'Reading a book is like re-writing it for yourself. You bring to a novel, anything you read, all your experience of the world. You bring your history and you read it in your own terms.'- Angela Carter

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

On a more serious note: Anxiety & Panic Attacks, the truth.



Now I know that I mainly run a book blog but this is something I feel incredibly strong about. Today, I was offered work as long as I 'behaved myself this time'. This sounds like a strange request to anyone reading this, but to me this made my blood boil. I was not aware that having a mental illness was something that could be described as 'misbehaviour'. Anyway. To summarize where this came from, two years ago I did this very same job but was unable to cope with it and unable to complete the task as I suffered from extreme panic attacks and anxiety. They were extreme enough that my boyfriend sent me to the doctors and now two years later I am back to my happy, bubbly self. Those two years of my life were an absolute nightmare. I struggled massively to gain control of myself, it got to the point that I was unable to stay in the supermarkets, unable to really do anything or go anywhere. My lectures were put on hold with my wonderful lecturers emailing what was needed to me and I was given counselling and some tablets. Thank god. I don't know what state I'd be in if my boyfriend hadn't sat with me in that waiting room, kept me there until my appointment and got me sorted out. 

Don't take this post the wrong way, I am in no way looking for sympathy. It is something I absolutely detest - feeling or being treated as fragile or an invalid. I am so much stronger because of this, and happier. I can deal with anything that comes at me now. I know what they are, what they feel like and how to control them. It's great! Understanding for what they are and the effects? Yes, fine. Patience to deal with it? That is great, but sympathy can keep on jogging thank you very much.




Anyway, the point on my post is that I honestly do not think that enough people are aware of exactly what a panic or anxiety attack is, why they come about and how to deal with them. The people which are most infuriating are the ones which take the, 'oh, snap out of it!' approach. All I have to say to them is this: If it was possible to snap out of these things, don't you think that would have been done right at the beginning?! Something that I was unaware of was the amount of people which suffer with them all across the world. When you are going through this you often feel very alone so I found that it was a massive relief to discover that others suffer with it too. I also discovered that one of my best friends at university suffered with infrequent attacks. It was a relief to have someone to relate to, to look after and to be looked after by. 


Panic attacks are increased moments of anxiety in which what is called your 'fight or flight' instinct kicks in. This is what is felt when the body feels itself to be in danger and a large amount of adrenaline is rushed into the system. This can cause the symptoms of sweaty palms, dizziness, increased heart beat, shortness of breath and many more. The feeling of panic is your body fighting against the need to run. It is difficult to summarise where this sensation comes from as it is different for everybody. It leaves the person in great discomfort, perhaps gasping for breath, shaking and perhaps feeling as if you are functioning separately from your own body - a sort of out of body experience. The aftermath leaves the sufferer exhausted and shaken up. My advice is, if you are worried about them and have previously experienced them, please go and talk to someone. I worried myself into deeper anxiety and wish that I had gone to the doctors sooner.


Those are a few of the sensations felt through panic attacks. Here, I found these following statistics on how common this illness actually is.The Anxiety Centre provided the following:



Generalized Anxiety Disorder: 6.8 million, 3.1%.
  • Women are twice as likely to be afflicted than men (we believe the number of men who struggle with generalized anxiety is much higher because many don't report it to their doctors).
  • Very likely to be co-exist with other disorders.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: 2.2 million, 1.0%.
  • It is equally common among men and women.
  • One third of afflicted adults had their first symptoms in childhood.
  • In 1990 OCD cost the U.S. 6% of the total $148 billion mental health bill.
Panic Disorder: 6 million, 2.7%.
  • Women are twice as likely to be afflicted than men (we believe the number of men who struggle with panic disorder is much higher because many don't report it to their doctors).
  • Often co-exists with depression.
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: 7.7 million, 3.5%.
  • Women are more likely to be afflicted than men.
  • Rape is the most likely trigger of PTSD, 65% of men and 45.9% of women who are raped will develop the disorder.
  • Childhood sexual abuse is a strong predictor of lifetime likelihood for developing PTSD.
Social Anxiety Disorder: 15 million, 6.8%.
  • It is equally common among men and women.
Specific Phobia affects: 19 million, 8.7%.
  • Women are twice as likely to be afflicted as men.
And this is just America! So as you can see, it is by no means uncommon. I mean, for all I know, the majority of you, my fellow bloggers, could be suffering with or have suffered from this horrible illness. I thought that this post would attempt to shed some light on it. 
Anxiety Disorder Symptoms
The main points are this:
- You cannot just 'snap out' of them.
- You are perfectly normal, you are not insane, you are not going to pass out, stop breathing, have a heart attack. You will be completely fine.
- DON'T GOOGLE IT! For goodness sake don't do this. I did this and it just increases your anxiety. You believe yourself to have every disease under the sun!
- Try and pin point what exactly it is that makes you anxious and why. For me, my biggest relief came from the confirmation of the illness. Being told that it was panic attacks and that yes, there is help and yes, it is common was such a relief. 
- Go to the doctors if you haven't already. Honestly, they help. They pick you up, dust you off and help you carry on with your life. They are wonderful people.
- Exercise! Exercising releases 'happy' hormones. It improves your mood, it's good for you, and come on, don't we all want lovely legs and bums? :)
- Try and cut down on your caffeine/sugar/alcohol intake. That means tea, coffee, chocolate, wine etc etc etc. This by no means is saying that you have to cut them out completely. Not at all. I did this, I got into an obsessive state of mind where I wouldn't touch the stuff (I also began carrying all sorts of crap around with me - it's not a good habit to start!). If you want some chocolate, have some. Just try and cut down.
- Distractions. Try and get out of your own head for a bit. Talk to people, focus on what they are saying. Go for a walk with a camera, snap some photos. Focus on your surroundings. People watch, make up stories of where they're going and what their lives are like. 

- Just remember, no one is looking at you. I know that I used to worry about people looking at me, finding out about it. No one is aware, just stay calm, the feeling does eventually pass.

These are more pointers for any one who has them. People just need to begin to understand that they are not a show. They are not over-exaggerated. Some will develop them for absolutely no reason, others will have them because of something which has happened to them. But, the worst thing you can do is dismiss, or shout, or loose patience with a sufferer. Listen to them, help them, try and soothe them. I am so thankful for my wonderful boyfriend, without him I hate to think of what it would have been like. 

I hope this post will have helped someone or at least shed some light on the severity of it to those who don't quite understand anxiety.

xxx

P.S. This isn't a post digging at everyone, I know there are a lot that understand completely without having had them themselves. The 'people' aren't meant as a generalisation, it just seems to be a mental disability which a lot seem to be blissfully unaware of and painfully stubborn in their unwillingness to accept/ understand the effect they have on the sufferers.



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