How I Cope With Anxiety & Stress

I start typing, then I delete. I type, then I delete. This is a subject I’ve been procrastinating over sharing in depth for some time as it’s so close to home and personal, but in doing so I am hoping it might act as some kind of therapy or at least lift some of the burden so it’s not something I’m internally struggling with anymore. I’ve briefly touched on the subject a couple of times before and so many of you have reached out to say you’ve been through anxiety riddled points in your life and you were hoping that I would share my story, so here goes…

For as long as I can remember, since growing up, I’ve always had anxiety and worried about everything. I don’t know if this is because I’ve had so many long standing health issues since birth and frequenting hospital and having a lot of tests left me scarred and in fear all the time, or if it’s just my nature and the way my brain is wired in the sense that I overthink everything. It’s been a struggle and I remember a lot of nights I would just lie in bed as a kid feeling fear and worrying about everything, not sleeping. These worries were never for myself, but more for the fact that I didn’t know what could be out there, if people or animals were getting hurt, if someone was going to try and hurt my family etc.

We lived next to a pub as a child so I was often witness to a lot of fights which were alcohol related (this is the main reason I don’t drink as I’ve seen the damage it does) and I know this did a lot of damage to my mental state because of an incident that happened when I was about 12. Two drunk men were looking for a relative of mine as there had been some issues between them and they thought my house was where he lived. They had arrived at around midnight and because I was always worried and a light sleeper, I heard them come to our door, but it was dark so I couldn’t see very well out my window since I was hiding behind the curtain. I woke my dad up and he went to check and found out they had urinated up our door (disgusting I know). My dad said it was probably just silly drunk people and they were gone now, but I was terrified and rightly so because an hour after, they had come back and there was a huge smash of glass. They had thrown bricks through our window and front door and glass had gone everywhere. It was terrifying and the police were called, it was a whole commotion for ages and it led to me not wanting to sleep at my dad’s house for months. Instead I would sleep at my gran and grampy’s house and just come back in the day time.

It’s not the only bad experience I have had growing up, there have been numerous others as well, like a coach crash which caused some injuries and nightmares, traumatic hospital visits, mental abuse, but this is the one that sticks out to me the most and one that I have feared for my life with the most. I didn’t understand why they did it and that’s what left me with the most anxiety because they could do it again. I remember always being worried after that, any noise that’s loud or any bangs I hear, I will jump and flinch and that sends a shot of adrenaline through me, and as I’m typing this now, I can really see the correlation between my health and how anxiety is partly to blame. I think a build up of traumatic events and situations have caused me to subconsciously be on alert at all times and to overthink everything and almost disable a part of me that used to exist.

How does anxiety affect me as a person?

I worry about every single thing. This even comes down to me hearing birds going a bit crazy outside as I’m worried a cat has got them. I feel fear and adrenaline when I am out shopping in town and I’m worried a car might run over a bird or if someone is going to hurt someone else. If I’ve gone out to eat then it has to be at a restaurant I am ok with and I have to know what I’m eating in advance as I will get anxious about the food causing me issues. I can’t always ask for things in the shop because I might feel fear or un-confident with the shop assistant. I don’t use the telephone as I can’t see the other person. I never go out alone, partly to do with being worried something will happen to me because of my health problems and because I’m always scared of other people. I don’t really have friends in person as I find it extremely hard to get close to people as that adds more anxiety to my life. I rarely trust people. I don’t like people touching me or getting too close to me and in my personal space. I don’t like big crowds. I struggle to go on holiday or trips away unless it’s all strategically planned down to the last bit, but even then I will have constant worry and anxiety during the trip. I’m struggling to want to go back to St. Ives as we had a lot of worry with baby seagulls there and having to help rescue some chicks that had fallen off a roof, so whenever I hear baby seagull sounds, I’m panicked instantly. I have to make sure any animal outside is ok, and has an owner. I’ve been involved in a lot of animal rescue and some of the things I have seen have been heartbreaking, so I feel a great sense of responsibility for them. These are just some of the things I am mentioning and just the tip of the iceberg with most.

Things are a lot better though. There were points in my life where I wouldn’t leave the house as I had so much social phobia, I wouldn’t talk to strangers, I couldn’t eat out anywhere, I would have a panic attack if I was in an uncertain situation, I even had OCD rituals that could last over an hour at night time and that’s something I developed over years to try and control the anxiety. I’ve had a lot of CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) and other therapy to help with that. Of course you now know I can go out (I still dislike crowds) and I can talk to some strangers, attend events sometimes, travel to places (I push through it) and eat out in certain restaurants. I know I have come a long way and I forget that because I still feel controlled and like my life is on hold because of the way I feel inside and how much the panic and stress causes me to avoid doing things, but I have to look back and see the journey. There are a lot of times now when things don’t go to plan and I start to get really worked up and angry and full of fear, to the point where I don’t want to talk to anyone because I’m trying to work it out in my head and I can come across as rude (well I worry I do), but I don’t know how else to manage it.

Has anxiety affected my health?

I think it has in so many ways. It’s been a catch 22 in most cases because I was born with health issues and going through what I did has contributed to making it worse in the long run. I know I have adrenal fatigue as I’ve been told numerous times because my body is always in fight or flight mode, with adrenaline passing through which often reaps havoc with my digestive system and the functioning of my body in general. I’m tired regularly since I was diagnosed with M.E at the age of 13, but due to being worked up and stressed often, that uses all my body’s energy and muscles, which are not the same as a normal persons due to hypermobility and Ehlers Danlos, so it’s a mess.

It creates blocks for me because I end up having emotional attachments to things and putting my love into items I own and having things the way I like them, so when things change or I am now in a current position where I have too many things and not enough room but struggle to part with them, it’s stressful. I think it’s due to when I was younger and we grew up without much money (nobody’s fault, I had a nice childhood and I love my parents) so I didn’t really have many things. I would collect rocks, sit in trees, and do other things outside instead with friends, we made the best of the situation. So when it got to the point of earning my own money and being able to buy anything I wanted, it got out of hand, and I treated everything equally and of importance. I know this is something I have to have therapy for but I can’t bring myself to do it. It’s going to be one of the toughest things I’ve ever done (even more than my social anxiety CBT) and I fear it would put me in a awful mental state, riddled with more fear and anxiety from the exposure therapy and that would make my health worse. I have managed to tackle some of it though over the past few weekends and have really made progress on my thoughts and feelings, as well as parting with things – which I’m immensely proud of myself for. It’s a journey which I am taking by foot instead of by car.

How do I cope and get around these feelings?

I don’t know the exact answer to this because I think my body has just developed a way, on its own. The feelings are always there, with every single thing. I’m quite germ-phobic as well so there’s often anxiety centered around that and that can be a struggle when there’s other people involved. I always try and wash my hands when I can, limit touching, I don’t touch doors or anything, I always have hand gel just in case. I try to do my deep breathing and relax my body which definitely helps me through panicked situations. I try to do positive thinking or listening to music. I try to think it’s just temporary and it will pass. I try to sit around nature and enjoy the weather and surroundings, but even that can turn bad in a moment and I need to leave. I try and remember that it’s all in my brain and something that I’ve created on my own because I don’t really need to have anxiety at all since it’s not real, but then that frustrates me as to why I’ve let it get like this in the first place and why can’t I snap out of it if it’s just a creation in my brain. I try to eat healthy and avoid as much sugar as I can. I go to my Buddhist group which has helped try to change my way of thinking and feeling towards things, but it’s not easy. I always feel like if the world was a nice place and everyone was kind and loving, we had world peace, and animals and humans were treated equally, as was nature, then I wouldn’t have any anxiety as most of what I feel is towards the behaviour of others and how they can be so ignorant and disrespectful. It’s why I often feel like I’m not from Earth at all and am from somewhere else as I don’t understand this way of living which is what makes my anxiety and stress so bad.

I’m working with Lucy (my naturopath) who has been hugely helpful with getting my diet better, and trying to work on anxiety, but I don’t know how to get around things in order to start living a ‘normal’ life. The prospect seems quite daunting and alien to me as I’m so used to my online life and speaking through text. I struggle to sometimes understand the point of life and the existence overall. This has gone way deeper than I ever intended and I really am exposing myself, but in the same instance it almost feels like a therapy session in itself because I’ve laid bare a truthful me and am asking any of you for any advice you might have for coping methods. I would also love to hear any of your experiences and how you might be going through the same thing. Now the big question for me here is, do I hit publish or not? If you’re reading it, I must have been brave enough to click that button. Lorna xx.

P.S. – I had written this post a week before I was contacted about the Lloyds Bank & Channel 4 #GetTheInsideOut campaign on spreading awareness for mental health, which is happening this month of February, so I thought it would be ideal to mention that in this post and support it via social media. I hope nobody feels alone in their own mental health struggles and realises it’s a lot more common than you think. People just don’t like to talk about it. 

Follow:
Share:

44 Comments

  1. Holly
    February 8, 2018 / 10:52 am

    This is the most beautiful, inspiring and well-written post. I’m sorry to hear about your struggles and glad to hear that many things are improving. I wish you much continued success with your health and career and all your personal endeavors. You have tremendous strength and talent to put this out there and express your story so clearly and in such detail. I wish you only the most positive feedback and commentaries from your readers . Don’t let others get you down or take it personally. They just don’t understand and are immature if they speak in an unkind way. The great majority of us tremendously enjoy your work and style and wish you only the very best that life has to offer. Take care.

    • February 8, 2018 / 11:23 am

      Thank you so much, Holly! That really means a lot to me that you liked the post and I hope it does help people so much xx.

  2. Ben
    February 8, 2018 / 11:45 am

    So proud of you for posting this Lorna, it was a very interesting read and very inspiring 🙂 x

    • February 8, 2018 / 11:47 am

      Thank you so much, Ben 🙂 Glad you liked it!

    • February 8, 2018 / 11:47 am

      Glad you liked it 🙂

    • February 8, 2018 / 12:24 pm

      Thank you, Kathrine!

  3. February 8, 2018 / 12:28 pm

    I’m so sorry to read about your struggles Lorna! But you know what I got from this post? Someone who has made immense progress and should be incredibly proud – you push through things so you can travel, you eat out places, you’re doing so well. Sure you might worry you aren’t where you want to be, but every little victory should be celebrated as over time it adds up to major progress – and it looks like you are making major progress! 🙂

    I get stressed out frequently – I find having a familiar routine helps, and I try make time each day to read my bible, do a little blog reading, listen to some music, and I have a meditation app called headspace that’s helpful too. it’s the little things that you can pull out when things get stressful and life gets hectic 🙂 Don’t know if that will be helpful for you, as it sounds like you’ve tried a lot and you’ve learned a lot more than I have! 🙂 You’re doing an amazing job.

    • February 8, 2018 / 12:42 pm

      Thank you so much, Mica 🙂 That’s really nice of you to say. I do suppose when you look back at the progress, it is dramatically different and improved from what it was. I just often think we forget to look back and just get frustrated in the now. I haven’t heard of the meditation app, so I will check that one out! Music is a great helper for me too though, and distraction through watching things xx.

    • February 8, 2018 / 12:43 pm

      Thank you, I am trying xx.

  4. February 8, 2018 / 3:15 pm

    Thanks for sharing! It took a lot of courage to post it. Everyone is struggling with something and there are times that they need to know others are struggling too. Hugs to you Lorna!

    • February 9, 2018 / 10:27 am

      Thank you, I am glad you liked the post!

  5. February 8, 2018 / 5:33 pm

    You are so brave for writing and publishing this! But boy, you have a lot of stress. I hope so much for you that you get the right treatment and that your life will be a lot more fearless and just happier. Have faith in it!

    • February 9, 2018 / 10:27 am

      Thank you, Nancy. I genuinely hope so too and I hope it can help others feel that they are not alone xx.

  6. February 8, 2018 / 11:39 pm

    Thank you for sharing this! Talking about anxiety and mental health isn’t easy, but it’s so inspiring to hear about someone else dealing with things like this.

    • February 9, 2018 / 10:28 am

      Thank you for the support!

  7. February 9, 2018 / 2:08 am

    “It’s a lot more common than you think.” Absolutely true; There have been times when I thought people who had no obvious symptoms of anxiety were simply better actors. I’ve had extended periods of fright; there was a period when I was actually afraid to go to bed, because I knew something terrible would happen to keep me from getting any sleep. (I wound up buying a new bed. Expensive medicine, but it helped.) My health issues in 2016 (including spinal surgery) were daunting, and, this being the US, costly. And minor frustrations seem to accumulate. Still, the alternative — don’t even try anymore — has nothing to recommend it. We may never get over it completely, but now and then we can shove it out of the way, and that may help more than we think.

    • February 9, 2018 / 10:30 am

      Hi Charles! Sorry to hear you’re suffering with things too, and have been through so much. That’s great you managed to get a new bed though and sort that issue out, but I feel you on the sleeping. Sometimes I still lie there terrified if I’ve heard a noise outside and when the wind blows or we’re amidst a storm, I’m stiff with fear a lot of the time because of all the unknown going on outside. I’m glad this post was able to resonate with you though xx.

    • February 9, 2018 / 10:28 am

      Glad you liked it 🙂

  8. stigmejlbjerg
    February 9, 2018 / 3:34 am

    Quite a read… We (our kind of people) would feel no better even if there was world peace and no cruelty to animals. I spent my childhood worrying about how to be an adult. Now I spend my adulthood worrying if my life even has meaning. The point is, We would merely worry about something else. (Months of CBT made me see that much) this doesn’t mean that our prison of worry is not real to us. It remains our cross to bear.

    • February 9, 2018 / 10:36 am

      That’s actually probably true. I didn’t think of it like that. Perhaps it’s the way our brains are wired to always analyse and worry about situations. Perhaps it’s an extreme, over sensitive survival instinct? Thank you for sharing input.

  9. restless.soulz
    February 9, 2018 / 8:33 am

    It is a brave person who can share their innermost secrets with strangers so as to help those too afraid to speak out. You are a hero even if you are afraid, and you have become a beautiful person inside and out and respected by many, of whom I am one. 🌹🌹🌹🌹🌹🌹

    Like you and most people who can admit it, I have suffered with fear all of my life. My father was a violent man and I seemed to always be where the next bully would be. I have been seriously beaten in fights over my early years and through my teens, partially because of the path I took and the people I hung around with. I am fairly old now and still fear any situation that may get out of control. I cannot go to party’s and I hate crowds. I worry about my anger issues. As an ex policeman and years of security work you wouldn’t know I have social problems or fears. I have a sleight amount of OCD and new things arrive in my life that scare me and like you that stuff only scratches the surface. However, I find that being with a girl that has more problems than I do and many similar to the ones you so eloquently described on your blog, that in being there for her at all times and caring for my older friends that cannot do things for themselves has helped me tremendously. I am lost for words now so I will shut up. But good on you for caring for the world. It needs people just like you. 😘🌹🌹🌹

    • February 9, 2018 / 10:35 am

      That’s really kind, thank you so much for saying such lovely things. Even though I don’t know any of you, I feel like we’re a family of friends xx.

      What you said about the caring for others being a huge help, I totally get that. I’ve noticed in myself that when I’ve had to be there for people and be the rock during their emotional times, things shift in my brain as a different mentality takes over. The poised, together, strong carer and not the vulnerable, terrified little girl that’s still inside. So I fully get that. You seem quite similar to me in a way. I’m sorry you had to go through such a traumatic set of experiences, that sounds horrible, but you seem like a really nice person now 🌺🌺

    • February 10, 2018 / 8:01 pm

      Thanks! I hope you liked it!

  10. Amie
    February 10, 2018 / 1:20 pm

    Thank you for sharing this Lorna. The more people talk about this kind of stuff, the more people become aware they are not alone.

    The feelings you experience and the things that impact you resonated – it’s comforting to know I’m not the only one with such idiosyncrasies xx

    • February 10, 2018 / 7:59 pm

      I’m glad that it resonated with you, Amie! Sorry you are going through something similar though xx.

  11. February 10, 2018 / 2:10 pm

    Thank you for sharing something so personal. You are an inspiration and I am sure this wasn’t easy for you. I have in my family several members that have similar situations with anxiety and it isn’t an easy thing to deal with. To feel like you have to live your life always having to look back to see if you are being followed is no way near a good life to live. I am glad to know that even if it’s small steps that you are able to get some relief. We are all always a work in progress but know that you are going in the right direction and that you aren’t alone.

    Maureen | http://www.littlemisscasual.com

    • February 10, 2018 / 8:00 pm

      Thank you, Maureen! I’m really glad you can see the progress and are encouraging. Sorry to hear about your family members who are in similar situations. I think a lot of people are but nobody really knows as so many people feel ashamed to admit it. Given the fact that humans have such complex brains though, it’s hardly surprising.

  12. February 10, 2018 / 6:34 pm

    Thank you for sharing your experiences and the effects of anxiety. I personally have never suffered from any trauma but I know plenty of people who have and to share your story in such an eloquent way is amazing. This post is going to relate to so many and have a really positive impact xx

    http://www.thatnewdress.com

    • February 10, 2018 / 8:01 pm

      Thank you so much, Dominique! I really hope it does help some others xx.

  13. February 11, 2018 / 6:09 pm

    I can absolutely and totally relate to this post so thank you so much for sharing! I know it’s tough putting yourself out there with such personal things, but there’s so many people out there (including myself) who relate and appreciate it! Thank you!

    Alex | http://www.SoFitSoPretty.com

    • February 11, 2018 / 6:45 pm

      Thank you so much for the support!

  14. sabrina
    February 11, 2018 / 10:21 pm

    thank you, your post, moved me
    I hope you’ll get better
    being myself, enxious, I have problems sleeping,
    I sleep 3/4 hours per night, and sometimes I have a desire to leave everything, as they say in French: ” ras le bol”.

    • February 12, 2018 / 1:49 am

      Sorry you’re going through it too xx.

  15. February 14, 2018 / 12:55 pm

    Firstly, well done for taking the decision to go ahead and publish this piece. I can’t really even imagine the level of personal bravery needed to summon up the courage to do so.

    I really feel for you in having to fight these battles day after day. I get anxious and stressed from time to time myself – but it is only from time to time. I don’t know how I would cope if I was dealing with such thoughts as constantly as you have to. I admire you very much for how you cope – and, beyond coping, achieve so much in your life whilst struggling with your anxieties.

    It’s interesting that so much dates back to your childhood. This is also true of the issues I have. I was unpopular at school and bullied pretty much all of the way through my school years – on a daily basis. The other kids, with some exceptions. just didn’t like me very much. I don’t really know why I was unpopular but, for whatever reason, they decided I didn’t fit in. My reaction to this was never to pander to them and try to ingratiate myself – instead I tried to make myself more different to them and that made me even less popular. Anyway, after my school days ended so did the bullying. Some people might think… OK… so you got on with your life then after that? Well not quite… the feeling of being different was so ingrained by then that I’ve tended to go through life just assuming that people won’t like me and not making much effort to reach out to very many people. If, by some strange chance (to my mind) someone does take to me then I do form very strong bonds with them and the small number of friendships that I develop tend to be very, very, strong. So… if they go wrong (as one has done in spectacular fashion recently) it really hurts me, makes me doubt myself and mentally and emotionally flings me right back to my school days. Recent events have taken me, emotionally, to the darkest places I’ve been to in years. Honestly, some days I can totally understand why some people become reclusive… I find myself fighting that urge to totally disconnect from humanity far too often. On the other hand, there are lots of good people out there – yourself included – who help to patch up my faith in human nature.

    Anyway, that’s me…

    As I have said before, you are a great inspiration to anyone who is going through life struggling with health issues (physical or emotional) of any kind. That you put so much of yourself into your writing is of great benefit to so many people reading your pieces. It would be so easy for you to take the route of just posting up your pretty pictures and writing clinical descriptions of your outfits – but you’ve never done that. You always put yourself right into your writing and reach out to us all – and show us how much can be achieved.

    I hope that in time you will find that the path gets easier for you. I understand that the issues will never totally go away as we are all shaped by our pasts and as we get older there’s more and more past to shape us. I think it’s great that you’re feeling that you are making good progress with your thoughts and I’m sure that this will continue.

    I’ll stop now… this is getting ridiculously long for a comment. 🙂

    • February 14, 2018 / 7:57 pm

      First of all, thank you Steven for such a thoughtful and kind response. That’s really nice of you. I’m sorry to heard about the bullying at school, I never understand why people do it, it makes no sense to me. Being unique is a good thing, if we were all the same then it would be a dull place. When I was reading what you wrote, I already made the correlation between what happened to you recently and the past feelings and experiences, and then you mentioned it. It makes perfect sense as to why it’s hit you so hard. So sorry it’s still painful and hard 🙁

      Thank you for the kind words about me being strong and putting myself into my blog so personally. I do try to give the realist version of me possible and I hope that it does connect with others and inspire them to not feel alone or give them some confidence in how they might be feeling, knowing others are too. Things might look great on the outside, but nobody knows what happens on the inside so I want to make sure everyone can see that. I can only hope that I can keep on making progress xx.

  16. Face to Curls
    February 16, 2018 / 1:49 am

    Thank you for sharing your story Hun. I am sure that this will help someone out there who is struggling. x

    Ann-Marie | http://facetocurls.com/

    • February 16, 2018 / 12:12 pm

      I hope so!

  17. Eddie
    February 16, 2018 / 9:15 am

    So much kudos for this, its very invisible yet so very real, stigma looms large for anyone admitting to this, the dreaded “pull yourself together” or “man up”. Your bravery with this post is an example to everyone, its been an example to me i know this. Anxiety and related conditions is no respecter of age, gender or anything, if you have been here then you’ll know too. But talking about this is so very very important, just knowing there’s a group of #letstalkaboutthis helps.

    • February 16, 2018 / 12:14 pm

      I’m so glad you liked the post, Eddie and that you understand it. Sorry you’ve been through something similar but hopefully we can make a difference to people by being open about it!

Thanks for your comments =) I read & reply every one =)