wE'Re AlL mAd HeRe

Anxiety, Social Anxiety, Panic… and the rest!

Expose yourself!

I probably should’ve mentioned… I’ve been in Turkey for a week! A lovely week away with the family, which is great because I’m not required to be nice to them. Freak out on the plane? No problem.. booze will help. Feeling introspective? No worries just ignore everyone and read in the corner. Families are meant to be abused! 😉

In general I struggle to relax, as someone who likes to keep their mind occupied (to avoid the inevitable ‘what if’ thoughts) the prospect of having nothing to do was quite daunting. I like a certain element of routine and any breaks in said routine can cause eruptions. I’m also not a huge fan of the heat. Yes I know this makes a freak, but whatever! Don’t get me wrong, I like the sunshine well enough, just not the summer heat. I get headaches, feel tired and become highly irritable. I also don’t tan and break out in prickly heat. So it’s just freaking not worth it!
At work this morning, the first thing that anyone said to me was; You don’t look like you’ve been away, you haven’t got a tan. *Sigh* I’m pleased to say that I’m finally comfortable enough to accept my pale skin and I didn’t waste my precious holiday time trying to cook it.  I mostly stayed in the shade reading books and drinking large quantities of home-made sangria. It was wondrous! By day 3 I was able to relax and certainly benefited from doing nothing.

In others news, I believe that it’s important to celebrate successes in regards to anxiety, no matter how big or small.  So I’m very pleased to share with everyone that I have been offered a new job! That means… that’s right you heard it, I had an interview! Those who have been reading my blog for a while will understand that an interview is my most dreaded situation. I had my first major panic attack in one and this consequently developed into a strong phobia. A year ago, any situation that resembled an interview would instantly trigger an attack; Meetings, lunches with colleagues and even dining out with my boyfriend became a problem. The attacks were so violent that I was convinced I was going to lose my sanity. I couldn’t think straight as the terror was so strong and the only thoughts in my head were; Will this be the attack that finally gets me? I can’t cope anymore. I began to avoid certain events and situations, but this didn’t reduce the fear of an attack. I thought that I was protecting myself, but I was only making the phobia worse.
Eventually, I realised that I needed to change something. The avoidance techniques simply did not work and only made my world smaller.
Dr David Carbonell strongly recommends; Exposure Therapy as a treatment for panic attacks and I decided to give this a go. In a nutshell the therapy involves exposing yourself to situations that will trigger panic attacks in order to de-sensitise yourself to the sensation. (I’ve mentioned this in previous posts, so I won’t go into too much detail.) The general theory being that if the brain is allowed to experience a panic attack, it will begin to recognise that nothing bad actually happens. The body may feel incredibly uncomfortable, but it is not in any danger. This acceptance will reduce the intensity of the attacks, until they eventually stop.
I’ve been working hard with my ‘exposure therapy’ for the last eighteen months. It wasn’t easy, because panic attacks aren’t pleasant and I was reluctant to put myself in the line of fire. However, I made a list of steps and started off slow:

  1. Enter a meeting room alone, close the door and sit down for 5 minutes.
  2. Enter a meeting room alone, close the door, sit down for 5 minutes and imagine that you’re in a meeting with other colleagues.
  3. Attend a large meeting that does not require participation from you.
  4. Attend a smaller meeting and participate with questions.
  5. Have lunch with a colleague in a café. The seating should require you to sit opposite each other.
  6. Have a practice interview at home at home with Dan.
  7. Have a practice interview in a meeting room with a HR Advisor.
  8. Have a real interview.

The first four steps were very hard for me. When I first came back to work I was still fragile and had been devastated by the emotional effects of the attacks. To be honest, just getting through the day was a success! However, as the months passed I grew stronger and by month six I had completed four of my steps. Six month might seem like a long time, but it’s important not to rush ahead. I repeated each step several times before I moved onto the next to ensure that I had mastered it.
At that time I didn’t expect to be able to have an interview ever again. I just couldn’t see how I would ever get better. Thinking about it now makes me feel quite emotional for that girl, I wish I could tell her that everything is going to be ok and that she would get through it.
Before the interview for my new job I had a panic attack as expected. I was walking towards the building when I felt it rising. However, I kept moving my feet and assured myself that it was fine to have an attack. I knew from experience that nothing awful was going to happen. This felt like a solid way to reassure myself. I’d done it before and had survived intact, what more of a guarantee did I need?

So yes, I not only had the interview but I got the job! I cried when I got the news and promptly celebrated with a bottle of Champagne. I was so proud of myself and how far I’d come.
That’s not to say that the anxiety has buggered off for good (I can still feel it clinging on,) but it hasn’t stopped me from living my life. I expect I’ll freak out before my new job, but that’s ok because I can vent about it to you guys… you lucky things!
My point is…. YOU CAN CONQUER ANXIETY. It isn’t an unstoppable force. Your life belongs to you and YOU can end it’s reign.

I’m also happy to announce that the event/party will be going ahead in August. I’ve had enough responses to warrant hiring a venue. I will update everyone with the details in the coming weeks. However, so far I was thinking that the date will be August 7th. Unfortunately, this is a Thursday as most places won’t hire venues out on the weekends, but I shall keep trying. It will most likely take place in central London as this will be fair for everyone (journey wise).
I’m really excited about it and please feel free to keep emailing me if you’d like to attend.

Categories: Anxiety

13 replies

  1. That’s brilliant about the job, well done 🙂 I’m terrified of interviews too!
    The party sounds like a lovely idea, although I unfortunately live too far away to come, but I hope you get lots of people attending and it goes really well 🙂
    Jess x

  2. Thanks Jess, I really appreciate your kind words! Maybe you could attend via Skype? 😛

  3. Congratulations on the job, that is really wonderful! I’m impressed with your strength and determination to overcome your anxiety. Sure this is very inspiring for many people here (incl. myself). You can conquer anxiety! Hell yeah. Thank you for writing this and for being positive, without denying how hard it can be. And best of luck with your new job!

  4. Great news, well done! Tell us more about the job – is it a presenting gig on Radio 4 by any chance..? ; )

    • Cheers mate! Sadly no, my voice was too shaky for the broadcasting world 😉 – it’s a better job at another publisher.
      You coming to the party?

      • I’m 180 miles away – but! A lot can change between now and the end of August so I’m not saying no. Do you have a Facebook page for this gig? You could get a community going on there easily (even though I dislike FB I’m still on the bloody thing..).

      • That is a dam hood idea! I’ll get one set up this week.

  5. Yet another congratulations message! And it is genuinely inspiring that you can conquer this stuff. I’ve been talking to doctors, therapists and psychiatrists about whether I will ever get back to the state is was in 3 years ago, ie normal. They’ve al pretty much said “mehhhhh”;-)
    Looking forward to meeting you and I have to admit that the idea of a bunch of anxiety sufferers who don’t know each other pitching up somewhere does amuse me in a pretty dark way. Especially as I spent 1 hour this morning on the phone to the NHS talking Bout my social anxiety!

    • Thanks Morgan!
      I think the thing to remember is.. you may never get back to ‘normal,’ as normality changes over time. However, you CAN manage your anxiety and improve your current situation.
      It will be very nice to meet you too!

  6. Congratulations on your job 🙂 amazing considering what you went through to get there.
    Unfortunately I can’t make the party as I’m not London-based, so can’t do midweek, but it’s a great idea and I hope it goes well!

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