This feeling isn’t normal.
I woke up the other morning and decided to admit defeat and finally do something about it.
I am now 36 years old and since my mid twenties I have had this feeling in my stomach that comes and goes, I can only describe it as something alien living inside me – just like you see in the films.
So what is it?
No I’m not some life form from another planet – I suffer from severe anxiety!
People reading this who also suffer know exactly what I mean, that horrible feeling as though your stomach is on a fast cycle like a washing machine, one half of your brain having a full on argument with the other half – sound familiar?
I have dealt with this for about 23 years now, when I say dealt I mean got by.
It comes in waves sometimes minor and sometimes really severe.
I’m a keen golfer my handicap is 15 and I’d say I do OK considering I don’t play as much as I’d like. The thing with golf is it’s a both physical and mental game; you hit a good shot or start scoring well you feel great. Hit a bad shot next and the last 6 good holes starts to get away.
This is generally how it goes for people who don’t suffer from anxiety.
For me it’s different I can be playing really well for 9 holes and then the Damien side of my brain kicks in for no apparent reason and starts to change my mindset and make me worry about something that is not there.
My game has now gone and I spend the rest of the round trying to calm myself down and work out what I am worrying about – sadly I never get the answer and just move on.
This is a game that I really enjoy playing not something I’m scared of.
Then there are holidays.
My favourite destination is the Caribbean, those who know me know I have a love of spicy food and just love jerk chicken with rice and peas. I also love the beaches there where I can relax and go body boarding. Sounds perfect doesn’t it? Well let me rewind to before I get there.
3am the alarm goes off and we get ready for our drive to Gatwick, we are in the car my fiancée is all chatty and clearly excited. I am tired and less chatty, I have that washing machine feeling in my stomach and it’s not through excitement – it’s anxiety.
Let me just pause there for a moment – I can hear you all now as your reading this saying “you’re shitting yourself, you’re just scared of flying” the truth is absolutely not, there is nothing to be scared about being on a plane as statistics show this and I’m not going to bore you with the details.
Believe me, I have always enjoyed flying, I think it’s a great experience and a good excuse to do nothing for 10 hours!
But let me try and explain what is happening in my brain when I am driving to the airport and being on that plane until the wheels touch down for landing.
I know the wings won’t fall off, nor will the engines fall out. We are not suddenly going to fall out of the sky and plummet 38,000ft. I know this and so does my brain – statistically most accidents occur on take off and landing which is the most fun bit – it’s the 9 hours in between that is the worst. My over-wrought brain kicks in again and fills my other brain with a load of crap that I quite frankly don’t believe but for some reason this brain is more powerful – the plane starts to jump about, up and down.
Nice brain says “Ah it’s only turbulence, just air pockets and the feeling of being on a train or going over speed bumps – nothing to worry about.”
Damien brain says “You’re going to die – the bouncing around is so severe and your not in control of the situation. One of the wings will fall off any minute.”
But for some reason this is what I believe even though I know the first bit is the rational normal behaviour. I sit there looking at the faces of the flight crew for them to look worried but their smiling, everyone else is either asleep, watching a film or chatting away.
Am I the only one that can feel this movement – no: I’m the only one suffering from severe anxiety.
But it doesn’t end there it doesn’t just happen in situations like this it happens to me in everyday life I spend a lot of my days living with constant worry which in turn drains my energy and makes me feel constantly tired – when I’m tired I feel lethargic and irritable but worse it heightens the feeling of anxiety. The other problem though is it stops me from sleeping, it’s a vicious circle. My head hits the pillow and things enter my head,
Have I turned the oven off although it’s not been on all night?
If I leave it the house might burn down.
But I haven’t had it on. But wait what if I knocked it on by accident?
I best just check.
Guess what? It’s off when I check.
Then I’ll toss and turn for hours trying to switch off whilst worrying about how many hours I have left to sleep.
The list of situations is endless from meeting a friend and worrying about all possible scenarios.
What if I’m late?
What if he’s late?
What if he doesn’t answer his phone when I call?
What if he has the wrong day / time?
To simply locking the front door when I leave the house:
Did I lock it?
What if somebody breaks in?
It’s horrible, the mind is a powerful tool and when it’s used the wrong way can be dangerous to our health.
So what is anxiety in a nutshell?
It’s a mental state of mind where we worry about all manner of situations, you’re aware it’s irrational and sometimes unexplained, but knowing that gives no aid whatsoever.
It’s like the feeling of missing a step on the stairs and your stomach lurches.
Anxiety feels like that but last much longer.
Anxiety is to worry about events before they have happened, overthinking a situation and generally catastrophising most situations.
I’ve now got to a point where enough is enough and I am embarking on a journey to rewire my brain to enjoy and relax in these situations, to learn to realise that all of the outcomes I have thought up before have never actually emerged.
I am no longer going to be a slave to my own brain.
I am going to take control of my brain once and for all and get my life back.
Just to set the record straight I’m not in a dark place so I don’t want people reading this worrying about my welfare. For those who know me it may come as a shock if you weren’t aware that’s because I can hide it away. But hiding it away isn’t curing or finding the route cause of the problem.
I am very much excited about the journey I am now about to take, I don’t know how long these things take I guess it’s different for everyone as we are all individuals. This doesn’t matter though because I have taken the first step and am confident I can banish Damien for good.
This is also the first time I have really opened up to this and the fact I’m publishing on a website for everyone to see takes a lot but I truly believe that when we start to talk about these types of things we realise we are not alone and will help others like me to tell their story.
This is why we built Man Stress – share your stories with us.
We are not here to judge but are a community of human beings wanting to help each other.
I will be keeping you updated on the progress of my journey.
It won’t be a daily blog you’ll be happy to know (this has taken me 3 days to write).