Tag Archives: ptsd

28 Self Care habits to stop anxiety in its tracks

Having an anxiety disorder I try to manage it myself. I personally don’t like myself on medication, but I absolutely don’t judge anyone who benefits from it. Different strokes for different folks and all that. What I am very keen on is self care.

I’ve had a lot of therapy and one common thing which has come up is that I understand myself, my problems and my triggers really, really well, which is great when it comes to managing myself more effectively. Understanding and recognising when things are going to start to slide is a big help, and once they do I have a whole raft of self care tricks up my sleeve. They don’t always work, but nine times out of ten I can head an episode of anxiety off at the pass these days.

There are five recognised areas of self care, these are –
  • Physical – sleep, food, exercise, medication etc
  • Spiritual – meditation, prayer, forgiveness
  • Lifestyle – routine, relaxation, time in nature, setting goals
  • People support – family, friends, therapist, church, support group
  • Emotional self care – positive thoughts, writing it out, dealing with and processing emotions such as grief.

28 Self Care habits which can stop anxiety in its tracks

28 Self Care habits to stop anxiety in its tracks

Ask someone for help. People you love will almost always want to help you, or at least hold your hand a little.

Bake something from scratch that will make you focus on the process of baking. Most baking or cooking from scratch is process driven and needs a little concentration and consideration, it’ll occupy and distract you and you’ll have a cake to eat and share afterwards.

Be in nature, go for a walk and enjoy the fresh air and gentle exercise. Try to find beautiful things to admire, like blossom on the trees, small flowers or fluffy clouds in the blue sky. Take notice of things.

Buy some flowers. Treat yourself to a bunch of your favourite blooms. They don’t have to be expensive. Right now I have a very cheery bunch of daffodils in a jug which smell fantastic and brighten up my home.

Cuddle a human. If you have a human to cuddle, a partner, a child, a parent, a friend, cuddling them can help soothe you. A therapist once told me if you hug someone and your heart is pressed against theirs, the hug has extra love and soothing power. I’ve tried it and I think she might have been right. If you can’t find a human, a cat or dog will be just as good.

Declutter. This has two benefits, you get a tidy house and the act of physically doing something and focusing on the task is great. My anxiety means that over the last few months, my drawers and cupboards have had a lot of attention and it’s quite pleasing to live with some order and no chaos.

Do something you’ve been putting off – grasp the nettle. Sometimes my anxiety is around something I need to do that causes me anxiety. It might be replying to an email or making a phone call, or just tackling something I don’t know how or where to start. Just finding the nerve to just do it can take the anxiety away.

Gardening – getting out in the fresh air is almost always good, digging, planting and creating a nice spot for you to sit in the garden with a cup of tea is never a waste of time.

Get crafting. This is something you can do at home. During a very bad spell a few years ago I took up cross stitch which was great, it really focused me on something other than the inside of my head. I’ve now joined a monthly craft club and sitting for a few hours and working on creating something new gives me one evening a month which I know will be anxiety free.

Go out with friends. Anxiety can make you feel really isolated and alone. Meeting friends for a quick coffee, or going for a night out will help to remind you of the good people around you. Surround yourself with good people if you can, they can make such a difference to you.

Go to bed early. Insomnia, poor sleep patterns and anxiety go hand in hand. Sometimes when I’m anxious I won’t sleep a wink for days. Sometimes all I want to do is sleep. If you can sleep, then an early night and stocking up on a bit of precious rest can help.

28 Self Care habits which can stop anxiety in its tracks

Go to the seaside. I find being near water very restful. I live by the river, so a walk by the river can help soothe me, a lake is good too, but a walk on the beach, even a blowy wintery beach really calms the mind.

Have a bubble bath. Wind down with a warm bubble bath, light candles and create a restful atmosphere. Close your eyes and relax, or take a good book in with you to keep you company.

Listen to music. Music for most people has the ability to lift moods and put a spring in your step. I find some music empowering, some comforting, some makes me happy and some makes me sad. Make a playlist of your favourite songs and listen to them when you need a mood lift.

Make a plan. Having something to look forward to, be it something big like a holiday, or something small like a night out with friends, can give my chaotic mind something to focus on. Having something I really want to do on the horizon can give me something to focus on and aim for.

Meditate. Meditation, breathing exercises, yoga, all of that can help you clear your mind and give you some respite from the constant chatter of anxiety. Look on YouTube, download an app or join a class. There will be something out there that will suit you and help you find a bit of inner calm.

Mindful colouring can be great for adults. Mindful colouring books and magazines are widely available and when my mind is really racing, sitting down for an hour and focusing on colouring in can take my anxiety down a notch or two.

Pamper yourself. Give yourself a manicure, pop on a face mask or book yourself in to a salon for a treatment. It’s easy to neglect yourself, especially if you’re feeling negative about yourself. Giving yourself a little pamper can make you feel a bit brighter about things. If I’m down I will dye my hair a cheery colour and it makes me feel a bit less grey and dowdy.

Remove toxic relationships/people from your life. If someone is having a negative impact on you and your life, then you need to start taking steps to remove them from your life, or minimise contact with them. These people are often the trigger for anxiety and removing the trigger can make a huge difference to your long-term mental health.

Say no. If you find yourself saying yes to people or things because you don’t want to let people down or disappoint them, but really you’d much rather say no. Maybe you need to look at why you’re saying yes and what you are getting out of the situation. Maybe it’s ok for you to say no to a few things. It really is ok for you to put yourself first sometimes.

Sing. You don’t have to get on stage and sing, you can sing in the shower, or in a choir, or at church or a concert. Sing along to your favourite songs, let yourself go and sing, sing, sing. You’ll feel better for belting out a tune.

Change your routine. If you can shake up your routine a bit, do. Walk a different route to work. Do something different during your lunch break. Take an afternoon off and go to a gallery, walk in the park. Find something you’d not normally watch on TV that someone has recommended and give it a try. Step out from what you’d normally do and try something a bit different.

Take a social media break / digital detox. I find at times social media can be a bit overwhelming. If it’s not the contact messages, it’s checking likes, it’s feeling bad about the number of likes, and it’s comparing myself to other people and feeling inadequate. Stepping away for a day, a week or forever can be a really healthy thing to do. Sometimes when it all gets too much I delete the apps on my phone rather than deleting the account. That way I can access things if I want to, but they’re not there on my phone, throwing up notifications and vying for my attention. Stepping away for a few days can help to refocus me on the important things in my life and just gives me space.

How to keep track of your Social Media Followers

Turn off your phone. Being available 24 hours a day is all very well and good, but there are certain times when the phone needs to be turned off or put away. Family mealtimes are a time to focus on each other. I try not to use my phone on the school run, so I can fully focus on my son and what he has to say. Turn it off an hour or so before bed and give yourself time to disconnect before bed. Plus it’ll help you wind down for sleep too!

Watch TV or a film. Turning you mind off and watching something that really interests you for a few hours is great self care. Watching a favourite film can be as comforting as putting on an old pair of slippers. Think about what your favourite film is, which film always makes you feel warm and fuzzy, or helps you process feelings of anger. Which film puts you in your happy place? Dig out the DVD, grab some popcorn and treat yourself.

Wear comfortable comforting clothes. I have some clothes in my wardrobe which make me feel better for wearing them; an especially snuggly cardigan, a nice pair of pyjamas or a special jumper. Equally, I have clothes I wear when I need to feel confident. Clothes maketh the man (or woman), so if you need to, dig out your snuggly cardigan, or your uber-confident jacket and put them on.

Write a letter to someone. My postman mostly delivers bank statements and bills. Last year, fed up with the number of brown envelopes on my doormat, I asked if any of my Twitter followers wanted me to write them a good old-fashioned letter. Five people said they’d like that very much; so I sat down and wrote five chatty letters and popped them in the post. They were thrilled and I was equally thrilled when they wrote back. It was a lovely feeling to correspond with someone, like the good old days. What was lovely was to sit down and think of lots of nice, happy, chatty things to talk about it my letters. It helped me focus on the good and the positive. Having a pen-pal is a wonderful thing.

Tell people what they mean to you. I’m a lover. I’m always telling people what they mean to me. Friends and family get told I love them all the time. People who help me get thanked and told how much they’ve made my life easier. It’s not fake, it’s genuinely meant. Sometimes I feel like no one cares about me or appreciates what I do, so leading by example, I tell people what they mean to me. Someone has to start spreading the love, why not let that start with you?

Do you have any self care habits which help you?

28 Self Care habits which can stop anxiety in its tracks

A weird thing happened in the park today

Today I met some friends and their kids in the park for a picnic. It’s half term here and we wanted to try encourage the kids to run some off their excess energy. I had a lovely time, we all had a lovely time.

After a couple of hours we were ready for a coffee, so we ambled over to the cafe in the park and sat outside and watched the kids playing. We were chatting and one of my friends pointed at a woman in the distance and waved. She came over and said hello, we were introduced to each other and she recognised me. She reads my blog! (Hello Sarah *waves*). It’s weird to be recognised.

It’s weird being recognised. I’m not famous, or special, or especially gifted in any particular way. But when I write blog posts, I know people will read them, but I don’t imagine they will. Sometimes hundreds or thousands of people will read the words I write, these words I write, but when I sit at my laptop and write about my thoughts or feelings, or my struggle with my anxiety, I don’t imagine for one single second someone will actually read it or relate to it. But they do. 

Sometimes when I’m pouring my thoughts and feelings out onto my keyboard, someone will read my words and relate to them. Knowing that you are not the only one having these thoughts and feelings can actually really help. I’m not actually helping anyone, I don’t have a cure or a magic bullet to make anyone feel better about themselves, least of all me, but not being alone in feeling anxious or depressed and not feeling so alone can be some comfort. 

I don’t write about my mental health because I’m attention seeking. I don’t do it for clicks or to win awards (because I’ve not won any for a start). I don’t do it so people will pat me on the head and say there there. I write about my mental health because it gets it out of my head and articulating my thoughts and feelings makes me feel better inside.

When I started blogging, about 80% of what I wrote about was awful dirge about the spiralling mess my life was in. That percentage has thankfully dropped and my blog posts about my mental health hopefully read less like a girl falling into an abyss, but a woman who is more in control of things and able to mostly nip things in the bud before worrying things happen. And I thank my blog for that, for the most part anyway.

I guess what I’m wittering on about in my round-about kind of way is talk. There’s no shame in having anxiety or depression, or whatever. Find someone to talk to, find an outlet for all the swirling thoughts in your head and I promise once you open up in whatever way suits you best, you will start to decode the things inside your head. You will figure out your triggers and the things to do and the things to avoid. You will be better, not cured but better.

Things won’t always be as dark as they can be. Talk about it, open up, write a blog. Who knows, you might even get to be as not-famous as me one day.

A weird thing happened today in the park thoughts and feelings

If you’re interested in reading more posts about Mental Health and general thoughts and feelings on the matter, my blog posts can be found here.

I will not be beaten by my Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

In 2012 I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, commonly known as PTSD. I was given pills and then more or less was left to get on with it. There were two episodes in my life which were the triggers for my PTSD, both occurred in hospitals. One was an assault and the other is the result of a traumatic birth and a poorly baby. 

For me my PTSD symptoms centre around hyper-vigilance, flashbacks, anxiety and panic attacks. The events which brought on the PTSD happened in 2009/2010 and it wasn’t until mid 2010 that I became symptomatic. Before the first incident I was calm, level headed and strong. When things began to change I felt out of control, anxious and weak.

My son was born in November 2010. His birth was traumatic. In the week afterwards he was subjected to a battery of tests, one of them was a stress test which went on for a couple of hours. Hearing his screams echoing down the hospital corridors haunts my dreams. Just writing it now, I’m reliving it in my head and my chest has tightened and I can’t breathe.

Since my diagnosis in 2012 I have worked hard to find ways of coping with my Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and self care is at the heart of a lot of what I do for myself. Pouring my thoughts and feelings out and into my laptop is one of the things I find really helps me. 

Last night I was triggered over a very small silly thing. On twitter I shared a small anecdote about the time I met a very minor celeb (who was in the news) outside a pub. I remarked that his behaviour when I met him was edgy and unsettling. Someone I’d known on twitter a while got snappy with me about it. I obviously touched a nerve with her, although my tweet was innocuous enough.

It got me thinking about why this very minor celeb had unsettled me. Finding the root of the things which bother me or trigger me is something I’ve started to do over the last few years. Doing this is the only way I can confront and deal with the bits of dark inside me which will help me to heal.

After some thought (at 2am, never ever a good time for deep thinking) I realised I was unsettled by the celeb as his demeanour was almost identical to the man who assaulted me. He was edgy and dangerously unpredictable. I doubt the celeb would have laid a finger on me, but remembering the assault triggered a panic attack, which triggered some flashbacks, which meant I was too worried about having nightmares to go to sleep. And now the PTSD, anxiety, flashbacks, hyper-vigilance, insomnia cycle has kicked itself off inside me.

More than 12 hours after a something or nothing throwaway comment on twitter I’m now swimming through the sludge of PTSD. I’m trying to keep a lid on my rising panic, but every time I close my eyes I’m back in that clinic room. I’m not sure what to do for the best. I think a good walk and some air will help. I might distract myself with some baking and new puppy cuddles. I need to somehow turn my brain off from thinking and reliving.

But this is what it’s like. You think you’re doing alright keeping control of your demons. Holding things together when the big stuff goes wrong in your life. You take a step back from the things which you know will trigger you, look after yourself and do all the good self care things you know will keep you on track. Then out of nowhere something small and insignificant throws a lego brick under your bare feet and you have a wobble.

A wobble is all it is, I’m sure of it. But it’s a wobble all the same. A Post Traumatic Stress Disorder wobble which will not beat me.

I will not let my Post Traumatic Stress Disorder win

Mental Health Update: I’d rather be happy than normal

People keep saying to me “look at all you’ve been through, look at all you’ve survived, you’re stronger than most”. But I don’t feel strong or stronger than the average person. I just feel human. I don’t think I’ve really gone through more things than the average person does in their life, maybe my bad things have all been squished together into a shorter timeframe. I’d like to think so, if that’s what’s happened, the next few years should be fantastically carefree. But I doubt it.

I’ve spent this evening reading back through old blog posts. Reading the thoughts and feelings I had in 2013/14 when I was really struggling with my mental health and anxiety. To this day I’ve no real idea how I didn’t do myself a serious mischief, but I had good friends who kept me in line as best they could. Without my friends I would have been a complete disaster.

Looking back has given me the chance to reflect on how far I’ve come and how incredibly stable I am these days. I’m quite a bit more boring too, but I think a bit of boring suits me right now.

I’ve always enjoyed going out and painting the town red, but after my Dad died in June I had a word with myself and for the sake of my sanity I decided to focus on my family more and not go out as much, after all, they were grieving just as much as I was. It’s a tactic which has paid off, we are all closer, good things are happening and home feels like a great place to be right now.

I’ve been trying to be an uber-mum and a wonder-wife. Importantly, I’ve been trying to be kinder to myself. I’ve had spa weekends with friends, the occasional night out, a wonderful weekend away with my husband. I’ve had a trip to River Cottage, I’ve taken the boy on some magical adventures and I’ve just done things which make my heart glad. I have plans for more things which will make me and my family happy too.

For years my life has been without balance. There’s a lot of talk about work-life balance and I’ve had it wrong all along. Before Ben came along I worked hard and played hard. Once he arrived I began to struggle to be the girl who loved work, enjoyed going out, to be the wife and the mother, the girl who could do it all. It quickly became apparent that I couldn’t do it all and that I was human after all. Fate intervened and the balance shifted, but I still didn’t have it right.

To be the best me I can be I need to up my mum game. I need to be a better, more supportive wife. I need not to work as hard. I need long walks in the fresh air and decent coffee. I need laughter and love. I need my friends and I need to spend more time doing the things that make me happy, rather than the things I’ve felt I needed to do just to get by. I think focussing on being happy rather than my to do list will eventually force the balance to shift.

It’s good to look back sometimes, to see the person I was and to compare and contrast with the Jane who is sitting here today. I am different. I’m stronger, maybe a little jaded and frayed around the edges. But I’m so proud of myself for pulling myself out of the mire and for just putting one foot in front of the other at a time when that felt almost impossible.

It would’ve been so easy to throw in the towel. I’m glad I didn’t because where I am today is so far beyond how I was back then. I’m no stronger than anyone else, I’m no more resilient. I’m just human and we are born to survive.

Mental Health Update: I'd rather be happy than normal - stronger

Anxiety spiral. Make it stop.

I feel like a bit of a fraud. There are people around me with real problems making a better fist of this life than me. Yes, ok so I got dealt a bad hand, but life could be a helluva lot worse and I feel like I’m full of first world problems and petty rubbish.

Right now I’m feeling overwhelmed by life. Struggling to cling onto the safety raft, my fingers keep slipping and I keep floating away before someone grabs me and pulls me back. Drowning, I feel like I’m drowning. I’ve felt like this for a couple of weeks, I did think that it was hormonal, but I don’t think it is, not entirely. I did think it was because I’d had a big drink one night, and maybe that didn’t help, because it does negatively affect my mood. I just think I’m overwhelmed and instead of methodically working my way through everything, my brain has just thrown me into the anxiety deep end with a dodgy floatation device.

Here I am, struggling to focus, struggling to breathe, my mind racing and racing and racing. There are real people with real problems and I can’t breathe and I feel so selfish. Anxiety makes you selfish though. It makes you want to scream out and stamp your feet, it overwhelms you and takes over everything you think and do. I’m in another anxiety spiral and I’m tumbling and tumbling through it all. Trapped in the rip tide and I can’t escape it.

The self care kicks in. Pills for sleep. Pills for pain. Caffeine to wake me up. Go for a walk. Walk, keep walking, breathe the fresh air, walk, breathe, walk, repeat until calmer. Do something nice, hug the small boy, laugh together, watch the stars in the sky. Remember how small you are in the universe and how big and important you are to some people. Walk, breathe, walk, love. Be loved. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat until calm.

Repeat until calm. Repeat until calm.

Repeat.

Anxiety spiral

Healing, happiness and the beauty of my recovery

I was sat in the autumn sunshine at the weekend. I was feeling happy. It’s a rare feeling for me, any happy I have usually has a small undercurrent of my ever present anxiety running through it. But the sun was shining, I had a pint in my hand, was in great company and I felt relaxed and happy. Carefree almost.

I sipped my drink as I listened to my companions chatting away, it was warm and I was wearing a t-shirt. I’m not so self conscious of my scars these days, they’re part of me and my history and whilst I regret one or two of them, I don’t hate them so much.

The sun lit up the silvery lines of my scars and made them shimmer slightly in the bright light. For a moment I ran my hand across them, trying to hide them or rub them out so the others wouldn’t see, but I can’t erase them, so I paused and made a conscious choice to admire their beauty rather than be ashamed of them. I looked at the shimmering silver on my arms, like rivulets of precious metal running over my flesh and I was reminded of Kintsugi.

Kintsugi is the Japanese art of fixing broken pottery with gold, silver or platinum. It literally means “golden joinery”. It’s a beautiful thing and rather plain and ordinary bowls and dishes become breathtaking and rather astonishing works of art when they are repaired in this way. I am Kintsugi. I am an ordinary thing made beautiful by my scars; the rivulets my of scars in shades of silver and platinum show the world my recovery. They tell everyone how I am healed and that I am stronger because of these shimmering silver lines, not in spite of them.

I am Kintsugi. I am beautiful.

healing

I will write hard and clear about what hurts

Sometimes I sit at this laptop and write words, sentences, paragraphs, essays about my pain. My physical pain less so, but my emotional, mental pain is often eased by writing those words down so that someone, anyone will read them and hear me and understand my pain and suffering.

I feel very selfish writing that about MY pain and MY suffering, but my mental health makes me selfish in that respect. I am in almost every other aspect of my life selfless, but my illness makes me selfish for wanting to be heard.

When I write about MY pain I am writing MY story. Everyone has a story, ten people trapped in a room together will share a story, commonalities, but their individual accounts will differ. It doesn’t mean that the other nine people are wrong and I am right. This is MY truth. Their version is their truth and I’m fine with that.

When I sit at my laptop, sometimes choking on my tears, or chewing my lip raw with anxiety, I tell my story, I spew out my pain, my shame, my demons onto the screen knowing that someone somewhere will relate and they will often reach out, and together, even for a few minutes we know we are not alone feeling these feelings and thinking those thoughts.

I have no doubt that since writing this blog nearly two years ago I have scared some old friends off, I’m too candid for them or they are scared of my darkness. Equally I know for a fact that I have made far more friends for being open and being me than I have lost.

Sometimes what I write can be raw and emotional, or too near the knuckle for some, but that’s how it is inside me, in fact some of my writing only hints at the darkness inside because I am mindful of who may read this now and in the future and that my words are a record, but a record of MY truth alone.

I will continue to write as Hemmingway suggested, I will “write hard and clear about what hurts” because I will not be ashamed of what I feel, I will not hide away in the shadows because my mental illness is somehow shameful to others. I speak for me and I will not be forced to be ashamed of myself. I have enough demons of my own to slay without being stigmatised by others.

Do not start with me, you will not win.

write hard and clear about what hurts

Mental Health Update: Opening up old wounds

After languishing for an epic 19 months on the psychological services waiting list, my day finally arrived. I was called up for an appointment with a psychiatric nurse who was going to assess me, I’d still have to wait months and months to receive any treatment, but it was a very slow step in hopefully the right direction.

With anxiety being my middle name, I sat in the waiting room struggling to breathe, tears pricking my eyes and a huge lump in my throat as I struggled to stay calm, or calm enough to articulate myself properly. I just wanted to make myself heard and after 19 months I felt I needed to be heard.

Over those 19 months I’d been left to cope on my own, leaning on a select bunch of close friends for support when I needed it, retreating into myself when I had to, and trying to manage my behaviour and change the way I coped with things to make them less harmful and more positive.

I have struggled to curtail my go to solution, which was to drink copious amounts of alcohol, I’ve started to try and eat better and take some exercise when I felt able to, I’ve largely stopped self harming, and when I feel myself dropping down into depression, or swirling into anxiety, I’ve reached out to friends to help centre me. These are all quite positive steps. Steps I’ve learned to take myself having had no support from my GP or local mental health services during that time.

It’s not all been good though. In order to cope on a daily basis I’ve returned to old habits, swallowing down my feelings, burying them away so I can’t think about them and I can’t acknowledge them. I had no outlet for them, no one qualified to help me deal with them, process them, accept them and move on. So they have been locked away, with a few extra shards of pain added over the years for good measure.

My appointment was the first part of a two session long psychiatric assessment process. The nurse (who was lovely) had a big file of paperwork to go though, but allowed me to talk at my own pace about what my problems were, asking some questions and wanting more detail on certain points.

I had a big snotty cry for a good hour, which was basically the whole of my psychiatric assessment. Thoughts and feelings which I’d locked away and kept hidden from myself for so long were suddenly naked and exposed to the light, highlighting my shame and self hatred. Today I touched on pain I’d not acknowledged, or allowed myself to acknowledge for years.

I know I need to open myself and my problems up to the light, but it is so incredibly painful and I wonder if some of it will do more harm than good. I’m writing this 12 hours after my appointment, I feel drained and a bit confused. When I got home I hastily shoved everything back in the box and buried it all deep down again, I just can’t let it escape, not yet, not without someone there to catch me.

I’ve got the second part of my psychiatric assessment next week, I’ll open that box again and I’ll cry my little heart out. I know it will be months and months before I can access some help. But until then I’ll carry on as I have been doing, because despite everything I’m actually doing ok.

psychiatric assessment

Mental Health: What does a Panic Attack feel like?

I’m having a panic attack, I’m not sure why. Today has been a pretty good day, got lots done, sorted lots of stuff out for work and at home. It was a bit stressful in parts but nothing I couldn’t handle.

An hour ago I went to bed, hunkered down and closed my eyes, maybe I thought a little about my day as I tried to drift off, but then a nightmare I remember having last year flashed through my head and every time I close my eyes I can see it. So I can’t close my eyes and now I’m having a panic attack.

Mental Health: What does a Panic Attack feel like?

I’m lying in bed, twitching and trembling, scratching away at my skin until it’s raw again. My chest is tight, tightening, getting tighter and I can’t catch a breath. I grab the iPad by my bed to distract me, it works for a bit and I calm down a fraction, I close my eyes and the nightmare flashes through my head again, this time with images of the bodies of people I love contorted in death.

That’s a clue, a hint as to part of what’s going on, it’s too horrible and personal to openly discuss on my blog, but I’m part of a community in mourning, of mothers fearing for the futures of their children.

I’m jittery, scared to close my eyes, scared to sleep, I can’t get the nightmare out of my head, nor the images. I’m lying here in bed writing this, my hands are shaking as I tap the keys, my breathing shallow andrapid, I want to get out of here but I can’t, I want to walk and walk and walk until it either all makes sense or I’m exhausted and I need to sleep. This is what happens when panic attacks.

Fight or flight, fight or flight. I’d choose flight but I have to stay and fight. I don’t feel like there’s anything that’ll calm me down right now. I could go walking for miles but I can’t do that, I can’t leave the house. So I’ll stay and write, write it all out of my head. I’ll try not to close my eyes, try not to think, overthink, just find peace. Fight of flight? Can’t do either so I’ll write.

Mental Health: What does a Panic Attack feel like?

Read more of my mental health posts here.

Why I Self Medicated with Alcohol for My Anxiety

A year ago when I was just a big ball of anxiety and self medicating with alcohol, those who had trodden the anxiety path before me warned me that alcohol and anxiety don’t mix. I ignored them because I knew better, and besides, there was nothing else on offer to help me, no pills, no strategies, no therapy. They came eventually, but I needed a beer or three to get me through.

The main problem with mixing alcohol with an anxiety disorder, is while the alcohol perks you up, stops you spiralling, levels you out; the morning after your mood drops, the booze messes with your serotonin levels, it dehydrates you and makes you miserable. You might also have drunk enough to make some poor choices. You’re hungover, moody, anxious and now you’ve got guilt about what you did last night too.

The really rubbish thing about self medicating with alcohol is that if you do it for long enough you could end up being an alcoholic. Cards on the table, I like a drink, there’ve been times in the past year where I’ve needed to drink. I’ve binged and binged often. A few people have suggested I have a problem, that I might be a social alcoholic. I don’t think I am, but then that makes me a bit of a cliche, denying it doesn’t it? I don’t drink much any more and I don’t self medicate with alcohol these days. My nights out are rare and I never drink alone in the house.

I’m largely on top of my troubles these days. I have the odd wobble, but I’ve got a fairly sound self-care routine that I can slip into when I need to. It’s human to feel sad or anxious, but it’s when these feelings bubble up beyond normal levels then I need to be watchful of myself.

Why am I writing this? Last night I went out with friends, I intended to have two or three beers and leave it at that. I ended up drinking far more than I planned to. I made a little bit of an idiot of myself and staggered home. I’ve spent the day in bed because I was too hungover to move, and my mood has gradually sunk through the floor.

The anxiety which occasionally bugs me is in full force, I’m practically fizzing with it; my breathing is rapid, I can’t sit still, I can’t focus on anything, I’m a mess. My head is full of negative thoughts, there’s a constant chatter of self hate in my head right now. At first it confused me, why was I feeling like this? Then I remembered alcohol is a depressant and I was able to rationalise what was happening in my head. It’s just chemical reactions, but they’re really messing with me.

A year ago I didn’t know how to stop it and the spiral would continue. These days I’m better equipped to deal with it. Hopefully I’ll self-care my way out of it. I know that chances are I’ll be ok in a few days; but the worry, the fear is always there that my full on anxiety will return and then I’ll be in trouble. This is why I hardly drink these days. I’ve come so far, I don’t ever want to go back.

Mental Health: Why alcohol and anxiety don't mix