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The Ginger WORRIER

The Ginger WORRIER

theginger-worrier

When I tell people that I have had pretty serious episodes with anxiety in the past they look at me in astonishment and disbelief and usually say something along these lines:

"You Ceri?  Anxiety?  But you're such a confident and outgoing person!".

Well yes, that is completely true, I am very confident and outgoing but anxiety is no respecter of persons: young, old, male, female, extrovert, introvert, black, white.. it can strike fear, quite literally, into the heart of any individual.  And it's not fun.  Not one bit.

The year was 1998, it was spring time, May if I remember rightly.  I was in my room at university and my French friend, Lionel, had kindly offered to come and help me proof read an essay.  We were heavily immersed in checking verb endings and adjectival agreements when all of a sudden I became aware of a funny feeling in my stomach: I had butterflies in my tummy and they had come from nowhere.  There I was in the comfort and security of my room, there were no apparent threats or dangers and yet I was becoming increasingly agitated and tense, a strange prickling sensation had taken over my face and my hands were cold, clammy and trembling.  Over the next few days it became more intense: I wasn't eating or sleeping, I had chronic diarrhoea and I was terrified to be on my own since in moments of silence and solitude my mind would run riot and thoughts of doom, dread and destruction threatened to overwhelm me.   Thus, in the space of a week I had become a completely different person,  the very antithesis of the upbeat, self-assured individual I considered myself to be.

That was my first encounter with the ugly, soul-sucking monster that is anxiety . The thing is, at the time, I had no idea that what I was experiencing was termed "anxiety"; I simply put it down to exam stress and burning the candle at both ends.  And sure enough, once the exams were over and the summer holidays began, the strange feelings that had invaded body and mind went on their not-so-merry way and I was soon back to my old self.  The years passed and I barely gave a thought to those few anxious months.  As far as I was concerned it was an isolated incident and history was unlikely to repeat itself.  If only...

Flash forward to 2002.  I am in Romania undertaking a mission for my church. It was to be an 18 month mission but I'm only 6 months in and then one day my stomach begins churning and fluterring, my face starts to prickle..  I cannot believe it is happening again. I desperately tried to continue with my mission, to fight the nausea, dry mouth, palpitations and the increasing sense of unreality.  This last symptom is hard to explain.  It's was as if my thoughts and actions were not my own and that I was looking at myself from the outside. In any case, it was terrifying, debilitating and meant that I had to leave the mission field and return home.  I was devastated and so very, very disappointed in myself and my apparent inability to control my thoughts and feelings.

I went to see a doctor.  He prescribed me anti-depressants and advised me to come back in 6 weeks time if "things weren't any better".  Removed from the situation in Romania and whatever had triggered this most recent episode things did get better within a few weeks and without the medication. Me?  Take anti-depressants?  Don't be so ridiculous. I could cope perfectly well on my own.  What I did do, however, was to give some serious thought as to what could possibly be the cause and after many hours of soul-searching, introspection and self-analysis it came to me:

PERFECTIONISM

I was a perfectionist and always had been.  I wanted to do my best and be the best and nothing but my very best was acceptable.  Failure was not an option.  Ever.

When I was at primary school anything less than full marks in spelling tests was unthinkable.  When I took part in swimming competitions coming second was mortifying.  When I received 3 A's and a B for my A-levels all I could focus on was the B: it was nothing less than a crushing blow and, if I'm being completely honest, it still bothers me to this very day and is a blemish on my otherwise spotless academic record.

The thing is, there is absolutely nothing wrong with striving for excellence and shooting for the stars if you're able to accept that sometimes, just sometimes, you may end up landing on the moon instead.  I couldn't accept this and therein lies the dark side of perfectionism:  goals set are so high, so lofty that disappointment, frustration and heartache are inevitable.

So there it was, I had my answer, I merely had to let go of my perfectionist ways and all would be well.  Easy to say, unbelievably hard to do.  How do you get rid of what is, essentially, a part of you?  How do you isolate and extract just one character trait?  I do not claim to be a trained psychologist but my own feeling is that you can't and that the very act of trying to do so will only serve to make things much, much worse. I had to accept that I was prone to feelings of anxiety, that I would have to learn to live with them in such a way that I was aware of their existence yet I wouldn't grant them the power to destroy me.

And that is what I have been trying to do since 2006 when I experienced my most crippling episode of anxiety to date.  This time it lasted for several months and I accepted that I needed professional help.  The doctor that I saw was beyond wonderful and it saddens me that I cannot remember his name. But his beautiful, kind face and his warmth, compassion and understanding brought much needed light and guidance during a very dark time. This time I did go on medication and I wasn't ashamed.  And nobody should be.  Despite the alarming statistic that 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience some kind of mental health problem in the course of a year the stigma surrounding mental illness prevails and prevents sufferers from seeking the help they so desperately need. If this stigma is to be lifted then we must be willing to open up our minds and hearts and share our experiences, as hard as that might be. Who knows? Something we say may strike a chord and bring solace, comfort and hope.

So in conclusion, my Warrior friends, I am happy to report that I have made huge progress, massive inroads. I am finally able to "let go" to a much greater extent without sacrificing my desire to do well and to succeed and I possess a much greater sense of inner peace.  It has taken years to get to this stage.  It has taken a combination of anti-depressants, counseling sessions, self-help books and a huge, concerted effort on my part to fight the negative, worrisome thoughts and to retrain my brain.  And my friends; my ever-loving, ever-patient and incredibly supportive friends who were there to rescue me figuratively and quite literally, never judging.

You know who you are and I love you.

Ginger Warrior, over and out.

P.S.  If you're willing, please share your own experiences with anxiety/depression or any other aspect of mental health.  We're all in this together.  :)

Join me tomorrow for something a little more light-hearted..

CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES!!

 

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39 Comments

  1. Really touching to hear your experiences and progression to recovering! Thanks for sharing x

  2. It is amazing how many people suffer with anxiety and depression. I have unfortunately been diagnosed with bi polar disorder and like you get the “but you are always so cheerful” comments. My dark feelings and awful feelings of guilt are something I battle with every day and refuse to give in to. I take my medication, which controls things mostly but am also aware of my triggers. I am happy to share this as I feel that if reading mine or your experience means that someone else feels less ashamed of suffering with this then great!
    Keep up the good work xxx

  3. I am so glad i read the part that ‘nobody should be’ ashamed to accept help in the form of medication for anxiety etc, i was about to get on my soapbox! Ye of little faith! This is a great piece of writing Warrior, if only everyone was as brave as you, the stigma of Anxiety etc would be squished! Xx

  4. Beautifully written Ceri. Sending lots of hugs. I haven’t suffered with anxiety (my husband does though) but I had post natal depression after having my second baby. 2013 was a tough year and I had to turn to medication. I still find it hard to admit, which, is of course so silly! xxxx

    • The Ginger Warrior

      Thanks Anneliese for the cyber hug. Have been a.o.k. for quite a few years now so fingers crossed!! :) xxxx

  5. Hello Ceri,
    I love your new blog and love this post. You are a brave woman and everyone loves you for it.

  6. Thank you for sharing Ceri. My daughter has suffered for years now with anxiety attacks and as a Mum (who thankfully) has not suffered from anxiety it was so very difficult to understand and also help her with. The clumsy point I am making is the more people share what this feels like and how they were/are helped by themselves, and others, helps us all understand the problem and difficulties suffers are facing.

  7. Your not alone Ceri…
    The Dr told me we all suffer a form of anxiety, depression, OCD to some extent.. Sadly it’s the modern day of living, we now live in a fast and stressful world..
    I suffer from OCD which effects my day to day living, I have good days and I have bad days.. When I have bad days I can’t leave the house, I also suffer from anxiety, when my anxiety is bad, I scratch my head until it bleeds..
    The dr has prescribed me anti depressants but I hate them and how they make me feel, so I stopped taking them..
    I was referred to counselling which I went to..did it help…Nope…
    I am who I am, I have learnt to accept it and I try and deal with things my way xx

    • The Ginger Warrior

      Hey Mrs T, thank you for what you have said. And I think you’re right – modern day living is way too fast and demanding and as such it’s no wonder so many people live on their nerves. You know where the GW is if you need her. xxxx

  8. Have experienced anxiety since having children (all that responibility). Sometimes it is helpful as I have such a busy day juggling work and picking up/dropping off children etc and the increased heart rate and churning stomach makes me get things done. When it gets out of control I take Kalms and they seem to be enough for me if I take them for a while. I am amazed at the people I have chatted to that experience regular anxiety and panic attacks. Certainly nothing to be ashamed of.

    • The Ginger Warrior

      Hey Zoe! Thank you so much for sharing your experiences. I wish Kalms would have been enough for me when I was anxious. I had to opt for narcotics. Lol! See you soon. xxxxx

  9. Sniffle! You just made me weep.
    Thanks, GW, for a very honest and touching post.
    S xx

  10. I started suffering with anxiety about 4 years ago and it effects me in some way every day. I can’t drive further than Middleton Cheney, and I even have to take the back. roads to get there as the main road sends me into a palpatating, clammy light headed wreck. I am on meds and have good and bad days luckily more good than bad now but totally relate to the comments ‘you? Anxiety? But you’re so outgoing and bubbly!’ Anxiety does not discriminate, this evil dark cloud will take anyone it wants. I even stopped zumba after having an attack there and haven’t plucked up the courage to go back yet!

    • The Ginger Warrior

      Hi Louise, so glad that you dropped by! I really hope you’ll pluck up the courage to come back to us. Glad you’re on the road to recovery. xxxx

  11. I was diagnosed with severe clinical depression in 1999 when I was 28and thereafter discovered that it had probably started when I was around 14. I was shocked to realise that I had led my entire adult life crippled by an illness I didn’t even know I had! I was ill enough to need a psychologist, a psychiatrist and a CBT councillor and lucky enough to be treated by some wonderful people in London, kindly paid for by my husband’s work. It was a very long road back and one that I never would have managed without medication. I have never had a problem telling people – as far as I am concerned I had an illness and I took medication for it, just as I would take antibiotics if I had a chest infection. When it later became clear that my body chemistry was such that I would in all likelihood be on medication long term, if not forever, I was philosophical. After all, if I was diabetic instead, no one would be expecting me to stop taking my insulin would they? I have never understood the stigma issue – one of the best mental health messages I have ever come across is the one that says “Depression is not a sign of weakness, it is a sign that the sufferer has been way too strong for way too long.”

    • The Ginger Warrior

      I totally agree – what is the difference between taking insulin and anti-depressants? The only difference is that there is no stigma attached to taking insulin.. Thank you so much for sharing Ellie. xxxxx

  12. Hi Ceri, I love it when people speak out about their anxiety experiences. It is such a taboo and I’ve met so many people who have suffered-and they are so relieved when they find out they’re not the only ones!!
    My anxiety experiences like some others began after childbirth and mix in with pnd somewhat. It’s a difficult thing to live with, but An even more difficult thing to live with someone who lives with it !
    Each time it happens I know it’s a phase, I know I have to ride it out….. But it’s not a nice wave to be on. Keep talking GW!!

    • The Ginger Warrior

      Hi Claire, thank you so much for commenting. It is ridiculous that it continues to be such a taboo subject when so many people suffer! I WILL keep talking and thank you for the encouragement. Ceri xxx

  13. Ceri, I bloomin love you and your wonderful honesty.

    • The Ginger Warrior

      Why thank you, Ange. Thanks for reading! I hope you continue to do so. Lol! Hugs to you, Mark and your gorgeous gals. xxxxx

  14. Hi Ceri! I have dealt with a lot of anxiety myself. I have a condition called ‘Trichotillomania” which means when I get anxious I subconsciously pull my hair out. It got so bad that I often felt sick at the thought of going to school. I practically pulled half my hair out, and visited a wonderful clinic in London and now have a beautiful hair piece…but I also received counselling at this clinic and they recommended this book ‘The Secret’. After reading ‘The Secret’ by Rhonda Byrne it has really given me a new perspective …it focuses on enjoying life, living in the moment and being grateful for everyday. It also taught me to change the way I think…if you have positive thoughts you will attract positivity in your life, and be a happier person.
    It’s such a great read! There is a video on YouTube as well x
    Here is a quote from the book..
    You are the masterpiece
    of your own life.
    You are the Michelangelo
    of your own life.
    The David you are sculpturing
    is you
    Rhonda Byrne
    Here is a link to the official website if you want to check it out http://thesecret.tv/thesecretfilm/

  15. Anxiety ,depression,failure ,perfectionism ,4 words I suffer with on a daily basis,in the past 3 years I’ve attempted to take my life 4 times due to all the above ,the first I believe was a cry for help but the last I spent the night in hospital on a drip.A lot is caused by my body issues ,which people forget us men suffer as well as women ,most days are a fight ,but as a personal trainer I’m constantly trying to guide ,advise and help others but seem to not do the same for myself .I do have CBT Councilling every week and take Prozac which apparently keeps me alive but taking them I hate due to making me feel flat.This is a strange thing to write for strangers to read in my eyes,because those who know me see different to what I see and I get constant compliments in the gym re my physique but it’s easy to dismiss and see FAT, and not enough muscle.I wake each day not knowing who I’m going to be and that’s scary ,,acting like all is ok when deep down I hate living and hate myself ,which in turn stops me loving others ,the fear of eating eg a pizza is hell thinking I will get fat ,but deep down I know I won’t with all the training I do ,but the brain still won’t allow me to eat one,live unhappy or die

    • The Ginger Warrior

      It was really brave of you to write this my lovely Anthony because I know how you struggle. I only wish you could see what the rest of us see. Love you muchly. xxxxx

  16. Hey Ceri, I have known you for so long and yet I realise I didn’t know you…Wish i could have been there to help during your second year…Big hug!

  17. Hi, I’m eighteen and have been suffering from anxiety on a daily basis for nearly a year, i’m currently on propananol but I want to try and be anxiety free by the time I get to uni, the lowest I have been is when I’ve been having heart palpitations around the clock for about three days until my body over exhausts itself. I go through phases of severe anxiety almost weekly and it fluctuates alot. I try and keep a positive mentality but at the moment I have become really paranoid and obsessive about the lines I have gained from being stressed all the time on my face. I know it sounds vain but it really lowers my self esteems and increases my anxiety. Any advice about staying strong through my alevel exams?

    • The Ginger Warrior

      Hi Amber! You know, I’ve been thinking long and hard about this and as someone who has had anxiety BUT also as someone who is a secondary school teacher (I teach French and Spanish) the best advice I can give you is this: throughout your exams keep in mind that although you may not think so right now, this is NOT the most important thing you will do in your life and if push comes shove you can always re-sit your exams. Don’t put yourself under so much pressure thinking that THIS IS IT! If you don’t do it now, you never will. Not true. No problem is irresolvable. When I had bad anxiety in my 2nd year at university I made it worse by putting myself under extreme pressure and it has the opposite effect and becomes counterproductive because you find that you can’t relax in order to study since all your focus is on the exam itself rather than the preparation. Don’t let your mind wander towards the actual exam – just tell yourself, I’m going to make the very best of this situation and do what studying I can and just throw myself into it and take what I get. This will relieve the pressure and you’ll probably end up doing just as well as you would have without the anxiety. You have got this! Start to retrain you brain from this day forth, learning to let things go. Keep repeating in your head – IT DOESN’T MATTER and eventually you will believe yourself. It doesn’t mean you won’t try hard to achieve things in life, it just means that you’ll be able to be more relaxed when faced with challenging situations. Let me know how you get on. Ceri xxxxx

  18. Thank you so much for commenting, I’m feeling alot calmer now that I’ve only got one more exam to go before I can get rid of alevels forever! You’ve been a great reassurance and I’m so grateful you take the time to chat and try and help everyone on your blog. THANK YOU!

    • The Ginger Warrior

      You are so welcome, Amber. Anytime and best of luck with the last exam. Almost home free. WOO HOOO!! xxxx

  19. Thank you so much for sharing something so personal, I think it’s important to let others aware that 1 in 4 suffer from some kind of mental illness in their lives. I suffer from anxiety and random but severe episodes where I have some kind of outer-body-experience and that my perspective is jumbled. I’d question everything just to know that it’s real. A few months after I had just given birth, I had an episode where I actually had to step outside because I felt like I was trapped, in my room, and even when I was outside, I still felt weird and how I saw things were as if I had tunnel-vision – I later found out I had suffered with post-natal depression. I definitely know how you must have felt in those particular incidents – not a pretty feeling at all!

    Keep smilin’

    http://Www.mylovelylittleladybird.blogspot.co.uk

    • The Ginger Warrior

      Thanks for sharing that, Shanna. It’s not a nice thing to experience and it’s good that we feel we can talk openly about it. xxx

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