Saturday, March 8, 2014

Mental Health - Just Another Taboo?

Today I thought I'd talk about something a little more serious but very close to my heart. Not many people give much thought to their own mental health, and I have noticed that it is still one of those issues that people are still incredibly uncomfortable discussing be it due to their own misconceptions or because they simply do not want to talk about it.

I suppose the real question here should be why? 

I am not embarrassed to admit to you that I am a long time sufferer of anxiety, albeit it has only been in the last few years that I have received a diagnosis for my condition. It is important to know from the start that anxiety is a fear of something going wrong in the future; this need not be something entirely within the sufferers control.

Now, I am NOT sharing this information with you because I want attention or sympathy but because I hope that by shedding some light on my own personal situation, it might encourage others to be more open.

If I told you that an act as simple as talking can actually be incredibly beneficial to an anxiety sufferer, would that change your perception of it?

What is difficult for someone like me is to actually open up to people in the first place. In the past, I would worry about absolutely everything from the usual issues such as money and being content in the workplace to things which may seem incredibly trivial, even silly to the lay person such as increasing bills and even had concerns regarding matters which were totally outside of my control.

Even now, when speaking aloud about things which place me on edge such as very last minute trips out for dinner I can see why someone might see that as silly and fail to understand the logic behind such thinking.

I shall save you some time however in confirming that you don't need to understand the logic, all you really need to do is listen, not judge and help me work through things.

I am fully aware that a phobia of last minute trips will not do me any harm, will be unlikely to damage my bank balance, will allow me the opportunity to socialise and let my hair down, heck, I might even come to really enjoy myself. In all honesty I know that the worst thing that could happen is that I'll have a bad time. 

At my worst I was suffering from many of the common symptoms:
  • Headaches
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Loss of appetite
  • Increased heart rate
  • Hot & cold sweats
  • Dizzyness
  • Loss of confidence
I struggled with my work, and a lack of sleep meant that I was more self-conscious than ever. It was a pretty vicious cycle which really prevented me from living my life.

I took a stand and decided I needed help which was when I went to my GP who helped me with a combination of therapy and medication. I was incredibly lucky in that my other half was incredibly supportive throughout my therapy and was more than happy to listen, not once did he make me feel that I was being irrational or stupid.

I found that I was already doing a lot of things correctly;

Exercising regularly as this releases endorphins which help to counteract the negative chemicals which affect your mood.

Eating lots of fruit and vegetables and ensuring I only consumed one or two cups of tea per day which help to avoid crashing sugar levels which can lead to increased anxiety.

Avoiding alcohol as this is a known depressant and can obviously make you feel considerably worse.

I got spiritual! I am quite lucky in that there is a Buddhist Temple close by where the Monks are more than happy to teach some basic meditation techniques and listen to any issues which you have.

The positive mentality of Buddhists led to me doing quite a lot of research into Buddhism in general and some of the key philosophies involved. At the moment I really need to grab some more literature as I am feeling a wee bit frazzled! 

Following my therapy, I now only take medication as and when I feel particularly agitated. As a result I have been able to move forward and enjoy my life again and I'm not worrying so much.

I can be honest and say, I still have my little ticks and situations which I know make me feel apprehensive, however, my medication is there if I am in a pickle and need a little more help.

Other things that I am trying to do to help me improve further include learning how to relax as this is something I've always struggled with.Yoga has helped in this respect and I am learning to mediate as I have mentioned above.

Failing this, a good old fashioned bath is certainly one way to switch off.

Setting myself small attainable goals; I know that last minute events lead me to become apprehensive. As such, to get past this I can set little goals such as organising something a few days before with little planning with a view to working towards being a little more spontaneous.

Whilst I am not there yet, I know I am a heck of a lot better now than I have ever been.

If you are a sufferer, please don't be afraid to speak out! If you need help, there are a lot of great resources such as Anxiety UK, your GP, local support groups and even me.

I hope you've found this helpful!


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