Friday, 9 March 2018

Becoming More Acquainted With My Mental Health

Black and white photo of a silhouette of a man in a tunnel

We've recently had some pretty bad news in my family, and because of it, over the past few weeks, I've learned more about myself and my anxiety.

I've had some distressing news, and my anxiety has been triggered. This seems to be a thing with me. Apart from the time when we had financial difficulties which triggered my anxiety, and then the fear, before diagnosis, of having anxiety which made the anxiety worse, my anxiety mostly comes out of nowhere. By which I mean, I'm not having continual, panicky, illogical thoughts that are triggering my anxiety. I can be fine - reading a book, watching TV, shelving at work, cooking dinner - just doing normal things, really, and then, out of nowhere, I'll get the tightness in my chest, soon followed by the difficulty breathing if I can't keep myself calm.

This is much how things were when I first started experiencing anxiety, when we were told that my Nan's cancer was terminal. If you'd asked me before then how I would react on hearing my Nan was dying, I would have told you I would fall apart; that I'd be a complete and utter mess. And though I was a mess for a few days, I got over it fairly quickly. I think that was down to the a fact that she had six months, so I didn't want to think about it. I wasn't in denial, but I decided that she's going to be here for around for a while, and it would be better to enjoy the time I had with her, than be an emotional wreck. So I was... not happy, but ok, a lot sooner than I expected.

Although, while I was emotionally ok, my health was a different matter. I wasn't sleeping, my migraines were becoming more frequent, my arms would go numb without warning (which I later learned is due to hyperventilating, and that you can hyperventilate without realising), and then I had my first few panic attacks.

This time round, a similar thing is happening. During a time when I'm not quite as devastated emotionally as I would expect, my anxiety is making an appearance. I was feeling anxious every few days, but now it seems to be every day. And today in particular, a constant tightness in my chest that isn't letting up, but I'm able to keep myself calm enough that I'm not having a full blown panic attack.

Although it's not great, it's good to know. Before receiving this bad news, I didn't know for certain that emotional distress was going to trigger my anxiety rather than my tear ducts. But I know this now, and I know how better to prepare myself. In future, when I get some emotionally upsetting news, I will know that my anxiety is likely to be triggered, and it will be easier to deal with, easier to manage, than it would if I started feeling anxious out of nowhere.

So while things are sad right now, and it's not so great feeling anxious, the silver lining is I've learnt more about myself, my health, and my anxious brain. And that can only be a good thing.

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