Having thought long and hard about it, I have decided to come out, and say, that I currently am experiencing something of a psychological wellbeing situation.
To think, I am doing all this JUST so that I have an excuse to post that video, haha – joking.
Of course, the song has taken on many different meanings to people over the years, however my coming out and saying that I am currently struggling a little is akin, if not more high-pressured for me, than when I actually came out as ‘gay’ to the World (half a life time ago), with that sort of ‘coming out’ being that which many people have come to associate this track with.
As with both, and as a basis for comparison, there exist the same massive social stigmas, and those that I am currently wrangling with on the wellbeing side (including battling my own perceptions and stigmas) include the fear that people will treat me differently, that I may no longer be accepted, or that everyone will be talking about me. All of this comes on top of the issues that I am currently working through, which ultimately only end up making things a little worse!
Over the last six months, I have been suffering from Panic Attacks.
Sufferers of panic attacks often report a fear or sense of dying, “going crazy,” or experiencing a heart attack or “flashing vision,” feeling faint or nauseated, a numb sensation throughout the body, heavy breathing (and almost always, hyperventilation), or losing control of themselves. Some people also suffer from tunnel vision, mostly due to blood flow leaving the head to more critical parts of the body in defense. These feelings may provoke a strong urge to escape or flee the place where the attack began (a consequence of the sympathetic “fight-or-flight response”) in which the hormone which causes this response is released in significant amounts. This response floods the body with hormones, particularly epinephrine (adrenaline), that aid it in defending against harm.
A panic attack is a response of the sympathetic nervous system (SNS). The most common symptoms may include trembling, dyspnea (shortness of breath), heart palpitations, chest pain (or chest tightness), hot flashes, cold flashes, burning sensations (particularly in the facial or neck area), sweating, nausea, dizziness (or slight vertigo), light-headedness, hyperventilation, paresthesias (tingling sensations), sensations of choking or smothering, difficulty moving and derealization. These physical symptoms are interpreted with alarm in people prone to panic attacks. This results in increased anxiety, and forms a positive feedback loop.
Often, the onset of shortness of breath and chest pain are the predominant symptoms; the sufferer incorrectly appraises this as a sign or symptom of a heart attack. This can result in the person experiencing a panic attack seeking treatment in an emergency room.
Panic attacks are distinguished from other forms of anxiety by their intensity and their sudden, episodic nature. They are often experienced in conjunction with anxiety disorders and other psychological conditions, although panic attacks are not usually indicative of a mental disorder. [Source: Wikipedia]
The first one that I had, back in April, was so severe that I actually spent the night in the hospital, as they couldn’t rule out cardiac problems, including a heart attack. This was not my opinion (typical with first time panic attack sufferers), this was a collective opinion of a team of medical professionals and specialists. Since then, and becoming more frequent, I’ve had panic attacks over sometimes the most trivial of situations. A few weeks ago, it came to a head when I had three panic attacks in 5 days, and so I went to my GP to try to best safeguard my general health.
Associated with the panic attacks, I’ve been feeling a lot of stress (with so many panic attacks in a small time period, my body is unbelievably tense and in pain), and have encountered low bouts of depression. It is so frustrating to feel the way that I do, and not really be able to do anything about it.
It has significantly affected my life at present, I am currently away from the workplace, and even find simple things, such as going shopping, to be a bit of a challenge (lots of people, noise etc). I am increasingly restless, having spent a lot of time at home recently, and find it hard to concentrate on anything for more than a few minutes. Imagine, several weeks off, and you’re bored as, whilst you have plenty to do, you have the motivation to do none of it. There’s no worse feeling than when you suddenly get bored at 10pm, and don’t want to watch TV or read!
Getting out of the apartment helps, so long as I transfer in to a suitable environment, and I’ve been trying to do this as much as I can, and seeing friends has proved to be a real boost – as that was one of the things that I’d let slip a little. I don’t have many IRL friends back up in Manchester these days, and so it was definitely been something that I had wanted to be able to devote more time and energy to prior to all of this.
Of course, then you feel guilty, because you are off work, and whilst it may look to others like you’re having a great time, as you’re on the internet, being really hyper etc – whereas in reality, it’s sometimes all a bit of a front for me to try to bolster my mood – and so whilst people may think that you’re off ill, should be bed-ridden, and are somewhat taking the piss, actually, you just wish that you could make people understand that it’s all a show, sometimes, and that there is a much wider picture that I don’t tend to put out online. I was probably one of the first people to engage with social media in a big way back in the late 1990s, and so I’ve had a LOT of practice at it, heh. The novelty of being ‘off’ quickly fades away after the first day, and you very quickly find yourself wondering what you can find to fill each day with to distract from the status quo.
Anyway, I don’t want to get too caught up in my current situation, if you’re reading this, know that I am fine and my GP has referred me to a Psychological Wellbeing Practitioner. I got very lucky and was able to meet with her yesterday, and she seems lovely.
I am also seeing if I can find the means to re-prioritise my budget and fit in some massage sessions to help with the stress pain.
Anxiety is one of those things that, unfortunately, I am always going to suffer from, however there are a whole range of techniques and processes that my Practitioner can work with me on, to enable me to better manage instances of stress and anxiety, and to curtail the panic attacks should they return again.
I’m not Loony Toons, I’m not crazy, I’ve not changed, and will not change.
I am simply just learning some cool new skills to help me along.
If anything, I believe that my therapy may actually give me a slight advantage over many people – example, I have contact lenses, therefore you could argue that my vision is actually much better than someone who doesn’t need them, as they may have a few slight imperfections, whereas mine are ‘custom’ and with the intention of being ‘perfect’.
I am avoiding medication for the moment, as I’d rather not go down that route if I can help it, and so can officially say that I am in therapy (out of all of my siblings, it was blatantly always going to be me, hehe). This is the NHS brand of therapy though, so my appointment was in the draughty ‘Baby Clinic’ room of the Surgery, and not on a fancy nice sofa like you see on the US TV shows – boo! 😉 Whilst I make light of it, as I do most of life, I am unbelievably grateful for this lifeline that I’ve been thrown, and a potential ‘way out’ of this vicious anxiety circle.
The reason why I did write this post is to really offer support, and to show that just about anyone can end up feeling the way that I currently am, and that it is ‘normal’, no matter how awful and insular it feels some times. The Government is currently having a massive push on ‘mental health’ at the moment, and only the other day, I watched Ed Miliband, Leader of the Labour party, saying that the UK needed to do more to combat this. Certainly, from my understanding, the NHS has really embraced talking therapies and treatments for these social ills in spades over the last 18 months, and UK businesses are realising the economic benefits to greater support networks too.
1 in 4 people in the UK will likely experience some kind/level of psychological disturbance in their life time.
That is a scarily scalable number.
If you’re reading this post, perhaps you came from my twitter feed? There are 1,600 of you (kindly) following me – 400 of you are likely to experience some kind of similar upset at some point, (hopefully less traumatic on the panic attack front)…
… and if you’re one of my 242 friends on Facebook (a platform where I generally know people a lot more ‘personally’), then 60 of my friends are also going to experience mental distress at some point.
Since this became my ‘life’ a couple of weeks ago, I have also found people who I was already following on Twitter who have been/are also going through similar situations; people who I wouldn’t have otherwise known about had I not put myself out there a little, and, if anything, I hope that this serves as a message to people that you can apply these same statistics to your own social media numbers, and you’ll likely see that you’re very much not alone. I’ve also had some fantastic support from people and great friends in real life, including my partner Max, who has been a trooper – and I’m quite lucky in that we all find it easy to joke about with it a little, and keep the mood light, but still supportive.
If you are at any point worried about your wellbeing, the best thing that you can do is speak with your GP. I was quite lucky, as I brought the subject up with my employers first, as I had a few panic attacks at work, and they have been very supportive thus far, and I am waiting to see how that will all pan out. It’s a little scary having to discuss this with them, however they’ve been great in trying to direct me to appropriate resources and in their genuine concern.
Speaking to people in general about it is terrifying.
It is, I won’t lie to you.
Emotions are often difficult things, and when you are talking about them you can easily feel that they are insignificant or selfish (which I must stress, they are not). Emotional issues can lead to physical issues (e.g. all the pain I now have from being constantly stressed), which is much more unpleasant, and potentially very harmful.
However, what you’ll often find is that, given half the chance to show you, people are remarkably kind and understanding, and will instantly just want to help you – everyone seems to have a maternal instinct! The more that you talk about it, the less insular that you will feel, and you’ll hopefully find that you find you benefit the most from your treatment experiences.
I hasten to add, that these are just my experiences, and they will differ from person to person, and you may very well not agree with a single thing that I’ve said on these pages, or you may well find yourself crying out ‘Amen Sistah!’.
Below are a few links that I have found useful, which anyone in a similar situation may wish to check out if they have chance:
- http://www.ntw.nhs.uk/pic/selfhelp – Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust – Self-Help leaflets. For me, the Anxiety one literally read me like a book, and I found the literature to be fantastic. Leaflets for a massive range of conditions, with a lot of support networks detailed in them.
- http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/Pages/low-mood-stress-anxiety.aspx – NHS Mood Zone website – Includes information, and an online ‘test’ that you can do in 5 minutes to ascertain your current levels of stress, anxiety and depression.
- http://www.nhsdirect.nhs.uk – NHS Direct – if you are concerned but don’t want to ‘trouble’ your GP, give them a call first (0845 46 47) and they can advise if you should make an appointment with your GP.
- http://www.nhs.uk/servicedirectories/Pages/ServiceSearch.aspx?ServiceType=GP – NHS Choices – find a GP if you don’t currently have one.
- http://www.mind.org.uk/help/diagnoses_and_conditions/anxiety – MIND – links to further information on panic attacks. MIND is a mental health charity and can offer advice and support too etc.
- http://www.anxietyuk.org.uk – Anxiety UK – Charity which offers advice and support to people with anxiety disorders.
If you are currently experiencing severe depression, or any thoughts of harm, or suicide, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE, give the Samaritans a call on 08457 90 90 90, or contact them via any of their other means (including email, if that is easier).