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/