20 May 2020

My Friend Anxiety

Full transparency - I've attempted to write this blog post several times in recent days and I'm honestly finding the whole process a challenge. Here goes nothing!

It's funny, my mum has always compared her anxious mind and mine to one of a duck. On the surface, we're just gradually moving along and appearing composed, but underneath our little legs are flapping faster than anything. I couldn't think of a more suitable comparison because anxiety has always been with me. An unwelcome close friend tapping me on the shoulder and ruining my mood. I suppose I call anxiety my friend because it's been by my side through my darkest moments, the most life-changing events, and every day in between. I struggle to contemplate a moment where I felt completely free of worry, which in itself is stressing me out!

Somewhere hidden within one of the many drafts of this post, I wrote in length about my childhood and where I think my struggle with anxiety comes from, but I take no joy in looking back and detest every minute spent trying to pinpoint where it all began, so I scrapped it and wrote this instead.

I can't remember any specific traumatizing events, but I remember struggling a lot throughout education, and because of my anxieties I either quit or picked things up a lot slower than just about everyone else.  In fact, anxiety is probably why I gave up swimming lessons, barely learnt to ride a bike, and failed most of my GCSE's. Somehow I made it through university which I'm proud of, even if I hated it, didn't attend my graduation, and am not using my degree at all currently. Moving swiftly on... 

During my early twenties after grieving the loss of my dad, I discovered that I had high functioning anxiety and a panic disorder. I crave control and anything outside of that terrified me to my core. I was apprehensive and concerned about everything. I see the world much more clearly these days, but sometimes fear on the unknown still gets the best of me.

For a long time I'd been searching for support and answers, so when I lost my dad life stood still. Without divulging too much, I wasn't close with him. However, his loss hit me harder than I could've imagined. I didn't get out of my bed for a long time. When I did I found counselling and voluntary work which pulled me through my final year at university. I was able to grow, learn, and heal old wounds. I began to find self-awareness as well and learnt that I was entering a new chapter if you will.

The discovery is only the beginning, not the end. 

What does panic disorder feel like then? It's overwhelming. Essentially fight or flight mode and I want to run. A switch has been flicked and I feel a total loss of control. I compare the feeling to an out-of-body experience. I'm entirely not in control of my emotions any more. Triggers include attending an unfamiliar location, travelling alone and sudden changes to my schedule. However, I also have a number of other circumstances which provoke anxiety within me which include, communicating in front of an audience (even if the subject is something I'm confident in) and exams of any kind. Oh, and whatever you do, please don't ask me to play Charades because that's literally my worst nightmare. Other worst nightmares include attending laser tag, escape rooms, or any outdoor excursion that involves climbing, jumping, or swimming. 

You may laugh, but all of the above and more that I'm probably yet to discover fill me with an all-consuming sensation of dread and psychical pain. 

Vomit worthy stuff. 

To clarify - I become clumsy. My throat is endlessly dry and not enough water in the world will ever be enough. I'm dizzy, panicking and about to cry. My jaw is clenched, my brain is basically mush and I can't fathom a single constructive thought. My head is underwater. I'm being swallowed up whole. Everything is too much.Whilst telling myself that it's all going to be fine, I'm also telling myself that it's definitely the absolute end of the world. Life as we know it will never be the same. I can't do it / I don't want to do it. I'm basically going to die if this bus doesn't turn up, or if it does and I accidentally get off at the wrong stop. I'm a mess. The emotional thoughts usually only last until the situation has resolved itself (usually by me doing whatever is causing me anxiety and coming out totally fine) but they're still all-consuming. The migraine left from such anxiety scratches across my eyes and down the bridge of my nose for several days to come.

These anxious days were once a weekly occurrence; now they are slightly rarer. 

Yet, just in time for Mental Health Awareness Week my unwanted friend decided to say hello and creep it's ugly head back into my life. Panic officially ensued around midday of Monday and disrupted my entire next 24 hours, all because of a slight change to my week and necessary testing for COVID19 as part or my job. The test only took a couple of minutes though and I could administer it myself. Before 11 am I was back home, in bed and napping until late afternoon. As always I was completely overthinking a scenario. 

Yesterday's spout of anxiety was far from the last, but I'm always learning and trying my best to always be honest with myself.

A lifetime of anxious thoughts and constant unease would once have caused me huge upset; these days I've found my own coping mechanisms and strategies to feel safe and well almost every day.

I loathe admitting this because I enjoy my life right now, but the truth is that my lifestyle isn't a choice. I've had to settle for less and accept a smaller life because that's what works for me and I no longer yearn for anything more. Living slowly is required for me to look after my own mental stability, encouraging me to focus on the details of every day instead of looking backward or forwards constantly.

This attitude I've obtained in recent years has made current circumstances relatively easy for me too. You see, I've been practising the art of social distancing for years. It's sad to have the choice taken away from you of course, but this is only temporary for most of us at least. I think it's important to acknowledge that privilege I and so many others took for granted because, for a lot of people suffering from psychical or mental illness, self-isolating has never been a choice.

I'm not trying to inspire anyone with my writing here and my flappy duck comparison I'm sure won't, I only want to express my experience. To acknowledge the growth, pain, and anguish I so often feel. I'm ending this post feeling much more positive than the me that existed 48 hours ago though I'm pleased to say.

A final note of gratitude...

I'm choosing to feel proud of myself. I'm choosing to be kind. I cherish the progress I've made and I'm thankful for where I'm going.


  1. Amazing post. It's so therapeutic to get it all out like this and I can totally relate to why you call anxiety your friend. I've had very similar thoughts regarding my own anxiety and since being undiagnosed, I feel a little lost.


  2. This is such an inspirational post Kate! You should be so proud of yourself right now, anxiety is such a big issue with a lot of people, including myself, it takes real guts to speak about it from your own personal perspective x

    Lucy | www.lucymary.co.uk

  3. Hey Kate! I admire your strength. Being open with that kind of situation is scary yet you've done it. Your positive outlook will inspire many. Keep on sharing!


  4. Amazing post, you explained everything so brilliantly here. And it must have taken a lot to publish this. I love the idea of calling it a friend - always there, sometimes you're on better terms than others. It makes perfect sense and sounds like a great way of dealing with it x



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