Friday, 24 November 2017

Mental Health Guest Post Series #4

This week's post is by Geraldine from It's Me & Ethan

When I look back over my childhood, teen years and young adulthood, I can see it. It was always there.

The deep breathing before I had to address the class, or the scanning of a room to ensure I knew where the exit  was to the not walking into a public place, like a pub ,by myself.
I used to think everyone was like this. Everyone found these things daunting. A new job, a first day or time doing anything new, surely everyone would have to repeat calming thoughts to themselves before taking a step into the unknown.

There were times when I simply wouldn’t show up. I’d agree to go somewhere but I’d know that there was no way I’d be able to handle it , I would have my excuse made up in my head by the time I had finished saying “See you there”.

Yes, looking back now I can see it.

My hands would shake itchy with pins and needles,while my heart would pound so loudly that I was sure everyone could hear it. I would struggle to breath, while feeling dizzy. All this would come and go in a matter of minutes and I thought it was normal for me, as it happened quite often. I thought I was just having a reaction to being nervous, I thought it was ‘normal’ to be this nervous over everyday things, like meeting new people. During my twenties , I began to realise that I probably had some form of anxiety.

Yes, looking back now, it's so very obvious .

When I first had my children , it seemed to give me more freedom in my head, at least. I didn’t want them to have anxiety over ‘silly’ things ,as I felt I had. I used to describe myself as quirky or a bit odd, but the truth was I knew I wasn’t odd, I just didn’t use the word ‘anxiety’ instead; I thought it was nervousness and something that happened to people who were like me; self conscious, awkward, even shy at times. I didn’t want my boys to have those insecurities , as I would think of them as.

But as any parent will tell you,sometimes having children can make you worry or have anxiety over a lot of what’s wrong in our world, a lot of things that we have no control over. Not only will you worry about your own child but you’ll worry about school, clothes, food goes on and on.

If like me ,you have a child with complex medical needs and a life limiting condition, apparently anxiety and depression go hand in hand.

No one told me. Nobody warned me that not only had I some mild form of anxiety already, but that I was now in the higher percentage to have severe anxiety, PTSD and depression. It was simply never mentioned when doctors told us that there was nothing they could do for our son.( I have to say, it should have been mentioned)

After Ethan was diagnosed and due to a house fire we had , had, I decided it was time for me to talk to someone about my ‘quirkiness’. I was diagnosed as having anxiety . It was a relief. It made sense and I had that ‘AH-HA’ moment.

It helped hugely. For many years it helped me understand my ‘triggers’ and how best to cope when a panic attack would occur, it also trained me to think differently.
After a few years, I figured I had a good handle on my anxiety. I hadn’t had an attack in years and didn’t feel as self conscious or awkward when out in public.
That is the sneaky thing about anxiety , it never really goes away.

Three weeks ago I had a bad panic attack. It came and went as quickly as it started. It scared me but not enough to bring myself down to the GP. Self care is hard for me. I know how important it is but I find it difficult to have time just for me or to have the energy to do something just for me.

It was my husband that pointed it out to me.
“You’ve not left the house in nearly five days” he observed one evening as I sat typing. I didn’t even realise I hadn’t left the house. “You made an excuse too when I suggested we go for a walk” he gently added. (I’ve been known to snap)
I nodded.
“Are you ok?” He asked.
“I am . I think I am” I genuinely wasn't sure if I was ‘ok’.

The following night while watching TV with my husband , I had the scariest panic attack I have ever had. I vomited. I had tingling in my arms. I fought to breath. I really , really fought to breath. My skin was wet with sweat but I was freezing. I begged my husband to call an ambulance as I was sure I was dying.

After twenty minutes the attack subsided. The on call GP stayed on the phone with my husband trying to gauge whether or not I was actually dying . I had to promise her that I would make an appointment with my local GP the next morning.
I didn’t keep that promise because I was a little embarrassed that I thought I was dying. I was embarrassed too because I knew the GP would more than likely put me on medication; I knew once I told her how I had been feeling over the last few months that she would tell me it is now time to add medication to my care plan and to get back to therapy.  

The following day I went to the GP as I could once again see the anxiety and how it was creeping into my every day thoughts and beginning to prevent me from doing everyday activities. And yes, she prescribed medication which I am now taking for a week, so I cannot honestly tell you if it's helping or not, just yet.

Anxiety isn’t a dirty word or something that anyone, including myself, should be embarrassed about. It has taken me years to understand that I have anxiety and it is taking me years to try to understand my anxiety.

Anxiety is different for everyone ; I know that right now, I need medication and therapy together to help me , but that doesn’t mean I will always need both.

Me and my anxiety are going to have to learn to live together (all over again) because I’m pretty sure my anxiety isn’t going to just disappear no matter how much I wish it would and no matter how well I feel, I've learned my anxiety likes to hang on in there in the background.

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