I want to start by saying that I’m not writing this for sympathy, pity or attention. I suppose I am kind of using it as therapy and to try to help people understand what it’s like, including Jamie. There’s nothing more I detest than the trend of it being ‘cool’ or ‘quirky’ to have a problem with mental health. Believe me, these people exist. I would give anything to eliminate the genuine feelings of terror, panic and anxiety.
Some people reading this may think- ‘I’ve seen her on Facebook, she seems confident, they are always going here there and everywhere.’ That may be the case, but I don’t publicize the days of worry and anxiety beforehand.
Any time we go away for a few days this is an example of what runs through my head-
- What if something happens to the animals while we are away?
- What if I didn’t lock the doors properly?
- What if I didn’t turn my hair straighteners off?
- What if I left the Oven on?
- What if whoever is looking after the animals, loses their key and can’t get in to feed them?
What if? What if? What if? That question is the bane of my life!
I don’t like to use the term that I suffer with anxiety. I live with Anxiety.
I first knew something was wrong about the age of 18. I had started vomiting when I got nervous. Which was accompanied by shortness of breath, cold sweats, pins and needles in my hands and a fluttering heart. So off I went to see the doctor. Back then, I knew nothing about anxiety. I used to refer to it as ‘the weird being sick thing’. The doc advised that I go to speak to a therapist of sorts (which to this day, I have still not done, who knows what is locked up in that little box in my brain!) and put me on Dothiepin, an anti-depressant. He also ordered blood tests to check there wasn’t anything physically wrong with me. A week or so after said blood tests I was a bridesmaid at a wedding. And I had the biggest bruises on both arms, whilst wearing a sleeveless bridesmaid dress. I looked like a junkie!
At 21 years old, I met the love of my life. Jamie is 13/14 years my senior, depending on the time of year! The start of our relationship was rocky for various reasons. One of them being, he had such a large group of friends (all of whom older than me) and any time we were invited to a BBQ, wedding, out for dinner etc- I would more often than not decline. What if I started to panic and threw up. Id be mortified, not just for me, but Jamie as well. Jamie would end up making excuses for my absence whilst left feeling a little frustrated that we couldn’t do ‘normal’ things a couple would do.
We muddled through and got over the obstacles that we came across. And I’m so glad we did!
A few years in to our relationship, We decided I’d come off the contraceptive pill and see what happened. Leave it to fate. Turns out that I have PCOS (Polycystic ovarian syndrome) Which makes it more difficult to conceive.
Jamie also had to be tested. Now, neither of us drive, so we had to wait til someone could take us to Ipswich to drop off Jamies ‘deposit.’
My Uncle Barry had passed away recently and we had to go up to Ipswich crematorium for his funeral. My mother was going to pick us up from our house in Valley Walk, Then quickly get us to the hospital (you have a time frame before the ‘deposit’ will no longer be viable)
So the deed was done, there’s me sat in my mums car with a pot of Jamies swimmers between my legs (we were instructed to keep the contents of the pot warm) on the way to a funeral….
Turns out that even for a portly gentleman, he has very good baby making juice.
So that meant the reason for no babies was down to me. 7/8 years passed with no contraception and no pregnancies. Well, I think it may have possibly happened once, but I’ll never know for sure. We could have had more help, but part of me didn’t want to force what wasn’t happening naturally. Amelia Rose and Alexander George were not meant to be. Most of the time I’m ok with that now. I do have the odd wobble now and again. I know it sounds mental, but having the animals has helped tremendously. Someone to love and care for. Something to pour the natural maternal instinct in to.
I did a lot of research into PCOS and along with a list of really crap side effects was Anxiety. Could my crappy hormones be the reason for me feeling this way? Who knows. My family don’t have the greatest mental health either. Could that be why?
For me I think it boils down to Social anxiety or fear of humiliation. With a little splash of OCD thrown in for good measure. Door locking has always been an issue for me. As have my hair straighteners. And this one particular heater in the stock room at work. Its never used, but I’m always convinced I’ll have knocked it on and it will burn down the shop. So I always check to make sure its off.
When I got to about 30 years old, I had 2 random years free of anxiety. I have no idea how or why. I had come off my previous meds but other than that no real change.
We had tickets to go to The British Soap Awards in Jan 2016. I was terrified as it was my 1st time at the O2. We got to London fine. No issues with me on the train. I think the reason I travel well on trains Is that I can get up, walk around, there’s a toilet if I feel the sickness coming on. I didn’t travel on a bus for a good 5 years in my twenties. And when you don’t drive that can be a bit tricky. I’m even not that great in a car, unless I’m truly comfortable with whoever is in the car with me. Anyway, we get the O2, Queuing up to have our bags etc. searched, surrounded by people. I feel the coldness creep across my chest. Mouth starts watering, heart starts pounding. I look at Jamie, who knows exactly what’s happening to me. He has always struggled to understand my anxiety. Which I cant blame him for. He’s such a confident man, not afraid of anything. I don’t even really understand it myself, so trying to explain it to other people can be difficult. I managed to hold it, until we got up the stairs to the toilet (thankfully! That hasn’t always been the case) and tried to quietly bring up my lunch as to not let anyone know I was being sick.
The amount of times people have assumed I couldn’t handle my drink because they’ve seen me being sick is unreal. I can actually hold my alcohol quite well. With the exception of Wine. Remember cheese and wine night?
The rest of the night was great. I was fine once we were in and settled. Although slightly disappointed David Tennant wasn’t there!
In the next few months after this, we had a day out in Ely with 2 friends we don’t see very often. And it happened again, cold sweat, felt sick. But it felt different. At the time I didn’t think it was a panic attack.
Then the month of May arrived. Within one week we had tickets to a show at the Regent (Carpenters tribute), Tickets to see Jason Donovan and Then we were going the O2 again to watch premier league darts.
We didn’t end up going to the show at the Regent as I was freaking out, I was so close to pulling out of Jason Donovan, even texting other people to see if they wanted my ticket, but managed to hold it together and had a really good time. Once we got to the O2 and were in and settled I was fine.
When booking shows or tickets for the cinema. I will always book an aisle seat. I like to have a clear pathway to get out if I feel panic setting in.
I have literally just pulled out of seeing Ricky Gervais tonight because I know were slap bang in the middle of the row. I know he’s one of Jamie’s favourites, and I don’t want to spoil it for him by feeling ill.
Anyway, after that week of having lots of unsettling things to do, I was waking up in the morning with a stomach full of knots and anxiety. I started being sick every day. I couldn’t control it. I remember laying scrunched up on the sofa, not being able to move and when I did, id have to run to the bathroom and be sick. I still went to work, Luckily I work with some of the most understanding and kind women you’ll ever be lucky to meet. Karen and Sara, you truly helped me that 1st week. Just by being there with a listening ear. If I hadn’t have made myself go to work, I know I wouldn’t have left the house and that would have caused more issues Went to see the Doc again. Explained what had been happening. I was prescribed Sertraline (anti anxiety/depressant) and Propranolol which is a beta blocker, which I would take as and when I could feel panic setting in. They did really help with some symptoms, just not the sickness. During the very bad week I had lost half a stone in 4/5 days. It was genuinely the scariest time of my life. Even Jamie was worried and that is not like him at all. He was also great for them very bad weeks. He knows not to touch me when I’m feeling anxious. He knows I just need to breathe through it, or run and be sick.
My doctor also suggested I speak to Suffolk MIND. After an initial telephone call it was suggested that I do an online CBT course (Cognitive behavioural therapy) This helped a little and gave me a few ideas as to have to live with the feelings of panic.
Also, one of my in Laws was very helpful. She had experienced it, knew all the medications id been given and was full of good advice and support. I will always be grateful for that.
I found the only way to calm myself down, was to go to my bedroom and sit in front of my fan. Something about the cool air would help me relax. Something I still do to this day. Can’t bear being hot. Makes me ten times worse. Something else I have always done, is keep a carrier bag in my handbag. In case I’m sick and can’t get to a toilet in time.
Another symptom I struggle with is my teeth. I grit my teeth constantly without realising. I also grind my teeth in my sleep. Which then causes endless headaches. I get anxious at the thought of going to the dentists which results in me rarely going, unless I’m in pain. So I’m stuck in a vicious circle!
My anxiety embarrasses me. I know it shouldn’t because it’s nothing to be ashamed of. But it does.