wE'Re AlL mAd HeRe

Anxiety, Social Anxiety, Panic… and the rest!

Assemble the FAKs!

Apologies for any spelling or grammatical errors in this post, I’m not drinking coffee at the moment, (thank you very much Miranda Kerr.) Instead I’m sipping Noni-juice and munching Goji berries. I expect to transform into a supermodel within the next 24 hours. OR I’ll crash and start downing Expressos… only time will tell!

We are fast approaching the time of year that casts a long shadow in my mind. The darkness advances (literally, it’s dark at 5pm now for Chung’s sake!)
The 29th of December will forever be cemented in my brain. It’s the date of my nervous breakdown and sadly I can remember everything in excruciating detail; the time, location, what I was wearing, what was on TV. The whole event has soaked into my subconscious like hair dye on a white carpet. You can scrub with all your might, but it won’t budge. That’s the cruel thing about trauma, it stains like a bitch.

From experience I don’t get the January blues.. I get January Despair, otherwise known as Janarmageddon. Last year it happened during the second week after the Christmas holidays, around about the 20th January – I know this because I read it in one of my previous blog posts! I was stood in Topshop and all the anxiety that I had been fighting for the last week suddenly burst from my subconscious and streamed down my face. Oh the security guard looked confused.. maybe he just thought it was an intense reaction to those amazing sale prices!

Anyway, yes I’m aware that my shit month is approaching. One might say that this belief is effectively a self-fulfilling prophecy.. Perhaps if I didn’t expect January to be so terrible then it wouldn’t? This might be true to a certain extent and I don’t intend to approach it negatively and already defeated. However, I do have to realistic about the facts. For the last eight years (ever since I was nineteen) January has always triggered some horrible chemical imbalance that affects my moods. I can’t control it and have never been able to predict an exact date. It doesn’t matter how positive I try and be or how many Disney films I watch, this imbalance occurs and knocks me off my feet. In particular my emotions become harder to maintain and I feel depressed and hopeless. In the past, my usual response is to ignore everything to the point of suppression. This only increases the pressure which eventually explodes into a crying, raging beast. It’s not a pretty sight and I always manage to convince myself that the misery will last forever.  Kind of in the same way that I tend to believe I’m actually dying when very hungover. Seriously last time I was like: This is it, you’ve finally gone and done it. Any minute now you’ll succumb to the poison. Maybe you should phone an ambulance? Leave out the 2 bottles of wine part though…     

 So this year I’m going to attempt to approach the situation in a new way (I know what you’re thinking… oh here she goes again!) It’s true, this could be one of my daft ideas… but it’s worth a shot. The plan consists of two stages: 1. Create my own First Aid Kit 2. Offer no resistance to the anxiety.
Rather than dread the whole thing and pray that it won’t happen, (yes I only pray when I want something.) Instead why don’t I essentially welcome it like an old friend? At the end of the day my brain isn’t deliberately trying to hurt me, it’s actually trying to protect me… the signals just get confused that’s all.

First Aid Kit
I will stock pile a list of essential items to be used when experiencing the January Despair, such as:

  • 100mg of Sertralin (as opposed to my usual 50mg) I will take 100mg from the 1st January for seven days to increase my serotonin levels.
  • Valium, Propanol and sleeping tablets. To be used only when absolutely necessary.
  • An exercise plan to be started from 2nd January, again to keep my serotonin levels up and burn off excessive adrenalin. I intend to be able to run 5K in six weeks. Those who know me will be aware that I HATE the thought of jogging. However, I hate anxiety more.
  • Some lavender oil – I find the smell very comforting.
  • My Headspace App
  • My SAD lamp (which I believe is in the attic.) Although it won’t fit in the box.
  • A special and tasty bottle of red wine. As much I’m partial to Sainsbury’s own Shiraz, I feel that something superior will be in order.
  • Some kind of nerdy historical documentary. I’ve recently reignited my love of Greek Mythology, so maybe I’ll buy some of those.
  • A book of puzzles. In particular I like word searches, Anagrams and ‘spot the difference.’ These will be perfect tools for distraction.
  • A pack of cards. I’m lucky that Dan will play games with me if I need the distraction.
  • A huge bar of Galaxy chocolate.
  • Nice tissues that are gentle on my nose (I usually go for the kitchen roll, not good for my sensitive konk.)
  • RIGBY – although I won’t put her in the box.

Naturally everything will be placed in a pretty box and tied with ribbon, (I’m all about visuals.)
It makes sense to be prepared in advance, rather than dashing out to buy things when I feel rotten.

Please follow my lead if you also suffer in January. We could call them FAKs to be cool… What’s in your FAK?

Offer no resistance
This is a piece of advice from my God, David Carbonell. He suggests that rather than fighting the anxious thoughts and feelings let them wash over you. Do not resist, as this will only distress the body further. In a nutshell; the brain creates anxiety in order to protect you and if ignored, then it will instinctively morph into survival mode and increase physical symptoms such as, a pounding heart to force you to pay attention to its ‘danger’ message. Hopefully that makes sense?

Fighting with your own brain is a battle that you cannot win. It will only deplete your energy levels and make you feel more vulnerable.
So what do you do instead? Well in the past I’ve tried the following with good results:

  • Welcome the feelings and acknowledge them. If I’m alone then I will literally say out loud; hello old friend. Thank you for trying to protect me, I’m listening. There is no danger so I’m going to stay right here, but I’m listening to you. Obviously I wouldn’t recommend doing this on a crowded bus. Then again it might work in your favour and get you a row of seats to yourself!  
  • Admit that you feel afraid. All those feelings, emotions and scary thoughts essentially mean the same thing, you’re afraid… and that’s ok. Fear cannot hurt you, so let it surge through your body.
  • Tell someone. As soon as you feel like the anxiety is building tell a friend, partner or family member. I warn mine in advance to be on standby. Admitting it out loud and then gently moving the conversation onto something else can work wonders. Remember, don’t expect your friend/partner to fix your anxiety but they can help to distract you.
  • Stay still. If you have an attack it’s important to stay exactly where you are and let it wash over you. Your instincts will be screaming at you to leave, but stay put. You can’t run from an attack and fighting it will only prolong the feelings. Instead, staying still will communicate to your brain that everything is ok.
  • Believe me I know that all of the above is easier said than done. When I’m suffering with extreme anxiety my reflexes shriek; I DON’T WANT THIS! However, I promise that if you get into the habit of offering no resistance then the feelings WILL dissipate faster.

So this is my two stage plan for January 2015. I’m rather looking forward to constructing my FAK. The thought of having it ready for when/if I need it is very comforting.

If you have any extra ideas, then please let me know!

I do hope that everyone had a nice Halloween? I went to a party dressed as Alex from Clockwork Orange. Turns out that two other friends had the same idea!

Clockwork

Categories: Anxiety, Panic Attacks

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10 replies

  1. I know the feeling, about the date. Mine was 17th October last year. I could tell you everything about that day and the week that followed. It was so awful, sometimes I think my reaction to it is like post traumatic stress. This year, even subtle things like the changing of the weather and the leaves turning colour made me feel really anxious and emotional as they were reminders of last year. Even putting on a pair of boots that I haven’t worn since last winter!
    As you can see though, I have survived the anniversary 😉 I talked a lot with my counsellor and with close friends. It also helped to think about how things are different from last year, as a way of realising that the same thing is not going to happen again (that irrational fear…).
    I think you have a great plan and are going about it the right way. Acceptance, and knowing that even if you do have a down day, it is just one day and isn’t going to spiral out of control, because you have the knowledge and the tools now to help yourself.

  2. January always makes me feel awful too. It’s good that you have a tool kit in place. For the last three years I have always made sure I book a trip for towards the end of January, that way I have something to look forward to and plan to distract from the horribleness of the month, nothing major, usually just a long weekend away.

  3. Just stumbled upon your blog for the first time after reading a guardian (I think) article with you in it.

    Amazingly positive blog – like you I’ve endures (is that the right word?) anxiety episodes since I was young but recently it’s reared its head again. I haven’t yet had the courage to open up about it and get help from a work perspective as still scared that ‘coming out’ will have a negative career impact.

    Hopefully reading this blog will give me a push in the right direction

    • Hi Andy, thank you for the kind words. Im so glad that you find it useful.
      Thats the frustrating thing about anxiety, it does tend to flare up when you’re not expecting it. You can get it under control again though.
      I wish you the very best of luck 🙂

  4. sounds like a good plan to me 🙂 and thank you for your tips on offering no resistance, really helpful, im going to try to put those into practice, hard though it is, a different approach is needed. wishing you well for jan

  5. Hi. Read an article with you in, then saw your blog, totally get what you’ve gone through-I’m the same. Especially catastrophising – I always think ‘what if’ and stupidly come to a dramatic conclusion which is highly unrealistic!

    I’ve been on citalopram for a few years and have not long come off it; going 6 months without it so far! I tried CBT before coming off and replaced meds with acupuncture as a substitute to see if it would help me cope. Dr’s told me it wouldn’t help. I doubted it would do anything but I was desperate to try anything. And it was the thing that has saved me! I feel like ‘me’ again and it’s wonderful! I can sometimes feel anxiety lurking in stressful situations now, but I have an ‘ear seed’ which is stuck to my ear, and I just squeeze it as they are on a pressure point. If you are open to acupunture, I highly recommend it- especially before January 🙂

    Thanks for being so open about your difficulties- it feels good to know I’m not alone. 🙂
    Claire x

    • Hi Claire, thank you for this. Ive been thinking about trying accupuncture for yonks, but have yet to do so. You’ve convinced me! Its great to hear that you’re doing so well 🙂 x

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