Second week of the new job and so far everything is going well. The people are nice, the role really interests me AND they have a HR department, (which after my last place of employment is VERY important). I don’t want to be overly enthusiastic at this stage…. Because I’m a wary person and deep down I think I’m still waiting for the ‘oh no’ moment – but as I say, so far so good and I’m happy.
As expected ‘my old friend’ flared up. Change is one of my biggest triggers (whether good or bad). An alarm in my brain seems to activate whenever something different happens. I imagine it’s something like, “Oh my God… this isn’t normal… danger alert! Do something to get her attention!”
I find the physical symptoms the most challenging. I can deal with the mental and emotional aspects, but the physical stuff really affects me. In particular the muscular discomfort is
a bitch horrible. Imagine holding your stomach, chest and lower back tense 24/7 – sounds uncomfortable right? Well it bloody is! There’s no other way to describe it and during these episodes I experience a lot of pain. It doesn’t last forever though and in a few weeks everything will settle down. So if you’re in the same boat I really feel for you.
Here are a few things that can help:
- Heat – ideally a bath. Warm water really helps to ease muscular tension. If you’re at work (and therefore don’t have access to a bath), hot water bottles, heat pads and heat rubs are good.
- Lavender oil – sounds weird but I find that the scent not only relaxes the mind, but also the body. (Maybe try this one at home, as it can also make you feel sleepy).
- Peppermint tea – really good for stomach pain. I don’t normally plug herbal teas, but this one actually works.
- Buscopan – traditionally used for IBS, but it works really well for general stomach pain.
- Tensing & releasing – deliberately tense the effected muscles for a good five seconds and then release. This provides a nice wave of comfort.
- Massage – You can do this yourself, no need for any fancy oils! If you’re in a public place maybe find a toilet for privacy. Spend a few minutes giving the muscles a firm massage to get the blood flowing. It might not cure the pain, but it will lessen it and give the body some short term relief.
My anxiety has been trying a brand new tactic lately, I call it the nocturnal assault. Basically I’ve been waking up in a state of terror and gasping for air. My heart is beating so fast that it’s practically humming!
I’ve obviously been having panic attacks in my sleep, but it took me a few days to work that out. The sensation of panic whilst being half asleep delivers a serious clout to the senses. As I was desperately trying to regain my breath on Tuesday night all I could think was “oh my God this is it, I’m actually dying.” Not being able to breathe is one of the most terrifying experiences, (along with losing your phone and being trapped in a room with a spider). Fortunately after some research I discovered that it’s completely possible to have panic attacks in your sleep and that I probably wasn’t dying.
I’ll be honest, it’s one of the nastier assaults that I’ve had to deal with. But as with all things ‘anxiety’ it’s about learning how to work with them. Therefore I plan to respond to these nocturnal attacks in exactly the same way that I would a daytime one. After the initial five seconds of ‘why am I awake? Oh Christ I can’t breathe!” I’ll (hopefully) pause and accept the attack. I think I’ll get up for five minutes and let it wash over me, that way I can do some belly breathing in the living room without disturbing Dan. Once it starts to dissipate I’ll crawl back into bed and listen to a documentary until I fall asleep again. (At the moment I’m very much into old Hollywood screen sirens…. So many scandals). If nothing else it’s a better plan than clutching my chest in the darkness and screaming “I can’t breathe” on loop in Dan’s face until he wakes up. Poor guy.
I’m learning that my anxiety takes on a new form every year, which I expect is quite normal. It’s a ‘trick’ after all and therefore needs to evolve constantly, to find new ways of getting the brain’s attention. Don’t be alarmed by new symptoms, it doesn’t mean that your anxiety is getting worse. If anything you should feel pleased that you spotted the new tactic and adapt your coping techniques accordingly.
Remember – it might be sneaky, but you’re stronger.