Not long ago I was in a world of pain – it wasn’t physical or visible, nobody can really see anxiety. I even questioned whether I wanted to live anymore. That scared me the most, I didn’t want to end my life but I desperately wanted the pain to stop.
Let me give you a run down on what a day in my life was like…my anxiety had escalated to the point that I was experiencing daily panic attacks. For those who don’t know what it feels like, imagine you can’t find your child in a crowd or have a near car accident – then imagine feeling that way all the time.
After a night of panic filled dreams I’d wake up tired, anxious and fearful of having a panic attack at work. I worried that others would see me panic and judge me as out of control. Of course, the more I worried the worse it got. Anxiety feeds anxiety.
Each day I had to force myself to go to work. I knew that if I didn’t I’d lose even more control and might never leave the house again. At work I’d often check the clock to see how long it would be until I could retreat to the relative safety of home.
Once home I’d feel safe for about a minute and then start to worry about tomorrow. Sunday nights were the worst, I had a whole week of anxiety to look forward to. Don’t even get me started on social events, I would start worrying about those days in advance.
In a nutshell, I was exhausted. I tried doctors, psychologists, medication, self-medicating (drinking alcohol). However, booze is a depressant and affects sleep quality, ultimately it made the anxiety even worse. I tried to sleep a lot hoping it would help me recover, it didn’t and ironically sometimes I didn’t sleep all night because I was worrying about not sleeping.
When I look back now it’s no wonder I was trying to find a way out, I wasn’t living and I barely existed. On the outside everything looked perfect. I had material comforts, a good job and friends but on the inside I felt like I was dying.
In retrospect, I know that what powered my anxiety was trying to hide it. Anxiety loves to rob your self-esteem and convince you you’re a freak. This coupled with stigma stopped me from talking about it. While awareness is growing, there is always people who will tell you to ‘just eat more kale and have a good night’s sleep’ as if it’s all in your imagination (Tip – this is unhelpful, anxiety is not just a bad day). As a result, I silently lived with anxiety on a daily basis for another 3 years.
Eventually I had welts on my body, lost my appetite and had frequent stomach upsets. My adrenal glands were working overtime and stress hormones were set on maximum output, I couldn’t find the off button. That’s when the suicide thoughts started. I had hit my rock bottom.
I have had anxiety most of my life, sometimes less sometimes more, but I have many memories of life without anxiety and these memories saved me. I reasoned that if I had felt anxiety-free once, surely I could feel that way again.
So I embarked on a mission. I told my partner who provided a supportive environment and would talk me through difficult times. I read everything I could about anxiety & panic disorders and completed a heap of personal development courses. I learnt how exercise & nutrition directly affects your mental health and began to eat better and exercise regularly. I finally found a great counsellor to keep me on track. Just like a personal trainer, you need to find one that is the right fit for you. Step by step I got better. Eventually my life did a complete 180.
Within a few months I was openly talking about my anxiety and panic history. I discovered a passion for healthy living, became a qualified Personal Trainer and Coach and started a new business. I was so grateful for the help I’d received I wanted to support others to take back control of their mental & physical health.
I also learnt that my heightened energy and anxiety levels actually have a bright side. My partner calls it my ‘super power’, when harnessed well it empowers me to accomplish amazing things. Best of all, my journey has taught me compassion. No matter how we appear or what physical comforts we may have, we all face challenges and they’re not always visible to others. Regardless, we all deserve to feel loved.
If you are worried about your mental health or that of a friend or family member, here is information about some services available.
Coach Ange Gawthorne