We are hearing more and more in the media about 'stress' and 'anxiety' and how these two things are having a profound impact on people's lives, most commonly professionals.
Many people still assume that if you are diagnosed then you are a 'looney' and will be sitting in the corner of a room 'doing an Arthur' (old reference to EastEnders character Arthur Fowler from the 80's - look it up if you are too young to remember!). Slowly however common sense is starting to prevail and people such as Stephen Fry and Ruby Wax are beginning to raise the awareness of mental health and gradually erase the stigma attached.
But if I am honest I still feel that I am somehow weak because I suffer from stress and anxiety but am I? Really? Stress is just a buzzword surely and what is anxiety anyway?
So, are they real? In a word YES.
The are very real, but when I was diagnosed I automatically felt weak and slightly, okay, really disappointed. I didn't feel that the word 'anxiety' really explained the intensity of my situation and how I was feeling at the time. I wanted something heavy and cool such as 'severe depression' as it carries so much more gravity don't you think? And there we have it, even at that point, I was still more concerned about what other people would be thinking about me. And that is the crux of my anxiety. And still to this day it is really difficult to admit that I have anxiety and therefore a diagnosis of mental health.
What is Anxiety?
Anxiety is different for everyone; everyone will react to it in different ways and you can have both physical and physiological symptoms such as:-
So are anxiety and stress bad for you?
A little anxiety is fine, but long-term anxiety can cause more serious health problems such as high blood pressure. You are more likely to develop infections and if you’re feeling anxious all the time, or it’s affecting your day-to-day life it can be devastating.
Anxiety is often linked closely to stress. This is such a buzz-word at the moment and so many people are bandying it around very easily. Like anxiety a little stress is healthy and we need it to live a productive life but too much can really have an impact. I was sent this great video by my sister-in-law shortly after my diagnosis which I think explains stress perfectly. I have been tempted to send it to all those doubters out there.....
My stress was a combination of two things, my intense desire to be liked and my equally intense desire to be brilliant at my job. So, did I manage either of these things? Well, yes I think I did with my job. I was pretty damn good at it if I don't say so myself; I got results, I was organised, efficient, raised the profile, I was always the first to respond to emails, always the first to get tasks completed, the students liked me and I think I was liked my (most) of my colleagues. I loved my job, or so I thought.......
But at what cost? I gradually got asked to do more and more, I agreed to do 'x', 'y' and 'z', I would work on my days off (and evenings and weekends), I would complete complex and important paperwork without support. I was continually working, taking photographs, working on social media, blogging, coming up with project ideas, making contacts even when I was on holiday. It had consumed me entirely. I thought I loved my job but actually it was killing me.
The problem was, since I was young I have desperately wanted to be liked, to be admired, so for 5 years I was performing, I assumed a character and I played her brilliantly. An Oscar winning performance I think! And the combination of these two immense pressures - one stress and the other deep rooted anxiety - led to my epic burnout which started with a totally unglamorous panic attack in Morrison's!
So, what now? Well, one day at a time. Today marks the end of the first full week where I have slept EVERY night for a week, yep 7 whole nights in a row. BLISS. You would not believe what it is like to not sleep for THREE years.
This is a slow process but an exciting one as it gives me a chance to be honest about who I am and what I want. So scary though this all is, I am sure as hell going to approach it with my new found glass half full attitude. Life really is for living so bring it on.
And please don't ever tell me to 'pull myself together' and if you think I am just making it all up and 'on the take' then take a long walk off a short cliff cos I don't need that shit in my life.
For more information and where to get help then follow any of these links:
NHS Stress, Anxiety and Depression
Campaign Against Living Miserably