I’ve definitely started to be a lot more open about my anxiety and mental health issues over the last few months, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic. I know I am someone who suffers with high functioning anxiety. I shared not too long ago about how I really struggled at the start of the pandemic. I don’t think I have ever felt so scared and anxious in my entire life and I know now looking back it was a total loss of control that sent me spiralling into panic and deep stress. I shut down. Couldn’t eat or sleep and could barely speak to my friends. It passed, as soon as I knew what was going to happen and what I would need to do to get through it and I was ok from then on. But it was horrible, frightening and not a great place to be.
And now looking back on my whole life, I know anxiety is something I have had since I could remember.
Anxiety as a Child
When I was younger I don’t think mental health was talked about and understood as much as it is nowadays. I’ve talked on my blog how I’ve always had health anxiety since being young and never really knowing what triggered or caused this. I really have to work at this one, try and just look after myself, stay away from Google and try and let go; relinquish some of that control, as you don’t really have it fully with your health. But it’s hard and a definite working progress.
I was taken to the GP once by my Dad during high school as had a strange sensation in my neck just to be told it was anxiety. I’d been fretting something was really wrong and I didn’t understand what. It was a strange one to hear, learning that your mind can actually make you ill when you are under pressure but I’m very familiar with this now.
I was always and still am, the type of person who suffers from crippling nausea when they are scared or worried. I remember throughout my GCSE year, there was a period of time I used to wake feeling like I was going to vomit every morning. I could get to school and it would pass but I remember ferociously sucking mints to make it pass and praying today wouldn’t be the day, I’d puke on the way to school. I know now this was just the pressure I was putting on myself to do well in my exams.
I could function. On the surface, no one knew but my Mum. I did have one best friend who used to called me a “worry wart” so I must have fretted a lot but I can’t remember what over now. I was the one who would get shaky or nervous before a party and never understood why.
High Functioning Anxiety
People have said to me before that they don’t get how I can be someone who is anxious. I seem so happy, so bubbly and always has so much energy. I don’t show it at all.
I just had a quick google of high functioning anxiety and the following came up. This has come from the website Bridges to Recovery and some of these traits literally describe me to a T.
I don’t need medications. There was one time a friend begged me to go to the GP when I was struggling at the start of lockdown and I would have gone but it passed. I did once try and get CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) but I couldn’t make any of the time slots. Since then, I’ve never felt the need to try again.
I work. I look after my family. I run this blog but sometimes under it all, I’m treading water like a puppy!!
I do tell more people now. I have some family and friends who know my problems very well, as they struggle in the same way. They get it and I get them. I have others who I am trying to be more open with, even if they don’t get it but honestly for me when I’m feeling bad, all I want is someone to be there and listen.
Symptoms of My High Functioning Anxiety
Looking at the list above, so many things ring true.
I struggle to relax at home. My step count is insane as I can’t sit still. I recently went to a friends and literally lay in her garden and barely moved, as I know when I am out of the house I will relax but I can’t at home. There is always something to do. Something to clean or tidy. It’s almost like I don’t really deserve to be just sitting around but that’s how I feel.
I overthink. I will worry about what I’ve said, am I annoying? Am I stupid? Yes surely I’m stupid??? I think like this a lot. It’s really hard to be my true self sometimes, as surely I’m just silly? And often even when I let my guard down and act like I would with my true rock, my husband, with others, I then fret over that. This then leads to over apologising. Some days I’m beaming with happiness and positive but underneath it all I’m nervous or worried. I guess I figure if I act happy, I’ll usually feel better and I do.
I definitely get nervous before events or encounters. I will worry something may go wrong. One of the kids will get sick and we can’t go. Or I will get sick (which has happened) and that in itself can be a self-fulfilling prophecy with me. I struggle being away from home for the first night or so. This has got worse since we have been in lockdown. My husband and I recently had an amazing trip and climbed Mount Snowdon but I remember the first night, feeling very anxious and almost like I would like to go home.
I’m usually a good sleeper but I have suffered with terrible insomnia in the past. I had 6 weeks of 3-4 hours sleep a night when I went back to work after my eldest. My heart raced. My chest was tight and it was only when I discovered meditation and realised all my issues were in my head, then my sleep came back. I’m much better now but I do have odd nights or so when it comes back and I have to work hard to make it pass.
Day To Day Life
I realise the above makes me sound like a mess. I have to stress I am not like this all the time. Most of the time I am happy, positive and all I want from life right now is to be happy and have fun. So much has happened over the last 18 months. Life is too short for constant fretting and I work very hard to try and relax and enjoy myself as much as I can.
I get out of bed everyday. I can cope and function.
But yes it is a working progress.
I have my coping strategies now:
– TALK – one of the traits above mentions discomfort with emotional expression and this isn’t true for me. I do talk. I do tell people how I feel, as it helps. It’s usually my husband who I go to first and I know I’ll be ok in a few days. I’m telling more friends now and even chatting on my blog socials but if it’s bad, I won’t do the latter. As I said before, all I need is someone to be there and listen.
– ME TIME – for me this is exercise or a walk right now. After a bad day with the kids I’ll just have a walk and listen to my music. The gym has always been my hiding place, as I forget the world and just train.
– KEEP GOING – a trait of someone with high functioning anxiety; keep going. Go to work. Meet my friend. Go on that night out. It usually helps to make the effort, as I do tend to have a good time and feel better.
– GIVE IT TIME – I know me. I know my flare ups. A lot can be triggered by health, of me and others. My hormones trigger it and I’m always worse before a period but I know usually in time it passes. Give it a few days, see how I feel. Usually better.
It’s not a huge list really. But for me all 4 of those things help me. I know if things went dramatically downhill, I would see my GP and I would ask for more help. I’m not proud and I would do anything to feel better and be able to continue functioning and looking after my family.
Anxiety is something I will probably live with for the rest of my life. It is part of me and who I am. I’m not ashamed of it but I do feel silly when I see people coping so well with life. I know deep down I’m not silly and just can’t help it but again it’s something I have to push to one side and try not to think about.
If you struggle, a lot this post was to let you know you are not alone, keep going and do ask for help if it gets too tough!
This post rings true of so many things for me. Thank you for sharing, it has out my mind at ease that it isn’t just me!
I suffer too and some days can be extremely difficult , the pandemic has definitely given it an extra bit of me but touch wood I am slowly getting there xx
It’s good that you have things in place to help you cope and you know when you need to them them. That’s a huge thing.
Thanks so much for sharing this, I also struggle with anxiety – it comes in waves and sometimes I am fine and other times coping can be hard despite being an outgoing person. I relate to so much of this
Anxiety is something I managed to avoid until last year. I was diagnosed with breast cancer and have had a year of operations and treatments. It’s gone now but my anxiety is often through the roof. I have to keep busy, else I’ll dwell on things and think every twinge is the disease coming back. It keeps me awake at night, makes me panic at times, and causes me to physically ache. I’m trying mindfulness – it is starting to help