*Trigger warning – this blog touches on the subject of anxiety, OCD, Covid and death *
This is an individual's story and we recognize that everyone's experience of mental health and everyone's circumstances are different.
Since I was a child, I have always had anxious tendencies, along with OCD behaviours. I can remember pulling out my hair and taking ages to settle down to eat my tea with my family because I would be focused on getting my chair to the exact right position before I felt comfortable. As an adult I still dealt with these issues experiencing intrusive thoughts and worrying excessively.
However, as I had always been able to manage “on the surface” I never took any action to get any help. From the outside, I was a successful adult with a job, a husband, and a house with plenty of friends and hobbies. On the inside though, I would have bouts of constant negative thoughts and the more unsettled I felt, the more irritable I became and the more my OCD behaviours increased.
It was around this time I crumbled. My family started to notice things weren’t quite right and sat down with me to discuss their concerns which made me feel uncomfortable as I wanted to ignore my problems. The following week was one of the worst of my life. I felt sick and tired constantly and overwhelmed by the slightest things. I couldn’t even attend my nan’s funeral properly and arrived late and sat at the back. Every morning I would call my friend as I would wake up overwhelmed with a tight chest, and every morning she would talk me down from experiencing an anxiety attack.
At the end of the week, I was able to speak to my doctor with my husband there to support me through my appointment. I told her I could no longer cope on my own and I couldn’t take another night of not being able to sleep properly and asked for some medication. I was prescribed something as a short-term solution, and some different medication if I felt I still needed something to manage my anxiety long term.
Obviously, medication is a personal choice, and it wasn’t a decision I made lightly but after considering all my options that is the choice I made, and it worked well for me. From that point I was able to progressively start to feel better. I made a conscious effort to stay active and eat well, and I also received support from my friends, family, and my workplace.
After a few weeks I was also able to start a CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) course online. This has been the best decision for my mental health, and I have benefited so much from this. I learned that people with anxiety are more likely to overestimate the level of risk and underestimate their ability to deal with it, and this is something that really resonated with me. I enjoyed working through the CBT course and documenting my thoughts, feelings, and behaviours, and seeing how they all connected. I also found the mindfulness exercises useful to help me stay in the present moment.
The most interesting part of the course for me was the section on facing your fears and doing the graded exposure therapy. Thinking back on how far I came with my mental health journey, I remember being scared to walk too far down the street in case I couldn’t breathe, to a few months later being able to enjoy bodyboarding in the ocean on holiday.
Some of the other things that really helped me not to spiral towards an anxiety attack were remembering that in the present moment I was fine, making gratitude lists, and speaking freely with my friends, as well as breathing exercises. I have not experienced an anxiety attack in several months, am able to exercise without worrying about my health, and I no longer feel the need to have my medication with me wherever I go - at one point I felt unable to even go downstairs without taking it with me.
Listening to other people’s experiences really helped me to put things in perspective and I remember one friend who had gone through a similar thing telling me when they were in the thick of it, they felt like it would never get better, but it does. And I can now tell you too from experience, that no matter how dark your feelings feel, it really does get better.
If you have been affected by the topics covered in this blog there is help available:
Cruse Bereavement Care – offers face-to-face, telephone, email and online support for anyone who has experienced a loss. 0808 8081 677
Healthy Young Minds - offer guidance and support relating to the mental wellbeing of children and young people.
If you would like support in managing your own anxiety, our Wellbeing Coaches are here to help:
Wellbeing Coaching is a goal-focused approach designed to support you in improving your wellbeing and to equip you with the tools to manage stress, low mood, anxiety, and other mental wellbeing concerns.
Virtual Wellbeing Coaching- this is a free, 1-to-1 service, available to all adults in Lancashire.
Adult Wellbeing Coaching - this is a costed, 1-to-1 and face-to-face service, available to all adults in Lancashire.