I have a true friend in my life. They are utterly dedicated to me, remembering to attend the most important events of my life, sneaking up on me to give me an expected surprise and always reminding me of who I am. But this friend, despite being a constant in my life, is not one I want to have around all the time. You see, my friend is called Anxiety. Anxiety visits often, and always outstays her welcome. So realistically, I would prefer if Anxiety would back off. She’s overcrowding me, and I feel like I am suffocating.
Anxiety latched onto me in 2009 when I was going through a time that I want to forget. She started as a tight feeling; those butterflies that are not from excitement but from fear. I didn’t want to leave home; I only felt secure and safe when I was in my own nest. I liked being in control of everything, if someone took that control away from me (which did happen) I lost it. The butterflies grew into a pain in my chest which hampered my appetite and more notably, my self-confidence. Anxiety was the friend that drained me. The one that hung out of me.
In my previous line of work in the Corporate world I had to travel a lot, normally at the last minute. I wasn’t the one who made the decision to go on these trips, I was sent. There was no sympathy for anyone who didn’t want to go, you had no choice. This I didn’t like, but Anxiety loved it. She performed her best work in these situations. So much so, she morphed into a physical illness. She was so eager to stay in my life, she caused me insomnia, significant weight loss and a loss of my sparkle. Then she made me sick. On one of the trips I had to do to the States, Anxiety got so excited, she made me throw up all over the luxurious floor of the First Class lounge in terminal 5 at Heathrow. She wanted to make her presence felt. Literally. What happened then? Well after profuse apologies to the staff through a flood of tears, I gave in to her. I went on the trip, and made my way through it, but relief never came. I was a shadow of my former, funny, ambitious, light hearted self.
I landed back from that trip three weeks later, to fall on the ground of the hall in my apartment and cry inconsolable tears. I was full of fear of me, of life and what was to become of me. I needed to make a change. If anything was left of me, I had the common sense to know I needed to fix me. Anxiety was a friend I had to dump. But it didn’t happen overnight. I was able to stay at home for a while, taking time off work. I had a great GP who knew there was a mental issue. She gave me a sick note to give me time to re build strength after a lot of weight loss from not eating, so I had two weeks of the solace of home. I couldn’t tell anyone in work as I had this perception that a mental illness was not a real illness to some people and they just wouldn’t get it. So I said I had a stomach problem, which was true thanks to that not eating thing again. Most people believed me except for those closest to me who had long guessed there was something else.
So, I got referred during this time to a psychiatrist in a well known hospital in Dublin that caters for these issues. I went through a full evaluation of my mental health and I will always remember him saying to me, “Lorna, you’re not crazy”; I cannot tell you how happy that made me. I thought I was losing it. But clinically, I wasn’t. I just needed some fine tuning, let’s say. I started on some medication which took some time to work, all the while working with a Cognitive Behavioural Therapist to get to the root of the issue and to help me find coping mechanisms. I need to add, mindfulness was not a “thing” then. It’s only now, with more resources available to cope day to day, that I think I am confident to talk about this.
The whole therapy cycle took ages. But each time I started to feel just a bit more like myself again. I didn’t hate myself anymore, and I liked being in my own company again. But there was more change needed. I wanted out of my job and I wanted a new distraction. So step in the blog. I had been reading blogs like The Blonde Salad, and Susie Bubble and I wanted to do something similar. I loved fashion, and even without any formal training, I could easily string a few words together to communicate my thoughts from my own voice. Styleisle.ie was born, and it became my new love. The tough working day was ok, because I got to play in my own safe haven in the evening. It was my ticket out. So I made it happen. The blog was going to save me and my mind. The therapy gave me the confidence to take back the reigns and control. Anxiety was now becoming that friend that you heard from once in a while, but you’d rather they’d left your life completely.
Fast forward to 2016, and I am not going to claim I am free from Anxiety. She likes to call around from time to time, and it’s always when I don’t want her. Actually, I never want her around but I will never be free from her as this is the way I was made. I still seek help for it a few times a year, just to keep myself in check. And if I am having a bad day, I feel confident to tell people why. But it no longer limits me and what I do. I did use medication to help and I am not ashamed of that, in fact I’m happy with how it helped.
If you feel the same way, don’t suffer in silence. There’s a lot of guidance out there to help you manage it. It can’t defeat you. I promise.
(Ps if you would like the names of the mindfulness apps I use just add a comment below!)