Monday, October 19, 2009

Day 12- Love Your Life Challenge, Anxiety

This is a Guest Post by the remarkable and inspiring Jade Craven, thank you Jade for sharing your story. You have touched my life and made me a better person for it xxx

How it started

I believe that I’ve always had anxiety. I was very clingy as a child, was selective mute in primary school and social phobic in high school

As soon as I hit puberty, things started to reach an unmanageable level. We all blamed it on hormones. I was always stressed out, thought the world was against me and had difficulty coping.

It didn’t get really severe until I moved out of home at 18. I had just started uni, and had to learn a different set of skills. At the end of my first year, my grandmother was diagnosed with cancer and given months to live. I spent much of this time at mums just helping out during the holidays. I’d often be there just to watch my younger teenage siblings while mum was in hospital.

This placed both my body and mind under a great deal of stress. And, when my nan died, that stress didn’t go away. I wasn’t able to cope with life, or school, and started to worry about everything. This stage lasted for years.

The difference between depression and anxiety

I used to think that anxiety was all mental – just worrying. I used to look down on the illness as a weak persons disease.

I had similar physical symptoms with both anxiety and depression. I had no energy, was incapable of taking care of myself or the house and had really poor cognitive symptoms. I couldn’t concentrate, had difficult remembering things and had trouble speaking.

It was the anxiety symptoms that were the worst. My brain just couldn’t process information and couldn’t handle loud noises or sudden movement. That meant that I was always on edge and out of breath. If it was too overwhelming, I’d dissociate. This is a symptom where your brain shuts down for a period of time.

My body would feel like it was on fire. If I didn’t handle the symptoms correctly, I’d have panic attacks. If I was really stressed, I’d hear voices. This lasted for about a year and was a really difficult time.

I actually used to look forward to my depressive episodes. My body would relax so much that I was able to sleep. I was lethargic, but that was ok because my muscles weren’t tingling. Eventually, the depression would get so bad I’d be suicidal and crying all the time, but I didn’t mind because it gave my body a break from the constant tension.

In many cases, these illnesses coexist and it can be hard to tell them apart. I realized that they are very different and require different techniques to manage

The Challenges

My disorder presented me with a lot of challenges that made everyday living difficult.

o I didn’t have the energy to maintain my appearance, so I often looked frumpy. This really impacted on my conference.
o I was rarely well enough to interact with friends and family so I was convinced they all hated me
o I was on a really low income and rarely had the money to treat myself
o I was petrified every time I left the house.
o I had poor concentration and lost my creativity. I lost touch with my hobbies and started thinking I’d lost my personality.

I had to change but I didn’t know how

I’m not sure what pulled me through. All I knew was that I didn’t want to die so I just kept on struggling through every day.

And it was a struggle. I had very little quality of life and constantly felt horrible both physically and mentally. It got worse until I sunk into a really deep depression.

This is something I’ve never told anyone. I was suicidal and couldn’t find a logical way to talk myself out of it. Normally, I could give myself a reason that would allow me to persevere with the episode. I told myself that I’d pretend that I can’t fail and just give everything a go. I’d seek medical help and would give my blog everything I had.
Things started getting better

I turned my life around by seeking treatment. 6 months ago, I was crying in my doctors office and begging to be put on medication. She initial refused, because I had stopped taking other meds due to the side effects.

I decided that I wouldn’t let my prejudices get in the way and would take my meds, despite the reported side effects, and seek counselling. And initially, things got worse. I had bad side effects for the first month.

Then the symptoms started to go away. I was able to breath and think clearly again. I was able to process the ideas my counsellor was giving me. I was able to put more time in my blog and started reconnecting with my old hobbies.

How I started loving myself again.

Being able to love my life was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do. Part of anxiety is the constant negative self talk. I was convinced that I’d never achieve something and didn’t know how to change the mindset. There were a number of steps that I took that made the process easier:
o I got a haircut. This was really simple but it made such a difference to my confidence. I noticed afterwards that I didn’t hate my appearance as much and was more outgoing
o I slowly introduced myself to my old hobbies. This was hard, as I still feel I’ve lost a lot of my creativity, but it makes me so happy to go to a musical or do a bushwalk. Moments like that make the constant struggle worth it.
o I started chucking out my old clothing and buying clothes that fit my body shape. This was a great confidence booster. My pants only cost $40 from Target but did wonders.
o I stopped finding excuses when my blog friends asked to catch up. Now I’ve met so many amazing people.

I wont say this process has been easy. I’m now very happy with my life and I still think I’m a worthless piece of shit. Its hard trying to improve things but the Love Your Life challenge is brilliant for those needing help to take their first step.

There are so many different avenues to help you if you are feeling anything like this.
* See your GP
* Contact SANE 1800 18 SANE (7263)
* Contact Beyond Blue
* I highly recommend that you work with your GP and a Counselor or Life Coach so both physically and mentally you are getting the appropriate treatment.
* Jo baker Lifestyle Specialist of Believe Lifestyle Centre specializing in restoring confidence and self esteem in women.
* Susan Tyshkovsky Life Coach and owner of Life by Creation specializes in working through your issues in order for you to live and love yourself and your life. Getting you out of that rut.
Susan is donating 2 x 2 one hour sessions for the Love Your Life Challenge this could seriously change your life!


Steve Remington said...
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K.Line said...

I too suffer from anxiety disorder. It started as a child and has taken a huge toll (to understate things completely). After I had my daughter - an experience that positively threw me over the edge - I did seek treatment and it's changed (maybe even saved) my life. I also decided to see a naturopath and change my entire diet (supplement with vitamins and minerals that help with anxiety). One must be sure though, if on an SSRI, that one doesn't mix certain neurotransmitters in supplements with meds.

High doses of B vitamins and magnesium can be incredibly helpful to forestall anxiety. Again, if you want to work the supplementation angle, def. do it with a trained naturopath who will understand interactions and who should test you to see what nutritional insufficiencies might be contributing.

Jade Craven said...
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Bra Queen said...
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Anonymous said...

I don't think anxiety is mental illness. I have anxiety/panic attacks- thanks for posting. It helps other when you are transparent about your troubles.

Jade Craven said...

Anonymous -

I didn't think it was a mental illness at first and it is a difficult subject to talk about.

I have generalized anxiety disorder and now quite strongly believe that it is a mental illness. I don't have panic attacks anymore but notice a connection to moods/cognitive funcion when my life gets more stressful. This is constant unlike other forms of anxiety which are situational.

You can ask Steve :-) I'm normally ok when out, but once I came to a tweet up and was barely functional. It was a surprise as I was feeling happy but had trouble talking to people. It was because I was stressd and my brain was telling me to slow down.

I'm happy to talk about this further :-)

Bra Queen said...

Anonymous- I appreciate your honesty! Personally I do believe it is a mental illness, however the severity differs. Jade describes it best in her comment above.
If you would like further info on the difference to get a better understanding go to

Adam Bentict said...
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Snake said...
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Frank and Sue said...

Hey Jadey girl!! You must have been DYING inside when you dropped around to our home to check out Bushwalking gear, but you DID it and I hope we made you feel welcome and safe!!

NOW, get off ur bum and do an overnighter !!

Want us to take you somewhere for an intro??? You bring the port....


Jade Craven said...

Ok - just want to say I had my first panic attack today in about 11 months (family situation came to a head) so am feeling a bit woozy)

Re: Steve

I just want to say Steve brings up a valid point. It took a long while for me to get diagnosed and then properly treated and in that time, I was desperate. I would have paid anything to get better and online, there are a lot of scammers that would pick up on it. And in my experience, there was no way I could have got the mental stuff under control until I'd found the right meds so his point is quite valid.

So - I've just come off a panic attack. The words are swimming across the screen, I cant concentrate and I feel like shit. If I was having constant panic attacks, I may have misinterpreted that so yeah.

I also want to say that you are SO fragile and vulnerable when your sick. There is no way I can describe it which is why I try to be so careful when talking about anxiety. I nearly didn't go on my meds because of the info I read online and they are the only reason I'm functional now. So while it may seem like a bit much, I can totally see his point.

Frank - you wouldn't believe it. I'm functional now and can push myself through situations but it just makes me feel like shit. I really liked meeting you.

I'm desperate to do an overnighter :) Its been money. I'm now earning $$ online but it can take up to 6 weeks to come in. I've been slowly building up my stuff and now its summer, can probably get away with overnighters without a lot of gear.

I'm getting my backpack off laybuy next week and will try to do some more daywalks. :P Bushwalking really helped me get better.

Bra Queen said...
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Steve Remington said...
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AR said...

The line "6 months ago, I was crying in my doctors office and begging to be put on medication" is straight out of my life. I only wish I had of heading to my GP earlier, instead of battling on alone and wishing for my life to end. I have always been so embarrased of my condition. Even now I would never, EVER let on people in my life what I go through, but thank you for sharing your story as it makes me feel not so alone.

Jade Craven said...

Steve - yeah, thats why i try not to give advice with anxiety. I'll talk about specifics that have helped me, things that have calmed but its a bitch of an illness.

AR - I was actually telling one of my friends on twitter about how I find having anxiety so isolating. I started talking about it because it was bloody obvious that I was struggling when I went out and fortunately there were awesome people like Steve and Renee who understood and went out of their way to make me feel less anxious.

Now I'm at the point where I now realize that its medical and I shouldn't be ashamed. I'll straight up tell my friends 'hey, im feeling depressed or anxious today - let me know if im acting weird' and they do. Its hard, but I'm at a comfortable stage.

I never let on to my parents about how bad I got but they've been awesome in supporting me. They unintentionally came along for the ride when I was struggling to get diagnosed/treated and went from saying 'your overreacting'(understandable) to explaining why my feelings are valid, but its unlikely the car will fall off the cliff.

I wish I'd gone to see my GP earlier or gotten better treatment, but I also found I had the time to understand exactly how my body and mind responded to stress. Now I am SO self aware of how anxiety affects me and can predict symptoms and take precautions so i dont get too sick.

Anyhoo... In response to what Steve said, does anyone want to hear about all the thigns I self diagnosed myself with before I foudn out 'yes, anxiety can make you hear voices'

hehe. Logging off to finish another post xx

Bra Queen said...

You are not alone and so many people are going through a similar thing. I am so glad you received the treatment you needed. If you ever need advice or an ear Jade is great and very open about her feelings and what she is going through. If you need any help please let me know and
I wish you all the best in your journey xxx

Steve Remington said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Bra Queen said...

Please Note- I have chosen to delete comments made from the comment section. I have made the respective changes I deem necessary to ensure that nothing is detracted from the actual story.

Anonymous said...

Jade what a horribly paralysing time in your life. Congratulations to you for those baby steps you took that have lead to a wonderful change in your life that has allowed you to take leaps and bounds. A fantastic inspirational story!

Keep up the great life Jade! Life is full of wonder and surprise....keep enjoying yourself!

Anonymous said...

I've been thinking about your words Jade and how powerful a tool the internet is. I have a beautiful friend in the US who has alot to offer this world but is trapped in her home from the anxiety she suffers. She is in the process of taking her baby steps and they are like you the internet. We interact daily on facebook as she does with others.

Slowly but surely she will get back to loving and enjoying the sunshine that life has to offer.

I'll send her your words as inspiration for what lies ahead! Thanks and travel well x

Bra Queen said...

Thank you Bell for your wonderful words!

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