I have never had Anxiety before in my life. Not known anxiety anyway. Yet here I am aged 25 with what feels like a tonne of anxiety out of no where has been dumped on me. Of course it is not out of nowhere and there are, through councilling, many reasons behind what has lead to this part of my life. Yet how are you supposed to deal with this alien concept and why does no one really talk about it?!
As soon as this happened to me I decided then and there that this is not going to take over my life and this is not the person I am going to be. Before mid novemeber I was the most confident, outgoing social person and I didn’t want that to change. Who would have thought a small incident of me nearly fainting on a Train would lead to a massive change in my life.
This incident, not instantly but over a couple of days, led me to become petrified of trains. My logical mind told me everything was fine. I commute into London so a 2 hour round trip for me everyday was perfectly normal over the last 3 years. However something had drastically changed and for whatever reason I couldn’t even stand on a train platform without my heart pounding out of my chest, my palms sweating and difficulty in breathing. Something was obviously behind this but I had no idea what! I mean out of nowhere this irrational feeling had appeared and was disrupting my life!
I had to take a few days off work to get my head straight and try and process what was happening. I was very emotional all the time and just did not feel myself. So I went to see a counsellor to talk things through. The outcome was linked to a couple of bad experiences I had witnessed in previous months related to a horrific pedestrian car crash and also a woman fainting on the train which I believed she was dead by the way she looked. My subconscious mind had stored these memories and when it was my turn to feel faint on the underground (purely logical because I was a bit hungover and obviously we were like sardines in rush hour) my subconscious thought I was in trouble so started to pump me with adrenaline – fight or flight. This rational explained by my counsellor comforted me and my logical mind could relate to it. However Monday soon rolled around and when it was my time to get on that train again, panic mode set in. Doing these train journeys was like putting myself through torture every day. Having to gear yourself up for something you really didn’t want to do only to be an emotional mess when you did get to your destination.
I only completed a couple of days of that week in work. My anxiety was at an all-time high. My chest was constantly tight, I found it difficult to breathe or catch my breath, getting to sleep at night was out of the question as my mind was congested with thoughts going round and round. Your mind is a very powerful thing and once it starts to spiral you have to stop it, however at the beginning I didn’t know how to do this. I kept thinking, this is it – I’m going to have to quit my job because I can’t travel to work, my social life is over because I can’t travel to see my friends, I’ll have to go and live in the middle of nowhere. This in itself was very draining and tiring.
One morning after a night of restless sleep because my breathing was so bad I went to see the doctor. Now he was the most unhelpful thing ever. After going into his office, crying my eyes out explaining my story his only solution was that I either get put on anti depressants (I was determined not to treat my anxiety with medication) or that I carry a brown paper bag around with me to help me catch my breathe. He didn’t even provide the bag!
Following this, a couple of days later I went to see my counsellor again. She was amazing and after every time I saw her felt on top of the world. After talking for a while about my situation and delving a bit deeper she hinted that it could be my job. And then it clicked – light bulb moment. I had been in my job for over 2 and a half years and loved it, it’s what I always knew I wanted to do right from A-levels. However the last 6 months, possibly longer, it had been emotionally draining me for numerous reasons. Everything that was promised was going to change hadn’t and the same things were repeating themselves from the previous year. I suddenly realised that being in a job that was emotionally draining me had led to all of this anxiety. The train incident was just a trigger point moment where my body had snapped. Obviously there was bit more to the matter. I lived a fast paced lifestyle – typical of London. Out nearly all week and then out socialising at the weekend, probably never giving my body a chance to fully recover. But other than that family, relationships and friendships were all ticking along nicely.
As this light bulb went off I thought if something that I spent the majority of the time doing is having this much of an effect on me then I need to do something about this. So that Monday I plucked up the courage to brave the train, fortunately my brother was around to get it with me to go into work and hand it in. After nearly an hour and half of getting on and off the train to calm myself down I made it in.
After having a chat with my boss, she offered me different solutions to me other than handing in my notice. Even just having this chat with her eased my anxiety and I felt so much better. For the next few weeks though there was still the constant daily struggle that wasn’t really going away. Fortunately it was Christmas by now so there was a lot of time off anyway.
Another approach that I tried was going to see a hypnotherapist. I thought if my brain had conjured up all of this anxiety then surely it can be reversed. I found her through the internet and she was amazing, however the tape that she gave me to listen to for the following weeks from our session seemed to make me more anxious after listening to it.
Some days were better than others. Some days I would wake up with the instant feeling of dread for no apparent reason, others I would be ok and then it would creep up on me later on in the day. All my plans that I had made over Christmas had to be cancelled as they all involved London and drinking and I was just not up for that. My counsellor advised on my first session that giving up alcohol, caffeine and taking up exercise for the foreseeable future would help – and that definitely was the case.
For new years I had planned to go to Wales with my boyfriend for a wedding and to spend new years up there. This was a trip I was very much dreading. Firstly getting the train up there. Secondly being away from the comfort of home and surrounded by new people I didn’t really know. I even cut my trip short by a day so I wouldn’t have to spend so long up there. However being up there, away from everyday life, by the sea and the rolling hills, I hardly even thought about my anxiety and it was the first time I felt like my normal self. I didn’t even want to come home.
Coming back to work after new year was hard, my first train ride into London was ok but I was very emotional the other end. Walking to work that day was the first time that I realised that maybe London wasn’t for me anymore. It was so polluted and busy with everyone rushing everywhere – something that I used to thrive off!
The next morning I woke up with a feeling of dread and feeling sick from the anxiety. I tried to coach myself through it saying everything was going to be ok, all I needed to do was sit on a train for 40mins and I’ll be there. However the closer and closer I walked to the station I thought to myself ‘why am I putting myself through this’. This was especially heightened by my recent trip to Wales where I had felt the least anxious since November. That was the day I officially handed in my notice. Enough was enough. As soon as I did it I felt a massive release of tension. Don’t get me wrong it was not an easy decision in the slightest, I hadn’t the faintest idea what I wanted to do with my life. As mentioned I had always known what I wanted to do. But I always think in times of uncertainty you have to go on what you know as a certain – and that was that I didn’t want to be in my job and London anymore. Scary decision but one I have never regretted. So at the moment I am taking some time out – focused on getting myself back to good health and seeing what the future holds. I still get anxiety and going into London is still a big deal but the more you do something the more it becomes easier.
Anxiety is something our society really doesn’t speak about. I was very vocal with mine from the beginning. Everyone in work knew why I had time off work and I would talk about my anxiety openly to colleagues, friends and family. This helped me a lot but understandably it is hard. However the more I spoke about it the more I realised the world and his wife has it in some form. Everyone I would speak to about it either had it themselves or had a good friend or family member that had got it. Yet I would never have known unless I had expressed my story. It is such a high pressured modern day society I think we forget that our number one priority isn’t a career or the latest gadget. It is our mental and physical health.
A lot of little things that people have suggested and that I have read have really helped me ease my anxiety during this time. Please click here to find out more.