Anxiety & Dating

So anxiety sucks, obviously. But I haven’t really talked about how it effects the people around me, for example my boyfriend. God that boy needs a medal for putting up with me! I mean my family does too but they don’t really have a choice they’re stuck to me like a barnacle. 

Have you seen that meme? The ‘are you dating me cause you like me or as a friend?’ That’s me in a nutshell. Everything is amazing, and then I might notice a small twitch in my boyfriend’s mouth which will send my mind off in a whirl ‘was that a frown? I think it was, well if he’s frowning he’s unhappy. He must want to dump me, oh God I’m going to die alone’ and so on and so forth. It sounds absolutely mental right? Yep it is and I’ll be the first to admit it. I used to hear friends talk about the same thing before I was partnered up and I would think dead set get a grip how stupid, why don’t they worry about something worthwhile like dying? And here I am, spoke too soon! 

Most men don’t stay with women they’re not interested in, and logically I know mine wouldn’t, but there’s just something in my brain that can detect the slightest change of tone in his voice and imagine it’s all about to be over red rover. Ironically though, the thing that would be likely to end a perfectly normal functioning relationship would be the annoyance of your significant other constantly questioning if you still love them! 

Unfortunately for me (and my boyfriend) anxiety doesn’t entertain logic, but I have heard many people say ‘if she isn’t crazy she doesn’t love you.’

My 5 favourite Apps for coping with Mental Health

How often throughout the day are you giving your thumbs a work out on your phone? I personally spend countless hours on Facebook, watching Snapchat stories, scrolling through Instagram and googling random shit. Spending excess time on our phones is usually perceived as a negative activity, and yes comparing my life to insta famous girls with perfect bodies who never seem to work a day in their life is pretty depressing at times but there are actually some pretty amazing apps out there! 

Below I’ve composed a list in no particular order of my favourite apps for when I need to switch off (so to speak) and check in with my mental health. If you have any apps that you swear by for coping with anxiety or any other mental illness, comment down below and leave a suggestion!

1. What’s Up? 

This app uses CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy for those of you who have never seen a psych before) and ACT (acceptance commitment therapy) methods to help you cope with Anxiety, Depression, Anger, Stress and other issues. It comes with a positive and negative thought tracker, tools to put your problems in perspective and games to distract you from the heat of the moment when panic strikes. It also has forums, inspirational quotes and coping mechanisms for negative thoughts. 

The great thing about What’s Up? is that you can use it just about anywhere, it’s free and allows you to basically have a pocket sized shrink on hand at all times!

2. Smiling Mind 


If you haven’t yet heard of smiling mind allow me to introduce you to this modern meditation app. This little app has been developed by psychologists and educators to help bring balance to people’s lives. 

The program is designed to assist people dealing with the pressure, stress and challenges of daily life. I tend to use this app just before bed, the meditation consists of  short little sessions of around 4 minutes and ranging up to extended meditation sessions of 30 minutes. 

3. Ballz 

More of a game than a mental health app but this bad boy is the king of distraction for me! Basically you shoot the ball to destroy the coloured tiles so they don’t reach the bottom of the screen. Maybe I’m not explaining it very well but seriously, this app is amazing for distraction. I play this during my breaks at work, on the bus, laying in bed when I should be sleeping. I find myself so distracted by shooting those pesky tiles that I couldn’t possibly be worried about dying! 

4. Stop, Breathe & Think


Stop, Breathe & Think is an award winning meditation and mindfulness app that helps you find peace and relaxation anywhere. Find a quiet space and for just a few minutes allow this app to help you develop skills to learn to relax. 

5. 7 Minute Workout 

It wouldn’t be right to not add an app that focuses on physical health, because let’s me honest when you feel good physically you feel good mentally. Also available on Apple Watch, Seven is an app that provides you with mini 7 minute (who’d have guessed that?) work outs. 

I use this app first thing in the morning, it’s perfect for people who don’t have a whole lot of time before work to hit the gym but still want to fit in a quick active session to start the day! 

So there you have it, my favourite apps for when I need to take a few minutes out of my day to calm down and take a break from the world. Try out at least one of these apps and see it if has a positive effect on you too! 

Thoughts 

Every so often my anxiety chills out. Wild right? I can be riddled with thoughts of impending doom and then a few days later wake up and think ‘hey I haven’t worried myself sick for at least a week.’ I have no reasoning for it, maybe my meds are doing me a favour or it’s that spring is here and how can anyone not be feeling the positive vibes while the flowers are starting to blossom and the weather is warming up? Maybe it’s that instead of thinking I’m about to kick the bucket the thought that beach season is on the way and maybe I shouldn’t have spent all winter bingeing on KFC is too distracting to fit anything else in my mind! 

But seriously, it’s amazing hence no blogging in a while. Of course I’ve still been stressing about a few things – climate change is my latest fear – but the thing about my anxiety is I’m very safety in numbers based. Climate change is something that’s going to effect everyone so I think oh well we’re all in this together but getting scratched by a squirrel on vacation in New York and ending up with rabies is something that would leave me on my death bed alone (that’s a story for another time.)

When I’m not busy with my anxiety like as of late it leaves me to ponder the more important things in life. Like 5 year plans and consolidating my superannuation. I wonder if this is what it’s like to be normal? Do other people just cruise around focusing on reaching their goals because they don’t have to spend 80% of their waking hours inserting their symptoms into webmd? 

So what about goals hey? Has anyone noticed that successful people always either A. Thank God or B. Bang on about the power of positive thinking and putting your dreams out into the universe. I haven’t read The Secret, but I get the gist of it; power of positive thinking and letting the universe know what you want and eventually it will happen. Obviously there has to be some sort of work involved, I mean I want a Mercedes G-Class but I don’t think the universe is going to just drop it off on my door step after a few weeks of wishing and being really good. So how does it work? Maybe if I actually read The Secret I’d know but I was too lazy. I picture myself with a sports illustrated model type of body every night before bed but so far the universe hasn’t done that for me (revert back to my previous statement about the winter long KFC binge.) 

How does one person even stick to one set of goals? My mind changes every week. Sometimes I’d like to be filthy rich on a yacht draped in designer wear, other days I’d consider ‘rich’ as having a cute little country cottage and running my own little corner cafe. And then you have to find someone with similar goals to spend your life with, or compromise somewhat. I think it’s so easy for people to think that it’s soo much effort or financially risky to chase their dreams. Heck I have so many ideas that I would love to follow through with and become and entrepreneur, but those negative thoughts hold me back. I’m definitely a dreamer and I saw a quote by the late Hugh Hefner that read ‘Life is too short to be living someone else’s dream’ that really struck a chord with me. It made me want to quit my job on the spot and stop working for the man. Of course a few extra years working for a big corporation saving some cash is probably a better idea than quitting right now and ending up living on the streets haha! 

So that’s it, I’m giving myself 3 years to have saved some cash behind me and change my life for the better. Quit my job working for the man and do something that truly makes me happy. That’s pretty drastic I’ll admit but I’m an extremist, I’m not the type of person to have my wings clipped working for a large corporation that calls the shots on my life. But you don’t need to quit your job to be happy, little things like planning biannual over seas vacations, volunteering at an animal shelter if that’s what you want or even getting that irresponsible dream car that your wife is going to try to make you return. This life isn’t a practice run and we should all give ourselves the opportunity to live our best life. What steps are you going to take to ensure you live your best life and chase your dreams? 

OCD

Before I actually had OCD I always thought it was just something that really clean people had and that maybe my sister had it because she always spends a lot of time cleaning – turns out she just has poor time management and it takes her forever to finish a task haha.

It first started when I moved out of home for the first time and lived on my own, I had a gas stove top which we didn’t have at home and of course all it took was one quick thought of ‘what if I accidentally left the gas on and gassed myself to sleep?’ to make me get out of bed and check it was turned off. I checked it was off and back to sleep I went, obviously I woke up the next day healthy and well which reinforced the idea that if I checked it last night and I’m fine, I better do it tonight too to make sure that I’ll be fine. Thus the routine began.

I started to build on from just the gas and moved onto electrical appliances and power points too. Before I’d go to bed or leave the house I’d have to check all appliances were turned off and unplugged from the electrical socket. I don’t know what I expect will to happen, maybe if I leave my phone charger plugged in the wall it will spontaneously combust and burn my apartment down? What’s even more illogical is that I would ensure everything in the house unplugged apart from the TV and fridge. Apparently my mind figured that was okay, but everything else has to be turned off.

From there I graduated onto before I left my car ensuring the car was in park, the hand break is up and the lights (both interior and exterior) were off. I could never get one of those fancy new cars where you walk away from it and the lights turn off automatically! I then after locking the car, near pull the door handle off making sure that the door is actually locked by trying to open it. A bit of a strange experience for first time riders in my car I must say.

All of this slowly came together to all be incorporated into my routine. It probably took the space of a few months for all these things to become a regular part of my life. It doesn’t sound that bad in writing, and I guess there’s no real harm in doing a quick once over to make sure things are turned off and secure but it’s actually quite time consuming. After a while one check didn’t satisfy me, I’d get in bed and think ‘did I really check the gas though?’ I knew I did but there was constantly this niggling feeling in my mind that wouldn’t go away until I checked again. And again, and again. It would take me half an hour just to leave the house. Who cares if the appliances did combust and the house burned down? There’s no one else at home so no one would get hurt… but I just have to check!

A few years later I moved from an apartment to a house. I was all by myself in a three bedroom home, 4 hours from any family and not living in the best area. My checking really took a turn for the worst when my house was broken into while I was away for Christmas. They took; my sheesha which I used solely for the purpose of sitting my TV arial on to get better reception, my backpack (who steals a backpack?!!!) and my hair straightener. Apart from the sheesha for my tv reception I wasn’t worried about my stolen goods but I felt so exposed. A bad person had come into my home and violated my safe place. I began checking things like a mad person before bed. All the doors, the windows, the garage, even under the beds and inside the cupboards for hidden perpetrators waiting to strike when I was sleeping. That was an exhausting time of my life, constantly checking over and over again to believe that I was safe in my own home.

I’ve since moved back home and have the pressure lifted of checking things like power points. There’s no gas cooking appliances, and as for the perimeter check to keep out criminals I have the trust that my mum would have already followed out those tasks for me. Logically I know my mum isn’t checking under beds for the boogie man, but just having other people in the house is such a load off my chest! When I’m home alone it’s a different story, I’ve even added to my routine to make sure the gate is definitely closed so the dog doesn’t get out. I’ve even thought about getting a padlock for the gate so I know the dog will 100% be safe but I know the family would call me mad and insist I put a stop to that sort of nonsense. Leaving the house takes me a good 15 minutes when I’m home alone and has even resulted in me missing the bus for work.

Honestly I don’t really know how to combat my OCD, my meds don’t seem to make much difference to it and I feel like the things that help anxiety like exercise etc don’t really help combat it either. My hands are so dry from washing them all the time and it drives me insane that I make myself check my alarm 3 times in a particular order. Thankfully though the OCD is not (in my case) as bad as the anxiety, it’s annoying and time consuming but it’s not terrifying like the anxious thoughts. Sometimes I man up and force myself to leave the house without checking the candles are blown out (I’ve not lit one in weeks but I’ve still gotta check) and while from the walk from the front door to my car I feel sick with worry by the time I leave my driveway I feel exhilarated and think oh well I’ve left now it’ll be right, but that’s an absolute rarity.

My main aim is to be able to leave the house without a second thought but perhaps the old keys, phone, wallet check. I imagine the luxury of going to bed without even entertaining the idea of being gassed in my sleep would be amazing. I’m chasing that boring feeling of normality, so if you too suffer from OCD, comment below how you cope, or what you’ve done to combat those pesky compulsive behaviours.

The Worst Days

I was 19 when my anxiety was in full spin, it was when I was first diagnosed and I thought I was going crazy. I didn’t know anyone else with anxiety and it seemed as though others around me saw it just something that was just in my head. At the time my Nan had lung cancer and here I was imitating the boy who cried wolf constantly telling people I couldn’t breathe and asking to be taken to the emergency room.

Every day I would wake up and thank God that I’d made it through the night and was still alive. I’m not an overly religious person but during this stage of my life I would find myself laying in bed in the midst of panic saying in my head ‘please God let me live’ and promising things like ‘I swear I’ll be a better person, I’ll give to charities I’ll help others if I can just not die.’ I don’t know if it was the help of God, or the fact that I was 19 and relatively fit and healthy but I survived.

When I first started having panic attacks I would seek reassurance from my Mum and Sister whom I lived with. They would basically both tell me the same thing ‘you’re not dying, if you couldn’t breathe you’d be dead by now.’ It was frustrating for them because I was clearly physically ok and equally as frustrating for me because I legitimately felt like I couldn’t get enough air in my lungs. When I’d exhausted my family I moved onto seeking reassurance from my best friend. Her husband is a nurse in the emergency department so I would pester her until they would come and pick me up, take me for a drive and he would put my mind at ease by checking my obs and giving me a medical explanation about why I wasn’t dying. I became addicted to this, the feeling of relief that someone who is medically trained told me I was going to be ok was just enough to get me through the night and have a decent sleep. My friend eventually put her foot down when it came to the late night drives to calm me down (my anxiety is always worse right before bed) so I had to find another way to get that dose of relief. In come my doctors appointments.

I would visit the doctor 1-2 times a week. Mostly always to report that I couldn’t breathe and I had chest pains which my doctor would reassure me these were just symptoms of anxiety. It would annoy me that she was so quick to brush it off as anxiety, I had actual pains in my chest why wasn’t she taking me seriously? But the logical part of my brain was usually satisfied that a medical professional had deemed me ok and I was going to live to see another day, thus I could sleep that night.

After the chest pains came dizziness, shaking/trembling hands, headaches, sweating and random pains in random parts of my body. My mind was so convinced that the doctors were missing something and there just HAD to be something wrong with me. When the high of visiting the doctor wore off I moved onto going to the emergency department. I figured the emergency department is in a hospital with surgeons and specialists and they can definitely save me if there’s something wrong with me. The first time I went was because I couldn’t breathe properly. I was rushed in straight away and had an ECG done and tests ran. I was fine, there was nothing wrong with me. I felt so betrayed by my body that it could make me feel these things and cause me so much stress and discomfort all for nothing.

When things were at their worst I feared everything. Mainly sleeping and showering. Crazy right? Literally two of the most satisfying things. Sleeping obviously because it’s a timeframe of 8 unsupervised hours where anything could happen to me and it would be hours before anyone would notice and come to save me, and showering for basically the same reason. It was 15-20 minutes where I would be completely alone without anyone to notice if I spontaneously combusted.

The second time I visited the emergency department I’d convinced myself my throat was closing in on itself and I was going to suffocate to death. It was during a weekend away with my sister’s, we were to attend a music festival and I’d been anxious the whole time consumed by the thought that I was moments away from dying. My sister’s got really cranky that time, of course there was nothing wrong with me as confirmed by a doctor and I decided that the thrill of attending the emergency room wasn’t worth the scalding from my older siblings.

I was prescribed Zoloft shortly after by my regular GP. The poor woman probably needed some herself after entertaining me for the past few months. My anxiety was so bad that I was reluctant to take the Zoloft not because I have an anti meds stance but because I stupidly read the information booklet from front to back including the side effects section. For someone easily convinced they’re about to die this wasn’t my best idea. Eventually I ballsed up and started them, and boy what a difference. Between that and seeing a psych once a week I was able to take control of my life again. However I was only on the meds for a few months because I didn’t want to have to depend on them to live a normal life.

Honestly I don’t know how long all of this went on for. When I think of my anxiety I think of it in bouts and this bout was certainly the worst. Obviously seeing the psych helped a little (I’m lazy and probably didn’t commit to the exercises as much as I could have) and the Zoloft definitely played its role, however in the end of this bout I feel like my mind was just so mentally exhausted it couldn’t be bothered to make up scenarios anymore to convince me I was dying. It just seemed to get better without me noticing and then before I knew it I was basically my normal self again. I’d still have a moment of panic every now and then but it didn’t come in the tidal waves I’d be used to for what felt like months and months on end.

I feel like once you get past the first bout of anxiety you find it easier to deal with the next ones – at least I did anyway. You soon notice that the breathing difficulties are just a physical symptom of your anxiety and put in place practices to deal with them. You ignore the headaches, the hot sweats are less intense and you don’t think twice about the shaking hands when they happen. Growing up and entering ‘the real world’ sucks, it’s boring and there’s bills to pay however with work and other adult commitments sometimes I find myself so busy I just don’t have time for anxiety. My brain is too preoccupied that it doesn’t have the capacity to make up terminal illnesses. Maybe that’s how I got better, maybe I just got too busy and found ways to keep my mind occupied but somehow I did find a way to climb out of the dark hole I felt like I was going to be trapped in forever. I absolutely still suffer from anxiety however it’s wayyyy less intense and thank God, has never been as bad as it was during this bout years ago.

The Early Days

I was around 7 or 8 when my Great Grandmother passed away, and my Mum gave me the option to attend her funeral. I didn’t really understand the concept of death or what went on at funerals but as a child I knew the whole family would be gathering and I didn’t want to miss out on anything exciting.

When I saw the coffin lowered into the grave I came to the realisation that’s where my Grandma would stay and that she’d be trapped under the earth forever. Forever. That’s a really long time, is this what happens when everyone dies? Is this what’s going to happen to me? Am I going to die? And there we have it, that’s when my fear of death began, the main fear that I still hold onto now nearly two decades later.

I wasn’t quite sure how you died, my Grandmother was 90 so I wasn’t sure if it was something I needed to worry about until much later in life. Obviously though as I started to get older I discovered that there are many ways to go. ‘Will I die?’ became a common phrase of mine, if I fell over, if I grazed my knee and started to bleed, if I bumped my head. A huge faze of mine was when I learned that food could go out of date. Before I ate anything I would ask if the food was in date because I was convinced I’d die if it wasn’t. I’d ask any responsible adult I could to ensure that my meal was safe and I wasn’t going to perish. That faze died out after a while but still to this day I’ll call my mother every so often to ask things like ‘is this cheese still good?’ And ‘how long does salami last?’ Fun story, one New Years Eve I actually did eat off salami unintentionally and was violently ill vomiting etc. I survived! What a relief! I wasn’t likely to die from food which freed my mind to worry about something else.

Nowadays I’ve graduated from death by food poisoning to things like leaving the gas on throughout the night and gassing myself to sleep (income my OCD, I’m a checker but more on that another time.) Headaches that I worry might actually be an aneurism – not likely, I have sinus which causes my headaches but you know, what if?! And all the rest, what if all the double cheeseburgers catch up and I have a heart attack? Yes it’s silly I know, when I die I wont even know so why worry? It’s inevitable right so why not just enjoy the time I have on earth instead of wasting my time being anxious? Wouldn’t that be nice! On average 1 in 4 people suffer from anxiety so it can’t be that easy.

I think it’s that I. Just. Don’t. Want. To Die.

Ever.

Maybe it’s FOMO, I mean what if I die and then the next day something exciting happens? Also I kinda wanna know who’s going to show up to my funeral.

So what’s the best way to deal with the ‘what if there is no afterlife and when I die I just lay there forever?’ If I find out I’ll let you know, and trust me I plan to. I’ve tried the psychologist and medication path, and they both have their merits, currently now I’m on a very low dose of Lexapro. But like I said, it’s only a low dose and doesn’t always cut it. I plan on trying everything under the sun from diet and exercise to hobbies and selfless acts like giving back to others. So follow me on my journey while I stumble along trying to make sense of what’s going on inside my imaginative yet sometimes bloody disruptive brain.

 

Welcome


I currently have pins and needles in my feet, harmless right? Not according to my brain, it must be something awful and most likely terminal. Sound familiar? Classic anxiety.

There are so many forums, websites, yahoo answers topics about anxiety; ‘Am I dying?’ ‘have I lost the plot?’ ‘I feel like I can’t breathe!’ and I’ve sat up until all hours of the morning pouring through these sites reading as I breathe a sigh of relief and think thank God it’s not just me! So here I am, dedicating a whole blog to sharing stories about my anxiety and how it effects (sometimes controls – am I right?) my life, how I manage it and hopefully to give others that feeling of relief that they’re not going crazy like I too, in the early days I thought I was.

I will never forget my first panic attack, I was sitting on the couch watching tv when suddenly I couldn’t breathe. The panic was instant and I was sure I was going to die because I felt like no air was getting in my lungs. I come from a family of  the ‘harden up, it’s just in your head’ kind of mentality so I was promptly told to stop being ridiculous because if I couldn’t breathe I would have passed out already. I stayed up all night convinced that I should call an ambulance but didn’t because I knew if I did my mother would have probably killed me anyway haha! – I don’t know where you’re reading this from but in Australia the cost for an ambulance is bloody expensive!

From there came the chest pains, the feeling of constriction around my throat and not being able to swallow properly. I used to shake so much that I made my GP check if I had early onset Parkinson’s Disease (I was 19 at the time.) I went to the emergency department twice, once because I couldn’t breathe and the other because I was convinced my throat was closing up – is that even a thing? I remember being so frustrated when doctors would tell me the chest pains were just in my head, how could they? It was real, I could feel it! I felt like I was having a heart attack and would sleep with a wheat pack on my chest every night. I stopped drinking tea, soft drink and cut away lollies from my diet because I thought the sugar/caffeine was going to hurt me and eventually I was prescribed Zoloft which I was scared to take because I stupidly read the side effects and was convinced they’d all happen to me.

Eventually my doctor gave me a cartoon illustrated book which finally shed some light on my situation and made me think, maybe these chest pains etc really ARE just physical symptoms of anxiety. What a difference that made! But still, it wasn’t easy. Your mind is so strong and loves to make you think ‘butttt what if this time it really is a heart attack?’ if only it put that kind of effort in to convince me to go to the gym!

Years later here I am, my anxiety is more controlled and I haven’t had a decent panic attack worth mentioning in months. Let me tell you, it does get better! Sometimes my anxiety will go away for months and I wont have a second thought when I get a headache, or a funny feeling in my stomach, sometimes I see psych’s, other times my brain gets so exhausted from the anxiousness that I swear it tires itself out of the anxiety for a while, and other times I need a small dose of meds (as prescribed by my doctor of course.) Basically though, I’m here to tell you it WILL get better. Whether you’re at a particular point right now where you think it never will, it does. Struggle through one step at a time and follow me on my own personal journey navigating through this crazy world accompanied by my equally as crazy thoughts!