When anxiety attacks…

It’s been a weird couple of weeks. As per usual everything happening all at the same time. High stress, which is unfortunately how I thrive – it comes with working on events and in a high pressure environment.  So all pretty normal… well normally weird…

Except for the unwelcome return of anxiety / panic attacks which have left me crawling back into my introverted cocoon to hide away, which given current circumstances, protests, campaigns, working on events is not exactly the most useful place to be.

I know what triggered it this time. A confrontation with a bully. Which in itself is easy enough to process. I thought when I’d figured out the trigger I could work around the anxiety. Normally if you figure out the cause you can find the solution.

But not this time.

If you’ve never experienced anxiety or panic attacks let me try and explain the feeling.

Normally it’s triggered by a thought. Something you’re thinking about. And if you know what that is you can train your brain to stop thinking about it and suppress the anxiety. You look for logic. Things you know to be true. Things that you can be certain of. 

But this time it’s not attached to a thought. It’s a pure feeling. And that’s much harder to keep in check. It’s all consuming. You feel it’s grip tighten the insides of your chest, muscles tense, hands shake and the head throbs. It puts you into a high state of stress. You can’t form words properly when trying to speak. You know what you’re trying to say, you hear the sentences coherently formed in your mind. But when you open your mouth to speak it all comes out garbled, breathless, strained – squeaky high pitched. Talking – that automatic function that just happens without thought suddenly requires large amounts of extra energy. When writing things down you miss out key words – like your brain has processed the fact they are there but the signals between your brain and your hand are not communicating properly. And you look back on emails, texts, tweets, facebook posts and realise that they make no sense. That mistakes are all over the place.

Because of the high state of stress you’re in you lose your short term memory – your mind is so consumed with just keeping steady that, that is all you can focus on. 

I needed to get out of the house today so decided to go for a walk along the Bath Skyline and take in the view from Sham Castle. Such was my state of anxiety I cannot remember how I got there. I vaguely remember being in town. The crowds and the noises being weirdly sharp but distorted at the same time. Moving in their own motion which wasn’t quite in sync with the rest of the world. I definitely remember getting on a bus up to Bathwick Hill. The motion of the bus and noises from other passengers causing more unrest. Catching snatches of different sounds at different frequencies all coming together in one distorted soundscape – closing in. A crisp packet rustling to the left, a broken phone conversation to the right, muffled music from headphones, conversations… many many conversations.

I got off the bus and I walked. And all became quiet and calmer. And more normal. All of the thoughts that had been suppressed by the high state of anxiety came flooding down in one go. You zone out, allow them to materialise, realise them and let them go as you keep walking. 

You meet people and you snap into “normality mode” however brief. Smile. Give way to oncoming pedestrians and hikers. Help with directions. Put on the mask of normality that shields you from the fear. And fake it ’til you make it.

And then alone once more. Walking. Thinking. Thinking. Walking. It was a good release. It cleared my head and calmed me down. I got to Sham Castle. Took a few pictures. Sat on the bench over-looking Bath and just let my mind go free for a bit staring out over the city. Enjoying the peace and quiet soothing sounds of the wind through the trees, a distant dog barking, birds singing. 

I lost a good 45mins sat on that bench. And felt much calmer for it. 

I eventually got up and headed off in the direction of Bathampton. As I walked I zoned-out – once more allowing thoughts to flow and materialise. Somewhere along the way I strayed off of the Skyline path. And when a brief moments break in thought occurred I looked up and realised my mistake. This could have been a panic moment but instead it was one of calm clarity. The quote “not all who wander are lost” sprang to mind. Through a gap in the trees I looked out and saw Bathford in the distance and immediately knew which direction I roughly had to travel in to get down to Bathampton and finally back home. My auto-pilot had been guiding me in the right direction which is a relief.

I walked through Bathampton and home and felt much calmer and more “normal”. Although still not quite right.

The walking and thinking had allowed for clarity and reflection about how I had been feeling the last week. I began to understand why I was struggling to converse with colleagues and felt the need to spend time alone. I’ve done an extrovert vs introvert post before. This week the introvert side of me was winning. And it was becoming awkward.

My next hurdle. I feel anxious in the theatre. Deeply rooted in the incident that happened. And that’s not only awkward but potentially disastrous. Even safe theatre spaces that I know intimately have become a real barrier and uncomfortable. It will pass eventually. But it will take time, and struggle and given the nature of the work I do it needs to pass soon – which in itself is stressful. 

So I’ve reached a strange period of doubt. And change. And uncertainty. Not fear but anxiety and there’s a big difference. It’s a big black nagging cloud that’s difficult to beat down – but be beaten down it will. At a time when I need to be at full confidence I’m feeling anything but. I’ve got some decisions to make. It’s definitely time for change. “The Times They Are A Changing”. And I know I’ll bounce back. It may take a while. But I always do.

So if I’m quiet or un-responsive or not as present as usual, or less sociable. Do not worry. It’s a process – it may not be the right one but it’s mine and it works for me. And I will be back. And I will kick some ass!

And if you’re reading this and it helps you. Great. If it helps you deal with your own anxiety then I’m happy to chat about your experiences. That’s the point in sharing and not hiding away from it. To everyone else – as mad as this post may sound I’m absolutely fine – I just need some time and to deal with things in my own unique way. Part of that is writing it down and getting it out of my head (that box is now ticked). 

So don’t worry. 

Us anxiety prone people are tough and we’d have our own club if we weren’t worried about attending or anyone else turning up 😉

Love, light & peace xXx