Wednesday, October 29, 2014

My not so healthy brain on the mend…

For the last few days I've been thinking hard about sharing something. I wanted to write in more detail about my struggle with anxiety. Why? Well it’s been my experience than when I have written little bits about it before I often receive lots of messages and emails afterwards about those who can relate, those who have suffered or are suffering too and who find comfort in reading about someone who is/has gone through it too.

It’s not just online, it’s from people I meet down the pub, models I have worked with or girls I lived with at university…it seemed over the years of dealing with it and subsequently discussing it that I am not alone, in fact it is more common than I ever thought possible.

The irony is that one of the hardest parts of living with anxiety is the feeling that you are crazy, that you are the only one experiencing it, that you are all alone…but the fact is this is completely FALSE! The discovery I have made is that nearly everyone I know has experienced anxiety/panic attacks, and a large portion of those people have dealt with it for longer than that. A lot of people have even struggled to the point of turning to help or in extreme cases medication. I decided not to venture in the chemical help, it was a personal choice made off the back of some of the anxieties I deal with which I will explain, but I also think my brain is capable, and I therefore sought help from a therapist.

It still feels somewhat embarrassing now to admit I see a therapist, because I think mental health is still thought of as a major weakness in a person, so so many people decide to suffer alone and in silence purely because of the embarrassment surrounded by mental health. Well I’m here to tell you that you don’t need to be ashamed, or embarrassed or scared, because I have met a huge number of people dealing with the same stuff you are, and from someone who has reached out I can promise it is a step to getting your control back!

Ok so my story, here goes…

When I was around 15 I got into smoking weed…not uncommon, in fact as a teen it’s about the most normal thing one can do, like scribbling in the back of your homework planner or playing spin the bottle. Everyone (or nearly everyone) has been there, and it was no big deal! I mean even my parents didn't care! On a few rare occasions I even got stoned with them! Life was good and I was having fun, then one night my sister’s friend came over and bought some fairly potent stuff, stuff I am now pretty sure was laced with something (maybe a small amount of LSD or some such). So my sister, her friend and I smoked it, in fact I even made a bottle bong and went all out…but to my horror it quickly developed into a very bad trip, something my sister and I were in the thick of an hour later. I think I was worse than her, but it was, quite seriously the most traumatic thing I have ever experienced. Reality didn't exist, what did was tunnel vision, white lines dotting around my eyes, weird electric flashes down my spine, time moving slow and then super fast and the feeling of being in the bottom of a well. The worst part? I couldn't stop it, I had to ride it out. Now try imagining feeling stuck in this parallel universe, imagine wondering if you were stuck in a dream…yeah, not fun!

So yeah, basically it was a nightmare, but as with most experiences of this nature I figured I could just sleep it off, and in the morning when I woke I was ok! I was back to reality! So the weeks that followed I stuck to smoking solid in the hopes I wouldn't have a repeat, which I didn't…but I then, most stupid of me, got stoned with the same girl who evidently brought very similar stuff as last time…this time after the nightmare experience when I woke up I didn't not feel completely ok…in fact I still felt like I was asleep…like I was in a non reality, and that’s when the anxiety hit. I never smoked cannabis or any chemical of any kind after that, more than that I stayed away from drink too. and over the next several years I would get flashbacks to the same feeling of feeling trapped in a dream…it would most often happen when I spelled people smoking drugs, or if I felt especially uncomfortable or in situations where I felt out of control. BOOM, I had an anxiety issue!

It was fairly manageable until 3 years ago when I was sitting on a train to London Liverpool Street and the train stopped in a tunnel…suddenly it’s like I had just swallowed 5 tons of that weed…it was like I was drowning and dying at the same time! My blood was boiling, my skin wanted to jump off my skin, I wasn't just in a tunnel, I was trapped there. My vision distorted everything and no matter how many time I blinked it wouldn't correct itself. This all happened in the space of a few minutes, and then the train moved again out of the tunnel. Well that was it for me, I never wanted to get on a train again…and as the weeks followed I started to get that feeling 24/7! I was living in what felt like a dream EVERY DAY! Sleep was my only source of calm and I relished it! There were times when I felt so trapped and anxious and scared I feared my only way out would be to bash my head against a wall, or jump in front of a train…anything to end the feeling. I didn't of course do that, after being in a state of high anxiety for weeks I realised I was still more afraid of death and the idea of ceasing to exist than the feeling…though it was a close call. 

My anxiety and claustrophobia got so dire that I quickly realised I couldn't bear to be trapped on a plane, I couldn't even get on a bus for fear that if I needed to get off the bus driver might not let me (on a motorway for example). I remember reading a sentence in a book about a girl that had move from the hot south of America to the cold and rainy North West, she said something about the cloud cover being claustrophobic…and BANG, suddenly my heart would almost race out of my chest when it was overcast!! It was all so EXHAUSTING! The strangest part was that no one around me would know I was in it…you couldn't see what was going on in my head or how fast my heart was racing…except for some twitchy behaviour I probably seemed mostly normal.

I lived this way for 3 months, I was stuck in a non reality, a dream work, where everything was distorted and I felt like I was living a life dreamed up by some brain in a jar in a scientist lab. Somehow I got out…I gradually stopped thinking about it so much and slowly came out and got my life back…but leftover were fears, fears about getting on trains, or taking a paracetamol or anything that would bring it all back…and I was stuck. But I accepted all this because I was still able to breathe and get on with things, all I had to do was avoid certain situations and I was fine. But it wasn't really living!!! I never felt free because I was trapped still really, trapped by myself!

A year ago I went for help. I woman who had been through similar experiences talked with me, and I was terrified!!! I thought it would bring it all back to talk about it, I thought I was doomed for sure. Even if she could ‘fix’ me I assumed it would get worse before it got better. But after my first visit, being in a state of high anxiety the whole time, I left and felt calm! Say what? I mean who knew! I felt calm because she made me believe I was capable. And what I learned since is I am.

I’m not out of the woods yet, not at all…but I am capable. I am more in control of myself and my mind, and slowly I with regain all my control back! I have, since seeing her, got on a train! I have gone in tunnels and done stuff and considered stuff I never would have. I have faced certain fears and found out the reasons why I got there in the first place! I will be able to get on a plane again one day, I’m sure, because I believe in myself.

I am here to tell all those struggling or experiencing something similar, firstly, YOU ARE NOT ALONE EVEN A LITTLE BIT!!! And secondly, whatever you feel, no matter how scary, how hopeless and worrying, YOU WILL GET OUT, YOU WILL GET BETTER, YOU WILL BE IN CONTROL AGAIN.

You don’t have to go for help, and don’t make anyone pressure you, just know you can, you are capable, and when you’re ready go and chat to someone, cause it’s all it is, talking to someone who has been there, you will, and it might be able to help you get to the bottom of the why and help you get yourself in control again :)

It was a massively long story, and I thank all those that stuck out till the end. I wanted to tell my story so if anyone found anything similar in it they can be assured I’m there with them too, and if they want to chat about ANYTHING to send a message or email.

We have nothing to fear but fear itself. And the fear? Well fuck it, we can conquer that too :)


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  1. Love this post. I'm struggling with anxiety from four months, it's not as bad as in the beginning, but I can't continue like this. I locked my self in my house, rarely went out. I'm scared of every emotion because I can't control them anymore. I was a really happy person, and still I am! But this is not life, and I want to gain control of it again, so soon I will go to a therapist.
    Thank you for your post and for your experience, and congratulation for your strenght! :) I hope I will say the same as soon as possible.
    Have a beautiful day, dear!
    Hugs from Italy.

  2. Watched my mother struggle with agoraphobia for 15 years ... she described it as the blind fear you feel in a creepy dark alleyway at night ... except it's in the Bank queue. You were smart to find a good therapist early