remembered, I’ve got to take this damn idiot with me, in my car to work tomorrow. Urgh! The thought of having to be in the same building all day, every day.

Panic attacked me

Black and white photo of young woman, head down - what do you know about anxiety
Anxiety and panic attacks

The words “what the hell have I done?” were already screaming at me, as panic attacked me. Yet I still had to get through bedtime, and that was as appealing as having a wisdom tooth out.

However, after more beer and spliffs, he was barely even fit enough to get up the stairs. He stumbled his way to bed and, despite his man sweat, the smell of beer and cannabis, I managed to sleep.

Early shift next morning, we were showered and out the door before the boys got up for school. Ian asked if he could drive my practically new, one year old car but was stared down by the withering look that said “Yeah, right! And if you get stopped by the police!” So he curled his six foot self into my tiny car, tutting and cursing. Huh, like he’d fit his lanky legs beneath the steering column anyway.

When we got to work and were going through the front doors he leant in, “Give us a kiss then.” As I’d turned to stare at him in shock, he caught me unawares, smack on the lips. People milling around reception “oohed and “aahed” and I realised it was done for their benefit.

Back at work as mental health nurses

Three men wearing red t-shirts and navy trousers - Rapid Response Team
Rapid Response Team might be dealing with a patient who has Psychosis

Back at work the days got better and the weeks flew by and by being on opposite shifts, I could avoid Ian for a lot of the time. However, being on the Rapid Response Team (one person from each mental health ward who would attend to emergencies around the unit) meant we’d occasionally bump into each other at work. Like most of the men on Rapid Response, but particularly cos I was there, the macho in Ian emerged, which both irritated and sickened me.

This wasn’t how you approached patients when they were psychotic, possibly responding to voices and already terrified. However, male staff would pull themselves up to their full height, head back, arms crossed and staring down the patient, almost goading them into a fight. As the Team coordinator, I’d advise staff to stand back while I spoke quietly and calmly to the patient, asking what the problem was and how could we help.

Despite being psychotic or manic, patients would generally relax slightly, enough to state their need; which was often just a cigarette, a hot drink or some fresh air. Even if they were unhappy about having to take medication, they could usually be encouraged to take it, without a fight that was unwinnable anyway.

Soggy Christmas Crackers

Things weren’t fantastic at home because Ian continued to drink beer and smoke weed on a daily basis, only now he confined himself to the bedroom. He’d lie there in a stupor, watching all kinds of scifi over and again, waiting for me to return, when he’d start name-calling and trying to provoke me. He’d want to know which men were on shift, was I screwing him/them, which one did I fancy or was I having it away in the store cupboard!

Red and white photo of Christmas table
No anxiety at Christmas, please
Image by Styleestate.com

Fast forward — Christmas, and we all went to my brother’s for lunch, where there would a huge gathering of various families. No guesses who was pissed before lunch, was laughing too loudly at unfunny comments and telling inappropriate jokes to people he didn’t even know.

Then, as we sat for lunch on a makeshift bench he lurched backward, kicking the dinner table almost into the air, throwing the rest of us off kilter. Glasses shattered, the spilled wine ruined the Christmas crackers, cutlery rattled onto the new dinner service as, wide-eyed, we all tried to catch bits and pieces. “Outside. Now!” I hissed.

“Why, what’s up like?” he laughed. The upshot was that I took him home and left him, while the rest of us had yet another fantastic family Christmas.

Tale of the strange makeup bag

As usual, I was going out with my girlfriends for my January birthday drinks and Ian wasn’t best pleased, even tho’ he hadn’t planned anything. A girl’s night out was just what I needed and of course, we all had a ball, dancing until the early hours. We got into our taxis and giggled most of the way home, not a care in the world.

My best pal was staying with me thankfully cos in the morning Ian had come across a strange makeup bag on the kitchen worktop. He wanted to know why I’d taken makeup out with me, what did I need it for and who was I chatting up this time. At least Anj could vouch for me that it wasn’t mine. Nonetheless, it was another interrogation that lasted weeks. He never did believe that we found it in the back of the taxi and took it home, just for devilment.

Oh, how I loved to flirt

Swimming pool oasis
Anxiety and panic attacks need a
holiday

That summer, I booked us a holiday to Egypt with the boys and one of their best friends. We had three rooms on the ground floor, right by the swimming pool and we were all excited. Not two days in and Ian started! I was flirting with the boys’ friend; lying with my legs wide open. Now, lying on a sunbed in a bikini, legs akimbo is not a good look. Not for me. Not for anyone. And me — flirting, with a thirteen year old boy? un-bloody-believable!

We had one of those harsh but whispered arguments so the boys couldn’t hear in the next rooms. But there was no doubting that Ian didn’t hear or get the message. He was almost in tears and apologising, blaming the drink and the heat. Oh my God, not only the sickening accusations, but his pitiful begging turned my stomach.

I made it through our first anniversary but the following morning he was at the blame game again and who was I shagging this time. He knew it was a woman and he was okay with that, he just wanted to know who it was. He then went on to how I was flirting with my dad at the family gathering the night before! Enough

That was it. I’d had enough! I’d tried and put up with his constant bullying, patronising and manipulative behaviour for a year now. I told him to pack his things and leave before I got home from night shift the next morning.

Over to you

Large red question mark with little white character leaning against it, pondering
Clipart.com

It’s late and having spent the last week with two little imps, our gorgeous grandchildren, I’m exhausted. I’ll finish here for now and hope you’ll stay with me for the next part. In the meantime, I’d love to hear your thoughts and please feel free to ask any questions.

You can read text chapter here.

Who’d have Anxiety, panic attacks and psychotic depression?

Have you ever had anxiety, panic attacks, depression or psychosis?

woman walking on gray asphalt road in between trees and rock formations
My long journey through psychotic
depression – Image by Mitchel Lensink

This is the 9th in a series of “My journey through Anxiety, panic attacks, depression and psychosis. Please click here for Parts I, II, III, IV, V , VI, VII and VIII if you wish to read the backstory (It might make more sense).

I don’t know which is worse; the anxiety, panic attacks, depression or the psychosis. But to have them altogether, spelt H.E.L.L.

For those of you who don’t already know, I started writing about my journey some six months ago. I only ever intended to write it in four posts. However, it’s become clear that my journey was a lot longer and more painful than I remembered. That’s made it difficult to get the words down on paper at times. I’ve taken many breaks and written lots of other posts in between, giving me time to reflect and bounce back a bit stronger each time.

Even when it’s over, it’s not

……………. The boys eventually settled but still refused to see their dad or even talk to him on the phone. However, Tony was still bothering me, as was his girlfriend. She’d call and ask to speak to him then hang up on me. I knew it was her and her ugly sister cos I could hear their brats yelling in the background. I was like, she’s got him now, so why she’s bothering me? I’d later find out (via her friend and my mum) that she was p’d off cos all he did was talk about me and the boys. Oh dear 🙁

Tony called one evening on the pretext of speaking to the boys, who happened to be at my aunt’s for the night. On hearing this, Tony went ape! “Why ain’t they at home, why ain’t you got them at home with you? You got a bloke there? In my house?” he screamed down the phone. “I’m coming round there, I’ll effin’ put petrol through your letterbox. I’ll effin kill you and him, you effin whore.” and the phone went down.

Panic stricken, I called one of my best friends, the one who lived the closest and she was round within minutes. We sat on the kitchen floor, watching shadows dancing on the wall as people passed by in the dimly lit street. We glugged our way through the cheap wine Jane had brought and smoked endless cigarettes. Our hearts leapt every time we heard a car door slam. With her constant digging and questioning, I explained bits of the sorry saga. Much as we all loved her, she got off on gossip and it wouldn’t take long for this news to spread.

Visual hallucinations

White lady with long blonde hair and two horns appear to be growing on her forehead
Psychosis; visual hallucinations

After a few hours, there was no Tony and no petrol the the letterbox, and we realised it was all just bravado on his part. Jane left, somewhat disappointed there was no drama, and I got ready for bed. And then it started.

As I brushed my teeth I caught sight of the lumpy horns, peeking through my fringe. No! Just please, no! Nooooo, I screamed at length, but there was no sound. Perhaps I’d imagined screaming? Urgh! The horns looked hideous against my now pure white face and I thought I was going to throw up. However, I only dry wretched; probably because I hadn’t eaten anything in days.

I felt clammy and shivery, and hot, all at once. I was so confused – I didn’t know if all this was real or was it a dream – tho’ I knew perfectly well that physically, I was in the bathroom. The walls were closing in on me and the room spun wildly. Staggering to my room, I felt out of myself, almost like I was floating alongside my physical self. My heartbeat thudded in my ears, and tho’ I lay down, I knew sleep wasn’t going to be kind to me that night.

I wanted someone, anyone, to help me. It felt like I was drowning in quicksand and at any moment I’d be dragged right under. I couldn’t move and felt cemented to my bed. I just lay there as wave after wave of panic swept over and through me. And despite the weekly counselling, this continued each night.

Pleading poverty

Clear glass jar tipped on its side, with loose coins around it
Struggling with anxiety and lack of money

Some three to four months in, Tony suddenly stopped giving me money towards the boys upkeep. The boys and I were gobsmacked, hardly believing he would do this. It was soon time to start getting their school uniforms and money was going to be even tighter than usual anyway. When I called Tony to ask why he’d stopped, he almost boasted “I got two kids to bring up here, so I can’t afford it.”

“You’ve got to be kidding me Tony. You’ve got two sons of your own and they come first. Surely?”

“Well, her ex don’t pay anything toward her kids.”

“That’s not our problem,” I muttered and he repeated it so his ugly sister girlfriend could hear. So she joined in, shouting in the background, “We ain’t got the money. You can’t have what we ain’t got.”

I was so p’d off and told Tony I wasn’t happy, adding “The boys’ school uniforms need to be bought soon.”

The selfish git growled, “You put them in them posh schools, you effin’ pay for it, and their uniforms.” and the phone went down. This was becoming a habit!

Bring in the big guns

Young woman with straggly long hair, chewing her nails, peering out of a window
This is what anxiety looks like but it feels so much worse!

I nearly jumped out of my skin when Dan came up behind me, gave me a hug and said “You need to take daddy to the Child Support Agency (CSA) mama. It’s not fair on you. He needs to give us some money.” To be honest, it’s not something I’d ever considered but the boys were adamant they wanted me to. So I did. And guess what? When Tony received a letter from the CSA, he packed his job in! He was working for my brother at the time and my brother was p’d off with me ‘cos he needed Tony at work.

He returned to work after a few weeks and he delighted in taunting me, “The CSA’s off my back now and every time you effin’ call them, I’ll jack my job in. So you’ll get nothing!” I was fuming, how can he not want to support his sons? And boy was I cheesed off with my brother keeping him in employment, knowing that he was refusing to pay for his children. He knew everything I’d been through. He knew how Tony had been hitting and cheating on me and now this.

Reduced to charity

I was struggling financially, which didn’t help the anxiety and panic attacks. My aunty mentioned a charity who might be able to help – you just had to be a single-parent from Scotland, living in London, with a parent who had armed forces attachment and had no head. Okay, I made the ‘no head‘ bit up. A lovely little old lady with a Scottish accent turned up at our house with her clipboard and some forms to fill in.

Having taken down some details, she insisted the organisation would provide a substantial grant for the boys’ uniforms. Furthermore, they’d give the boys have £100 each per month towards their books and other needs, right up until they left school. She hadn’t even asked to see any forms of identity or proof that my dad had actually served in the Royal Navy. I could breathe again and this, together with the feeling of relief, far outweighed the considerable shame I’d felt at having to accept charity.

Back to normality

Four young people outside bar enjoying drinks
Relaxing, free from anxiety —
Image by Clipdealer.com

The boys seemed settled, and happy to be back at school in their shiney new uniforms. They were popular boys and constantly had a stream of friends over to stay. I was back at uni and started to go the the local pub once a week with my peers. They were all 10-15 years younger than me but they didn’t make me feel out of place. I laughed when they said I was known as the yummy mummy, way before it was fashionable.

I got chatting with one of the guy on my course, ten years my junior, on yet another evening out after uni. Long story short, we started dating and within months we were talking of marriage. Urrgh, I could cringe now. I realise in hindsight that I got married on the rebound and I knew it would bug the hell out of Tony ‘cos I’d refused to marry him. We had a huge white wedding, all paid for by me, the following year.

Sometime in between the first and the last dance the DJ, who I’d known forever, twirled me round the dancefloor. How we laughed as we reminisced about the old days. Suddenly DJ Dan was dragged from my grasp and my new husband was roaring, “She’s my wife! Get the f*ck off her!” What the? His Geordie accent rising way above the cockney chatter and Aerosmith’s “I don’t want to miss a thing.” All eyes turned as they both stumbled out the front door. DJ Dan’s brother hot on their heels. I followed, knowing that despite my oaf of a new husband’s lunacy, two on one just wasn’t happening.

Was the honeymoon period over?

After wedding gate and Sunday pub lunch with all the family and close friends, off we went on honeymoon to the beautiful Greek Islands.

Big red question mark with little white caricature of a man
Clipart.com

Unfortunately, I’ve got to rest up. I’ve been ill again and can only do things in short burst. I’ll be back and in the meantime, I look forward to reading any comments and I’m happy to answer any questions, as always.

Tips to help you with your anxiety and panic attacks

Panic attacks can be sudden and overpowering. They can affect anyone and may be caused by general anxiety, panic disorder, or depression (Medical news today).

You’re probably reading this because you’ve experienced or you’re still having anxiety/panic attacks. I know when I was suffering from them, I tried absolutely anything I could think of because I was so desperate.

Getty images

I couldn’t sleep for days on end because of the panic attacks. I experienced most of the common physical symptoms of anxiety: muscle tension, headaches, backaches, a clenched jaw, feeling keyed up, restless, and “on edge”, as well as difficulty concentrating. These symptoms are a side effect of our body’s attempts to protect us; blood moves around our body and brain, into our large muscles, like our arms, legs, back, and neck, to get us ready to ”fight” or to “flee.”

Eventually I became psychotic (you may want to read about it here) . After only three or four nights without sleep, anyone can start to hallucinate (a psychosis or a psychotic episode is not schizophrenia).

When we experience anxiety/panic, the first thing that happens is our senses observe our environment, and we feel that rush of cortisol in our brain as the fight-or-flight mentality begins to set in. This is something humans have evolved to do to be able to sense danger and respond quickly, which is why it all happens in a matter of seconds (Sal Raichbach, Ambrosia Treatment Centre). This means we need to feel some kind of anxiety in response to danger i.e. if a car was thundering towards you, you’d feel anxious and try to get out of its way.

We obviously realise we are panicking and that’s all we can think of in that moment. We don’t automatically think OMG, why am I panicking, do we? We just think OMG I’m panicking. Let’s have a look first at the onset of anyone’s anxiety/panic attack. Something happens, something causes the panic attack to start.

Only you will know how your anxiety/panic attack starts, though you may not even be aware of it – yet. So now we’ll learn the mechanics of how a panic attack begins. It might start with:

Flintrehab.com

(1) negative thoughts i.e. “I’ll fail all my exams”, “I’m always going to have panic attacks”, “I shouldn’t have shouted at the kids this morning, I’m such a bad mum/dad” or “I’ll get thrown out of my home cos I can’t pay the rent” etc.

(2) negative physical feeling i;e. stomach churning, heart palpitating, sweating, dry mouth, shaking, nausea, vomiting.

(3) negative emotional feelings i.e. sadness, fear, disgust, shame.

(4) negative behaviour i.e. stealing your friends medication, isolating yourself, turn to alcohol or illicit drugs.

So, let’s clarify – a panic attack could start after -thoughts, -physical feelings, -emotional feelings or -behaviours

Let’s take a look at the following diagram, used in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), which is the psychological treatment of choice recommended for a variety of mental health problems by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE).

Mind

Look at how our thoughts, feelings and behaviours all interact with each other.

For example: the -behaviour was to overeat, stop dieting or eat unplanned food which evoked -thoughts i.e. I’m so weak willed and this led to -feelings i.e. depressed, ashamed which, in turn perpetuated the -behaviour i.e. continue to overeat because you’ve blown the diet anyway.

Still looking at the diagram, see how you can turn this on it’s head and you may have the -feelings first i.e. depressed which led to your -behaviour of overeating, after which you had -thoughts i.e. I’m such a pig, I can’t even stick to a diet.

I’ve only used the above as an example. However, it doesn’t matter what the issue is, this CBT model can be used for all negative thoughts, feelings and behaviours. Let’s take a look at another issue:

Santa Clara University

We’re still looking at the links between -thoughts, -feelings and -behaviours; it’s just the issue itself, example above, will be different and personal to you.

I’m going to share a little known fact with you here. Just have a think for a moment. What has previously or what would make you feel really excited (and I don’t need to know)? Don’t read any further until you’ve got that thought!

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Now, you might absolutely love or hate roller coaster rides and, depending on how you feel about them, your thoughts or feelings might have started to kick in when you saw the photo. If you hate them, you might be thinking “yuk, I hate roller coasters” (-thought) or your stomach may have turned over at the sight of the picture (-feeling). If ever I saw a spider, even on a page – it made me anxious and I had to turn the page quickly (-behaviour).

While I’ve just made you think about whether you like roller coasters or not – that wasn’t really my whole intention. I wanted to distract you from reading any further until you’d thought of what has or would excite you. I hope you’ve been able to think of at least one event, occasion, gift or …………

Do you remember what it felt like to be so excited? Think about that for a few seconds………

Livinginthepiecezone.blogspot.com

Did you ever get that butterflies feeling in your stomach? Have you ever felt shaky and tearful when someone gave you a lovely surprise? Did your heart ever pound with excitement pre-Christmas or your birthday party? I really hope you did – because I would feel really sad for anyone who had never experienced any of these sensations.

7cups.com

Here’s the little known fact -both excitement and panic/anxiety involve the same chemical process in the brain. That’s because anxiety and excitement are both aroused emotions. In both, the heart beats faster, cortisol surges, and the body prepares for action. In other words, they’re “arousal congruent.” The only difference is that excitement is a positive emotion‚ focused on all the ways something could go well (Alison Wood Brooks, a professor at Harvard Business School).

When we feel anxious/panicky, we’re most likely to tell ourselves to just relax or calm down. But this might be precisely the wrong advice, Brooks said. Instead, the slogan should be more like, “Get Amped and Don’t Screw Up.” In other words, it’s so much easier to convince yourself to be excited rather than calm when you’re anxious.

So, if you could retrain your mindset, rather than saying/thinking “OMG I feel anxious about my driving test”, try saying “I feel excited about my driving test”. It boils down to telling yourself that you feel excited whenever you feel nervous. It sounds stupidly simple, but it’s proven effective in a variety of studies and settings. Try it.

The excitement reappraisal won’t actually make you less anxious, nor will it lower your heart rate. That’s because your underlying anxiety is the same—it’s just reframed as excitement.

The way this works, Brooks said, is by putting people in an “opportunity mindset,” with a focus on all the good things that can happen if you do well, as opposed to a “threat mindset,” which dwells on all the consequences of performing poorly.

Okay. We’ve looked at anxiety and panic attacks so, what can we do about them? Right at the start, when you have the initial -thought i.e. when you wake up and you think “Oh, no. I feel yuk about today’s presentation” or you have a -feeling i.e your heart starts to race:

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Stop. Take stock of the situation. Try “Oh, I’m excited about today’s presentation”, “I’m excited that my driving test is today”or “I’m excited about my interview today”.

Accept and recognise: You might have experienced panic attacks in the past. During an attack, it can help to remember that it will pass and cause no physical harm, though they are unpleasant. Acknowledge that the attack is a brief period of concentrated anxiety and that it will end (Medical news today).

Learn what triggers your anxiety/panic attack: it may be crowds or small spaces etc.

Do an evidence-based breathing technique like Slow Diaphragmatic Breathing:

  1. Sit comfortably in a chair with your feet on the floor. You can lie down if you wish.
  2. Fold your hands on your belly.
  3. Breathe in slowly and calmly. Fill up the belly with a normal breath. Try not to breathe in too heavily. The hands should move up when you breathe in, as if you are filling up a balloon. Avoid lifting the shoulders as you inhale; rather, breathe into the stomach.
  4. Breathe out slowly to the count of “5”. Try to slow down the rate of the exhale. After the exhale, hold for 2-3 seconds before inhaling again.
  5. Work to continue to slow down the pace of the breath.
  6. Practice this for about 10 minutes.

This works best if you practice this two times each day for 10 minutes each time. Try to find a regular time to practice this each day. The more you practice, the easier you’ll find it to use when you most need it.

Try Relaxation; this happens when the body stops trying to protect us, which helps us feel more calm and at ease. Relaxation skills are like exercise! Imagine a friend of yours telling you that she is planning to train for a 10K race. Despite the fact that she has never run a race before and does not jog regularly, she tells you her training will consist singularly of practicing running the full 10 kilometers on the day before the race. What would you think about this?

We know that the body needs time to learn how to run for long distances and build strength. She would need to practice at least a few times per week for a number of weeks to be ready. Relaxation skills are developed just like exercise: in order to see significant results, we must use them regularly over long periods of time. This is not a one shot deal (medicine.umich.edu). Each person is different as we all relax in different ways:

  1. Find a relaxation exercise that you can practice daily or multiple times per week.
  2. Increase awareness of tension in your body and improve awareness of the difference between tension and relaxation – remember, your body can’t be tense and relaxed at the same time. Choose relaxed over tense. Let your shoulders drop down, away from your ears, unclench your jaw by doing a few facial exercises and breathe.
  3. Progressive muscle relaxation, yoga, mindfulness, and deep breathing.
  4. Adjust your lifestyle to make it less busy, hectic, and rushed.
  5. Take part in activities that give you pleasure, make you feel competent, or give you a chance to take a break from other, more stressful activities.

Try sniffing Lavender which has long since to relieve anxiety and evoke calmness.

Limit stimuli i.e. switch the tv off, perhaps close the curtains to reduce outside noise and distractions.

Try Mindfulness – there are a variety of exercises (not just breathing) you could try.

I know Mindfulness isn’t for everyone but many people benefit from it, myself included. So much so that I attended certificated courses and am now able to teach Mindfulness. I have to admit, I don’t practice it as much as I did in the beginning and my son reminds me to use these techniques more often.

See your GP. Some people avoid getting needed medical assistance because they fret that the GP will think they are silly or petty if they report anxiety. If anxiety regularly impacts your life, contact your doctor. Medication might be needed initially, but this doesn’t have to be long-term. Speak with your GP.

Panic attacks can be frightening and disorienting, especially the first time. Symptoms can be similar to those of other health conditions. Seek medical advice if:

  • a panic attack lasts longer than usual — most last between 5 and 20 minutes 
  • a panic attack is noticeably worse than usual
  • panic attacks are inhibiting your life, possibly by stopping you from engaging with others, socialising or working

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, is a talking therapy which is clinically proven to help treat a wide range of emotional difficulties. This form of therapy is centered on identifying and changing inaccurate or distorted thinking patterns, emotional responses, and behaviors. Speak to your GP and ask for a referral to a CBT practitioner. There’s often a lengthy wait so, in the meantime, you may want to try some of the other suggestions mentioned.

Anxiety and panic attacks are very real and they tend to get worse over time, particularly if you don’t do anything to alleviate the symptoms. You wouldn’t be able to drive a car without practice so please understand that you need to practice the techniques regularly.

You might find another post of mine “Strategies to help relieve your stress” helpful too. Click here.

Have you learnt anything you didn’t know previously? Have I missed anything?