‘Just Breathe…’

I thought I would do something a bit different and share some of my personal life on here for you guys…
I know I babble on a lot about beauty on this blog, however, there is  a huge part of my life that I tend to avoid talking about due to fear of being judged or fear of letting people see my weak points.
People always hide their insecurities and try and have an air of confidence about them but, as we all know, everyone has insecurities and personal battles they go through every single day so I thought I would share some of mine in the hope that I can help someone gain the confidence to ask for help, reach out to a friend or family member or simply know that you are not alone. you are never alone.

I have briefly touched upon this area of my life before by mentioning my depression in one of my first posts but the thing that affects me the most and still affects me to this day is the anxiety and panic attacks I developed around 18 months ago.
As some background, I think I have always been quite an anxious person. I have always worried about being judged, dressed the way others dressed to fit in and ‘blend’ as well as styling my hair and make-up, much to the dismay of my family, the way my friendship groups tended to. I always felt that I didn’t really belong and that I wasn’t being me but I couldn’t branch out and change for fear of rejection or mockery from my peers. Sad but true.
This anxious part of my personality ebbed and peaked throughout my teenage years and into my university life. At university, especially first year and at the back end of my third year,I would spend a lot of time by myself. I would hate it but I would convince myself of silly things like…

‘well, if I don’t leave my room by 11 am to head into town then I can’t because that wasn’t my plan so I just can’t go after that because what if something happens and then I will kick myself for not going earlier…’ 

‘I will go to the laundry room in exactly 10 minutes’ *15 minutes pass* ‘do I need the clothes?’ *45 minutes pass* ‘people will know I haven’t been and they will judge me so now I REALLY can’t go…’ 

And so on. This, consequently, shoved me into my shell and kept me from doing things such as, going into town and browsing the shops, going to the local shop alone unless I went at a specific time… so, obviously, I developed quite bad social anxiety.
If I did end up leaving the house and if someone made eye contact with me (just eye contact, not stabbing me or, you know, punching me in the face) I would freak out. I still do, I can’t lie.
I have to work on this every single day of my life to remind myself that people may look at me but they are doing only that. Looking at me. It is nothing to be scared of, but this is kinda what my anxiety stems from being judged and being alone in social situations.

As you can imagine, this form of anxiety is pretty difficult to deal with and is a constant struggle, so, when a panic attack happens thanks to the beautiful thing that is my anxiety it makes things pretty embarrassing/scary/challenging & upsetting. YAY.

I can remember my first panic attack so vividly its like it happened 10 minutes ago. I was out drinking in one of my favourite bars with my friend. She went out to the smoking area and I needed the toilet so we separated and decided to meet in the smoking area once I was done. The smoking area of this particular bar is tiny. It is literally a small fenced off area on the main street just outside the doors so we knew we would be able to find one another so off I popped.
I came out of the toilet and the bar had filled up pretty quickly so I had to make my way through a pretty large and rowdy crowd to get to the entrance (which I hate doing at the best of times)  I finally made it outside, looked in the smoking area and my friend was nowhere to be seen. She had vanished.

‘She won’t have left, she must be here, maybe I just can’t see her? Maybe she went back inside… maybe she is talking to someone around the corner.. maybe she’s on the phone..’

I quickly checked just inside the main doors to see if she was just waiting there, but she wasn’t. So I decided to check just around the corner of the smoking area but she was nowhere… The road was now crowded, I felt completely isolated, I felt lost in my home city and people had started to look at me as I was by myself- not exactly helping the rising anxiety levels but they didn’t know what was about to happen, obviously.

I couldn’t breathe properly. My chest started to contract and sweat was dripping down my back on a cold March evening. I was frantic. My legs had turned to jelly with the adrenaline and I couldn’t see properly. The next thing I remember was being on the phone to one of my other friends. I was crying and struggling to breathe so much that he most likely thought I had been attacked. I managed to get the words ‘I need to go home’ out between breaths and my location in the city so he could come and collect me.
By this point I was slumped against a wall, trying to breathe and stop my body from shaking so much. If I’m honest, I felt like I was dying. My heart was pounding, I wasn’t able to get enough oxygen into my system and I couldn’t move. My chest and back hurt so much from my erratic breathing and chest cramps and I simply was not focusing on any details of anything minus the fact I knew I needed to get away, but couldn’t move. I needed to breathe, but no oxygen was going in.

I was lucky that night. Two strangers walked past me and stopped, held my hand and tried to regulate my breathing. From what I remember one of them was a nurse, I so wish I could thank them for what they did.
My friend happened to be awake and able to drive to collect me from the centre of town and take me home. I was safe. I knew I was safe after that. The attack lasted for around 20 minutes. The longest 20 minutes of my life, but without my friend being able to collect me from being slumped by a wall, in a dark, deserted street in the rain I have no idea what I would have done after it was over.

The aftermath of that panic attack has been like ripples of an earth quake ever since. It is like I am always on the verge of an earth quake occurring, the anxiety is the tremors you get as a warning sign then bang you’re in a full blown panic attack.
I am terrified to have another because it is so sudden. You lose your breath, your chest contracts, sweat is running down your arms and across your palms. You can hear everything yet all you can hear at the same time is your heart pounding in your chest. You want to run but cant because your legs are jelly and you have an overwhelming sensation of needing to vomit.
But that is a catch 22 situation in itself, because the more you worry the more likely it will happen. Figures, huh?

I have had a few more attacks since that night, some at random times like my leaving do from work and having to leave to vomit and panic for 20 minutes then go back inside and be happy and perky like nothing has happened. Others at time where my anxiety has been really bad so it has lead up to an attack that was anticipated and handled a tad easier, not much easier, I will be honest, but if you know whats coming you can prepare more effectively for the storm.
Panic attacks happen, but they don’t stop me from living my life anymore.
Anxiety is a part of my everyday life, but I don’t allow it to convince me that I can’t do the things I want to.

Life is for living. I have written this down to share my experience with you guys, as well as, to remind myself that I have to continue to live otherwise my anxiety has won. It has finally convinced me that there is danger everywhere I go. That my friends aren’t really my friends. That my family are disappointed in me. That people are constantly judging me no matter what I am doing or who I am with. That I can’t go for drinks in case I can’t find my friends. I can’t go and visit a city I have never been to because I don’t know my way. The list goes on…

I wanted to share this so that if anyone out there is struggling with the start of anxiety or has been dealing with it for years… I just wanted to be the reminder that you are not alone. There are thousands of other people, people you may never expect, going through the same or very similar things. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help, and especially don’t be scared to tell people that you’re finding things a bit more challenging.
There is such a stigma around mental health, especially on social media, where people seem to think that we are ‘making it up’ or ‘over-exaggerating’.
Never let anyone make you think that you’re making your own feelings up. You know how you’re feeling and only you knows that, don’t let someone take that away from you.

Be strong, be you and accept yourself for who you are, flaws and all. Everyone has them, embrace them. They are a part of you, and although they may be annoying and they may stop you from doing things sometimes, just make sure that next time you really push to do what you want. Don’t let the little voice in your head win.

I hope this helps someone, even if it is just my future self reading this post.

Talk soon,

Laura xo

 

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