By Claire Courtney, 10th June 2016

The Devil that Is Panic

This is How it Really Feels to Deal with Anxiety

This is How it Really Feels to Deal with Anxiety

Thanks to social media and many public celebrity stories and campaigns, it seems that there is a lot more awareness surrounding issues such as anxiety and panic attacks. Every day I see more and more posts giving us tips on all the right and wrong things to do for and say to someone you know who may be suffering.

Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful for the extra exposure, and they are all very well meaning of course; but as someone who suffers daily (as well as the added strain of watching my husband battle his own demons), I can tell you that there is no ‘one size fits all’ kind of solution.

There is no run of the mill list that will alleviate or cure.

Anxiety takes many different forms. For those who have been lucky enough to never suffer personally or deal with the upset of a loved one struggling, a lot of the triggers can be hard to understand and sometimes even the most basic of tasks are the starting point of a steep downward spiral.

I had my very first panic attack at 8 years old.

It was our school performance of Cinderella and I suddenly found myself unable to breath. I don’t just mean at a loss for words, or tongue tied. I mean that in the very literal sense, I couldn’t draw breath and when I finally did I couldn’t let the air back out.

Nervous ballerina

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Of course then I didn’t know what was happening to me, but I will never forget the sheer terror that rooted me to the spot. Still to this day the memory makes me feel sick.

Over the years I had several minor episodes of anxiety, mostly caused by being somewhere overcrowded… but I managed my panic somehow. In that kind of situation, I felt at least marginally in control.

Then something changed. I had children.

Nowadays, the seemingly normal, everyday occurrences such as meeting someone new, my husband being home five minutes later than planned, an unexpected trip or even being away from my children, can trigger a full blown panic attack.

I wish I could say the list stops there but it doesn’t and that’s true of so many of us that have our lives ruled by this all encompassing, suffocating and mind warping condition.

Sometimes there is no one reason and it’s beyond infuriating when you’re asked ‘what’s wrong?’

Sometimes the answer is as simple (or as complicated) as “I just don’t know

That of course is an answer most people simply can’t understand.

“Well you must know what’s bothering you?”

No! I cant tell you why I won’t step out the door, I can’t tell you why I won’t speak to someone on the phone and I can’t tell you why I won’t be 20 miles from home. All I know is ‘I just can’t’.

My primary school teacher once told me, “There’s no such word as can’t”. Clearly she had never met anyone with Anxiety.

There are of course treatments, but it is important to understand that there is no right way to cope. The answer isn’t always ‘take a pill’ or ‘have counseling’. These options may work for some but not for others and often there are many that are not ready or comfortable enough to seek help. Some are embarrassed or even fearful. Anxiety can plummet your mind into a state of utmost disarray, and at this point it is easy to lose all sense of rationality.

A potential trip to the doctors to discuss treatment would evoke thoughts of every kind, a lot of them negative.

Mental health treatment and awareness has taken a huge leap forward in recent years, but unfortunately a taboo surrounding the subject still exists. The fear that a trip to the Doctors to ask for help may result in people such as social services getting involved, blocks many from seeking help. The rational majority would of course say that no Doctor worth his salt would do this and we know this, logically we know this, but it doesn’t stop the thoughts. Sometimes we simply can’t be rational.

Something as simple as a chat with your spouse or close friend, a breath of fresh air outside, or talking to other people who suffer can be a great source of comfort. It’s about finding what works for you. Doing whatever helps you.

For those who suffer, a word of advice… you should never feel pressured into the ‘normal’ routes of treatment, pressure, after all, is sometimes our greatest enemy. Find your calm and use it.

For those looking in from the outside, just be there for them, it’s as simple as that. Let them tell you what they need. Dealing with it alone is no picnic, so whether that means they tell you they need space or that they need someone to sit with them, knowing they have a support will mean the world. A little more love and care can only be a good thing.

(Note from The Editor: Many thanks to Claire Courtney for being a house-guest with us. If you would like to read more about Claire, you can visit her on her author’s page here.)

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