wE'Re AlL mAd HeRe

Anxiety, Social Anxiety, Panic… and the rest!

Woman’s Hour Radio 4

This morning I appeared on the radio! I was asked to feature on Woman’s Hour to discuss my experiences with anxiety.

I can sum up my initial reaction to this request in one word; ARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGGGH!!! (Fortunately I managed to keep this thought to myself rather than screaming down the phone to the lovely Assistant.) Instead I spent the evening pacing around my living room and wondering how I was going to get out of it.
As someone who suffers with Social Anxiety Disorder, the prospect of being interviewed on the radio was terrifying. What if I can’t speak? What if I can’t think of anything to say? What if I accidently swear? (This one was a real possibility as I swear A LOT when stressed.)
Like a typical introvert I prefer to express myself in writing rather than verbally, as I’m more coherent. With verbal communication there is always a possibility that I may start babbling or forget what I was talking about. So initially I wondered whether the presenter could email me the questions and simply read my responses out loud instead? (Yeah I figured this was a stupid idea too.)
In addition, I had my first major panic attack during a job interview and consequently haven’t had one since (this was a year ago.) So I was naturally very reluctant to put myself in that position again.

Over the course of last week I changed my mind constantly. I was worried that the pressure might send me back into the darkness of last January. Perhaps I should just keep myself safely locked away?

By the time that Thursday approached it was time to make a decision. I was on the train and slightly hung over when I made up my mind. How did I ever expect to beat my anxiety if I let it restrict my behaviour? Being afraid is a normal human emotion. It’s ok to feel scared shitless now and again! The only way to overcome a fear is to face it, everybody knows that. So what was I waiting for?
David Carbonell talks about ‘Exposure Therapy’ as a means to conquer anxiety and panic. So surely this was a great opportunity?

Once I had decided and informed the show’s presenter I made a conscious effort not to focus on it. I didn’t force myself to stop thinking about it, but I didn’t allow my mind to dwell for more than a few minutes. An excellent distraction was visiting my puppy on Saturday in Heresford (Ohhh that was a long drive) but she was well worth it – Please see the photo and agree with me.
On Sunday I went to the gym and kept myself busy with housework, (I don’t think our bath has ever been so clean!)

As I travelled to the studio on Monday morning I was absolutely terrified. An overwhelming feeling of dread and desperation had set in. My stomach was knotted and I struggled to keep my breathing steady. However, after a while I also noticed another very strong emotion developing .. Determination. I wasn’t going to quit.. I knew that I could do this, it was ok to feel nervous and all I needed to do was keep walking.
A wonderful technique that I often use when dealing with panic attacks is to accept that the anxiety you feel before the ‘dreaded event’ is the worst that your levels will be. Once in the situation it normally reduces because you’re engaging your brain. Therefore, on my walk to the studio it was comforting to think; ‘this is the worst that it’s going to be today and I’m dealing with it, so things can only get better.’ (That wasn’t a bad reference to Take That.)

Although I felt nervous when we (Jane the lovely presenter and I) entered the recording studio, I reminded myself that anxiety and panic could only make me feel afraid, nothing more. I wouldn’t suddenly go crazy and it couldn’t harm me. It’s uncomfortable, but not dangerous.
After the second question I felt the knot in my stomach begin to loosen and my chest relaxed. My anxiety was replaced with a feeling of overwhelming pride and a sense of achievement. I enjoyed talking to Jane about the difficulties of anxiety and how it can affect a person’s life. Hopefully I don’t sound like a drunken mouse, but I’ll let you be the judge of that; http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b03s6zm6  Please also listen to Professor David Clark who is interviewed after me, as his advice is very interesting.

The show was a wonderful opportunity to raise awareness and I really hope that it encourages others to seek help.

Anxiety is a legitimate disorder and there is no reason to feel ashamed or embarrassed. For more support please visit; http://www.anxietyuk.org.uk/

Categories: Anxiety

Tags: , , , ,

11 replies

  1. I’ve just listened and you sounded great! You managed to get across how frightening and debilitating anxiety can be, so thank you!

  2. Heard you on R4 this morning – you did a fantastic job of raising awareness about anxiety and the challenges faced by those who suffer from it. Really enlightening stuff. And you’ve just acquired a new follower of your blog!

  3. Well done Claire give yourself a huge pat on the back. It means a lot to those who are suffering.

  4. Thank you Claire for being brave enough to speak out. You were articulate and engaging. I have a young family member who suffers from social anxiety and am hoping your blog will help her. Professor Clark was also informative and described well the feelings of someone who suffers from anxiety and the rest of us who all worry sometimes. Good luck for the future.

  5. Hi Claire, great to hear you on Woman’s Hour – as a sufferer of Anxiety and CBT enthusiast myself that seems to have done exactly the same as you recently, it is great to hear you getting the message out there.Am keen to try and do the same myself actually, as even the loveliest people around me are supportive and amazing, they still get a bit intimidated by it (unless that’s my anxiety talking – dear dear its a circle!) so let me know if there is anything/anyone to contact to help spread the word!

  6. My Mum listened to you on Radio 4 Womans Hour and spun round and looked at her radio because she thought it was me on the Radio! She told me later that everything you were saying was everything that I have been saying since I was 13/14 over the years and she was convinced it was me – even to the extent that I am also 27 years old. When I finished work I listened to the show and it made me sad at first listening to what you were saying and what David Clark was saying because he was spot on with how I feel every day and it made me sad to think that i’ve been thinking that I was the only like this and there is something wrong with me but then it made me happy and relieved to think that i’m not the only one. So thankyou for doing the radio show – I also read a bit of your blog and was surprised at how many things you have written is what I go through, especially the bit about christmas! Thankyou again and I will continue to read your blog.

    • Hi Jasmine, thanks for getting in touch. I can confirm that you are 100% NOT on your own. I can also confirm that anxiety is a treatable condition and you really don’t have to put up with it forever. Thank you for your kind comments about my blog, I hope you find it helpful.
      Keep in touch!

  7. I heard you on the radio and have just sat an read your blog – Very inspiring! I am also an anxiety suffer and kept it in the dark until 4/5 months ago. Not many people really understand what it’s like to live with, when it completely effects your daily life and work!
    The world needs more brave people like yourself. Keep up the good work and I’ll keep following your blog! You have inspired me to blog too! http://forallkindsofegg.blogspot.co.uk/
    hez x

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