My anxiety will always be a part of me, but it’ll never define me


*Important note before we start if you suffer from emetophobia or don't like reading about sickness please refrain from reading this if you believe it will cause any triggers, this is my own personal story and in no way advice for how you should proceed with dealing with your own mental health*

Deep breath, this is probably going to be a big one but an important one. I’ve mulled this post over for as long as I can remember. I never really knew if I would actually put it out there or perhaps whether I ever felt the need to. Sitting down this week however and planning some content I realised it’s Mental Health Awareness Week this week and in light of that, I realised that perhaps now was the time.

I’ve never fully explained my anxiety story or even openly spoke about suffering from it. I’ve touched on it every now and again in various posts but never gone into full detail about it. For a long time, I asked myself if the world needed another personal blog post on anxiety but all our stories are different and I found myself realising that if it hadn’t of been for another online influencer speaking about their story I would have never felt less alone (more on that later). 
I’m not exactly sure in what way this will help anyone or even if it will but what I know is this feels like a closing of a chapter, an acceptance and a mark in my life where I feel I can be honest, not only with my readers but with myself too. 

All the time I’ve spent mulling over writing my story I’ve never been certain on where to begin. Like anything mental health related it’s never easy or straightforward especially when explaining exactly when the moment was you knew, you knew something was wrong, or the moment you knew you weren't like everybody else. 
What I do know is my anxiety started from a young age, though at that point I didn't know that's what it was. I didn’t have a word for it or I couldn’t put a finger on the trigger that caused it I just knew I felt sick A LOT. Going on holiday, eating out, being invited to friends birthday parties, at Christmas, on birthdays, anything where I knew I’d be out of my comfort zone or at a point where I felt I didn’t have control I felt sick and I hated it. 


 "This (blog post) feels like a closing of a chapter, an acceptance and a mark in my life where I feel I can be honest, not only with my readers but with myself too."



Sickness was and I guess to a point still is my phobia and with every panic attack came the god awful gut-wrenching feeling of sickness. One of the worst times for me I remember as a child was a car journey we took to go on holiday. I remember it well because my dad, feeling spontaneous told us all to pack ready to load the car and head away for a night or two. 
I remember the car journey well, I remember several car journey's well. The smell of the car's air freshener, the feeling of the seatbelt against my body and the taste of these frozen drinks we would freeze the night before to take with us for the journey, all things that I know now triggered or contributed to my anxiety.
 I read a long time ago that anxiety picks up on certain things, certain smells or scenarios that can cause you to feel a certain way every time and the only way to overcome that is to keep doing that same thing to overcome it. 
Though this certainly wasn’t the case, this car journey resulted in me being sick and having to turn the car around back home. I remember feeling so heavy with guilt that we had to, though at the time my family didn’t mind. But all I could think was I’d spoilt everything. I remember crying and telling my dad to carry on but knowing I was unwell my parents thought best to leave it. The guilt lay heavy on me until we reached home, as we got out of the car, headed in the house and whilst sitting in the garden, nothing but guilt. Though like a break in the clouds, suddenly I felt better, like this heaviness had been lifted, I could breathe.

For a long time, my panic attacks worked like that this feeling that came over me, that trapped me at that moment unaware of what or where it had come from and held me there, it was frustrating, to say the least. 
Looking back and thinking on those times, sounds silly now because I now know that at the time I was having a panic attack but back then I didn't know what it was and I couldn't explain it to anybody, it was always just that I'm ill, I don't feel very well. Which in turn resulted in me having to leave a friends house, or not being able to go out with them and their parents in the car and I started questioning why me? Why can't I be like my friends? 
I'd try and put myself in their shoes but I just made the feeling worse, I couldn't escape it. It was like this nasty parasite that had taken a hold of me and wouldn't let go.

Little did I know that this was just the tip of the iceberg. 


"I couldn't escape the feeling, it was like this nasty parasite that had taken a hold of me and wouldn't let go. Little did I know that this was just the tip of the iceberg." 



Things got a considerable amount worse when I became a teenager.
 (Act 13 Scene 1 Enter: Secondary School Enter: Boys).
This is now something thankfully I always look back and laugh about, if you read my blog frequently you will know of this story or of similar stories as I have touched on them before. 

Boys were a really big trigger for me, I know it sounds funny even writing that sentence but it's true. Anytime I had a crush or somebody had a crush on me my stomach ached for weeks, hilariously for a long time I told myself it was butterflies like a lie I told myself and truly believed. I thought everyone experiences that don't they? It's just being lovesick. I'd look up symptoms of what it felt to be lovesick. Off your food, tick. Nausea, tick. But lovesickness wasn't supposed to make you feel that bad, I thought why would anyone want to be in love if it makes you feel this way?

It was like this explosion of emotions inside me that I couldn't quite work out. Someone fancied me that's supposed to feel good right? But it didn't it made me feel trapped I'd go into school and avoid the said person so that I didn't have to deal with the feeling. 
The thing is though is that like every other girl in my teens I wanted to experience love, I wanted someone to really fancy me. It was like having this mild allergy but still exposing yourself to the thing that makes you ill every now and again.

Come year 9 I got my real first taste of 'having a boyfriend' and honestly it was one of the worst times in my life and on top of that for two weeks of the time we were 'together' I had to undertake work experience which yep, you guessed it meant more time spent outside my comfort zone and it was rough, really really rough. 
For those two weeks I barely ate at all, I was leaving the house on an empty stomach and returning home the same, only to eat a meal in the evening because my mum was, rightly so incredibly worried about me but I couldn't bring myself to eat outside the house. I was in a new environment and I didn't know how to deal with it. One day during work experience was the worst for me and looking back I think one of the biggest panic attacks I had. 

I was struggling to go into where it was I was working at the time which resulted in my sister and her husband drove me there in the car. As we pulled up in a car park nearby I couldn't feel my hands or my legs they were completely numb, I could see them but I couldn't feel anything and I was so scared. It took me a LONG time to calm down I remember as I stood atop the car park looking over the side, the wind blowing my hair I took deep breaths and wanted to be anywhere but there, I was exhausted truly and utterly exhausted. 
That for me was one of the worst things about an attack, almost every time it stripped me of all my energy, not just at that moment but after too, sometimes until the next day it drained every last part of me till I felt like a shell of who I was. Not eating didn't help as I was running on next to nothing as it was. 
When I managed to get into work the day from there only got worse, my 'boyfriend' decided to visit me with his friends. A sight for sore eyes you'd think but I wanted him as far away from me as possible, making it obvious I was busy and couldn't stop to talk. He took it lightly thankfully and texted me later to say I looked professional and how proud he was of me, but I didn't want that I didn't care about looking professional all I wanted was a hug and to be told- it would all be okay. 

Our relationship eventually gave out when I cancelled on him every opportunity that arose, I couldn't do cinema dates, I couldn't go over to his house, he couldn't come to mine everywhere I went I felt trapped and afraid I couldn't calm down, the feeling wouldn't leave. 
The final straw was the moment I decided to tell him that what I think I was experiencing was anxiety.
And do you know what he sent me back? A page from the NHS describing my symptoms with 'advice' on how to get them to go away. Ha, as if it's that easy. As if it's a common cold that in time will go away with a couple of painkillers here and there. He didn't understand at all and I wasn't there for that. 

At that time I was the worst I could get, I was losing weight I was struggling to eat at lunch or anywhere around the school grounds, it sounds stupid to even say but at that point everything made me feel sick it made my time at secondary school hard. 
Though it didn't stop me teasing having a boyfriend, I had plenty of crushes after and I had boys interested in me. I was intrigued but told myself never again but of course, it came around again. 



Fast forward to university and things (for a while) went very much downhill. 
Now for this act, we are going to introduce alcohol
Scene 18 Act 1 Enter: Alcohol 

More than anything I wanted in life was to be a normal teenager I wanted to experience nightlife, and experience letting go. 
But going out wasn't so easy. If we had decided that, that night we were going out to a nightclub I struggled to eat all day, at times I had to in any way force something down me at least before I left for the night so I wouldn't pass out. 
The night's events went a lot like: get ready, do my makeup, get dressed, do my hair all whilst pacing the house trying to burn off some of my adrenaline and push my anxiety away. Some nights I even did a yoga routine that for me really helped find a space in my mind to escape to and stay there until I was ready to come back to reality, it eased me into it and allowed me to take a step back and breathe. Eventually, things became easier that way. 
But for a good few weeks at the beginning of my course, I let my (at the time) new friend down several times, twice I remember texting him to tell him that I couldn't leave the house, I couldn't even explain why just that I felt sick and it wasn't going away. I'd let him know last minute right after we'd spent all night getting ready, not out of spite or because I didn't want to, it was because I did. I wanted to go so badly that I clung onto it and tried to push my anxiety out of the door and slam it shut but some nights it was so hard I didn't have the energy in me to fight it. 
I remember sitting on the stairs one night on Halloween building myself up to going out but I sat on the stairs feeling the only way I can describe as if an elephant was sitting on my chest. I couldn't move, I could barely breathe. Looking back it sounds crazy, crazy that I put myself through it every time but it made me stronger. Like I told you at the beginning the more you put yourself through something the more it gets easier, the more it breaks the anxiety cycle, not for everyone, nor every time but for a long time I worked on that. I put myself through it because I wanted to live a normal life, I wanted to go out and enjoy myself I hated that panic attacks had to pay a part in that. 
I'll say that one thing throughout my life is that I've always pushed myself to still persevere with the things I want to do no matter how bad I felt I'd still push myself to still do it. That's the thing with anxiety it's about that fight or flight feeling and for most of the time even now I always try to fight it best I can. It's easier said than done of course, and times I have felt awful in letting people down and for having to make excuses to leave or escape. 
I used to beat myself up constantly that I was a let down, or that I wasn't normal but the best thing to do is surround yourself with people who want to stick with you, persevere and don't mind if it takes you 3 hours to leave the house if you are having a panic or just hold your hand without saying anything. Like many people, I've heard say the same that being with another person during a panic attack and letting them speak helps to distract your mind, or like I said by simply just being, there still and quiet for me helped. In fact, for me, that was the best option the worst you can do in any situation when someone is having a panic is try and crowd them and make them feel smothered or keep asking them if they feel better because they most likely won't and won't for a while. 
It's not like a sneeze that passes and you say oh false alarm, sometimes you are in it for the long haul.

"like a sudden rush of water a panic attack came flooding over me, I couldn't make it stop. I remember the ground felt as if it was moving and walls were closing in, my heartbeat pulsing out of my chest and beating in my ears. I truly felt as if at that moment I was going to die."



One of the last and worst times I had a full blown anxiety attack was in London with Jay a night before we went to the Harry Potter Studios. We had just come back from spending the evening at Winter Wonderland and like a sudden rush of water a panic attack came flooding over me, I couldn't make it stop. I remember the ground felt as if it was moving and walls were closing in, my heartbeat pulsing out of my chest and beating in my ears. I truly felt as if at that moment I was going to die. I couldn't steady myself and I couldn't calm down. I was seconds away from ringing down to reception and asking them to call me an ambulance. That is the first time I truly understood the feeling of a full blown panic attack. As you remember from before I said that somehow panic attacks always show themselves in different ways and that was the first time I had no control over it whatsoever I let it have a hold of me. I remember the panic attack lasting a while even worrying we would have to cancel plans for the following day.
If it wasn't for Jay that night I wouldn't have coped, he told me to breathe and keep taking deep breaths, to ride it out until the worst of it was over until eventually, it settled.  

A real turning point for me with my anxiety was stumbling across a youtube video on no other than Zoella's channel. To this day I'm still thankful to her for allowing me to feel less alone. I remember the day I sat gobsmacked as I watched her video explaining the way her anxiety feels and being shocked that I too felt the EXACT same way. We had the same phobia within our anxiety and the way in which she described it explained everything perfectly. It's like that point where you are like, well SHIT, this all makes sense now. 
Of course, not everything did, I still got panic attacks after, I still never knew how to make them stop but the feeling of knowing I wasn't the only person in the world somehow made it better. 

I had a lot of ways I used to try and at least keep my panic attacks at bay I tried a lot of techniques like I mentioned yoga was one I used to try as I was older. 
Another thing I used to do to take my mind of them was to concentrate on certain objects, say if I was in a car I'd drive past a tree for example and I'd think about the way it might feel, what was its touch like, it's smell how did it make me feel. It sounds strange but for a little while, it distracts you from what is causing you to panic. Sometimes however it takes a lot to break your thoughts from your mind just going 'panic panic panic' and more often than not I didn't have the strength to fight I used to let it wash over me like an angry wave destroying me in its power but on days I felt stronger or had a mild panic I'd work on techniques. 
The thing that I learnt throughout time was that my panic attacks would sometimes creep up on me in new ways, I used to say it was like a power evolving it had new ways to creep in and do it's work before you could figure out how to stop it and that was really frustrating because a panic attack wasn't always caused by the same things. It was learning that they could happen at any time and I must be prepared for that. 
In the long run and even now that is what I do, I feel as though my body is always prepared or at least on alert in case one might arise. That's why I say relating to the title of this blog post that my anxiety will always be a part of me. I describe it as the villain in a film that keeps popping up when you think it has been defeated it rears its ugly head again. 

I'm lucky in saying that I don't suffer not least as bad as I used to. Over time my panic attacks have dispersed. At this moment in time, they only pop up every now and again. That's not to say I'll never be as bad as I was because I don't know that for sure once you know how something feels it's hard to break from that feeling. My panic attacks now are more like tremours I like to call them instead of a full-blown earthquake.

I should note that only once I visited the doctors to ask for advice only to leave with a leaflet but personally I've always been stubborn with getting help I've also wanted to get through things myself. I like to think I'm both lucky and strong in trying to deal with my panic attacks on my own, it sounds silly but I always felt like I had to do it that way in order to understand them. That's not to say in any way I suggest to other people to do the same. If you want to seek help or advice do it, in any way you can and pester the doctors until they give you the help and advice you need. 

I think that one thing I wanted to make clear of when doing this post and the message I wanted to send is that everyone's mental health is different we experience it in different ways, we cope with it in different ways, we overcome it in different ways it doesn't make us any less human. And we as humans don't know what other people are going through, I hid my anxiety tremendously well for the way I felt at times and days I would cry just wanting to feel normal again. 
You don't know what is going on in another person's mind, you can't control it, sometimes you can't help and it's painful to watch but being there for one another is so important. 
Your mental health doesn't own you. 

What's your opinion?

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@paige rhianne_