For those of you that have read my last blog post you’ll know I’ve been suffering with severe anxiety since the birth of my daughter in 2016. Suffering is defined the the Oxford English Dictionary as “The state of undergoing pain, distress, or hardship.” This is definitely the right word to describe what I’ve been enduring. I hadn’t even felt like I was living but merely existing.
However over the past 6 weeks things have been brighter. Yes, the anxiety is still there but not at the severity it was. I’m not counting my chickens before they hatch though as my husband has been off work a lot due to recovering from some surgery during this time. When my husband is home I feel the pressure is off me to feel solely responsible for my daughter, so I’m nervous about what will happen when he returns to work in a few weeks time.
However, for now, I am delighted to say I am experiencing moments of pure joy. I’ve been feeling happy. My daughter’s second birthday in December was one of the happiest days I’ve spent with her. Over the past few years anxiety has enveloped me so much I often said to my family, friends and mental health team that I couldn’t feel any other emotions. Now though, I finally can see light at the end of the tunnel of a life filled with a whole range of emotions, not just anxiety. Before, I honestly could only see a life of physical (I live with chronic pain) and mental pain ahead of me. I feel more optimistic now. I’ve been able to be present in the moment more rather than ruminating over the past or fearing the future constantly. There are times when I gave up hope, when I didn’t believe my husband, my friends or my mental health team that my anxiety levels would ever improve but for now they have. My anxiety hasn’t vanished, and it’s an unrealistic expectation to ever hope to your yourself completely of anxiety as it’s an emotion that is part of being human. Everybody experiences anxiety sometimes. My anxiety is still constantly there and at a level where it is impacting my quality of life negatively, but it’s not unwaveringly overwhelming me like it did for so long. For the first time in years I feel hopeful about my future. I’m thankful to myself for my constant dedication to my mental health and wellbeing. For me this means;
- Good sleep hygiene – I think the number one most important thing I think for anyones mental health is good sleep.
- Avoiding stimulants like caffeine.
- Daily meditation. I’ve been keeping up with my almost daily mediations (my prefered type are mindfulness body scan meditations).
- Trying my best to live mindfully (be present in the moment).
- Carrying on with activities even when I feel extremely anxious e.g. going to toddler groups, meeting up with friends.
- Being honest with my family and mental health team about how I feel, especially when I feel suicidal.
- Taking my medication.
- Having a most balanced view of things, noticing the good things not just the bad. Part of what helped me achieve this I believe, was for four months I recorded daily all the positive things that happened in my day. In CBT we talk about a negative filter, meaning sometimes people only notice the negative things in life and the positives pass them by. I was definitely viewing life through a negative filter, but not anymore.
- Challenging my thoughts. I filled in thought records, a tool we use in CBT to challenge negative automatic thoughts. Although this didn’t have an impact on my physical anxiety symptom of dread in my abdomen it helped to get the thoughts on paper and “out of my head”. When I get the same recurring thoughts, I tell myself they’re already on the paper. I used the Thought Record Sheet: 7 column (scroll down to download it) By clicking on this link you can also read about challenging your thoughts from the wonderful resource that is https://www.getselfhelp.co.uk/index.html
- Eating three meals a day even when my appetite is very poor.
- Making time for things I enjoy, e.g. reading, watching television, eating out with friends and family, going to the cinema.
- Limiting the time I spend on screens so I can be more present in my life and in the moment.
- Remembering and putting into practice things I have learnt in therapy.
As ever I am so thankful for my ongoing support from my wonderful family, friends and mental health team. Thank you just doesn’t seem enough.
One of my favourite quotes that has kept me going in my darkest times is;
“If you’re going through hell, keep going.” – Winston Churchill
I wish that for anyone who is reading this that is hopeless, that by sharing my experience I can give you even the smallest shine of light at the end of your tunnel.