Friday, 27 March 2015

My battle with anxiety

This is quite a difficult post to write. I guess because I didn't want people to know that I have mental health issues. I kept thinking, 'will people judge me for being the sole carer of two young boys while fighting depression and anxiety?' I decided that it will be ok to talk about this because anxiety and panic attacks are something that so many people are diagnosed with these days.


I first started seeing a doctor at the age of 18 after I experienced a series of panic attacks when I left home for the first time to move to London. I was always a shy and nervous child who preferred to sit alone at the lunch table than to surround herself with a large gang of friends. I remember my parents taking me to the doctors to see what could be done to bring me out of my shell. They recommended an adventure week for kids with similar problems to me but I kicked off about having to go to a strange place with people I didn't know. I didn't go and carried on as I was, I guess everyone gave up trying to change me. When I left school a series of events from heartbreak to family issues happened that made me desperate to leave my home town. I decided to really scare myself and join the military, it was the only way to leave Cornwall. I underestimated how hard the training was and during the first stages, I was experiencing my first panic attacks. The instructors and my friends didn't really understand and I received comments like 'it's all in your head' and 'stop looking for attention'. If panic attacks were all in my head then why does it feel like there is a truck parked on my chest, restricting my breathing. When the attacks were really bad, I would shake uncontrollably, become dizzy and on a few occasions I would pass out. 

My attacks has always been brought on by fear, closed in spaces/crowds, unfamiliar faces and spaces, and meetings. Since becoming a single mum I have also began to experience anxiety through simple tasks like parent/teacher meetings or talking to family on the phone. I have lost the ability to talk to adults I guess. I really don't want to be like this but it's getting to the point where I am saying no to potentially life changing opportunities simply because I know I will never be able to go through with them being the way I am. An example of this is Brit mums live. I would really love to meet all the bloggers I look up to and whose blogs I spend my evenings reading but I know that I will get to the doors, panic and then get back on the train home. I really don't want to be like this anymore so I have decided that I will definitely go to Brit mums live next year, giving myself a year to prepare. 

The first step on my road to attending a large bloggers gathering has already been completed. I bit the bullet and last month I booked in to start seeing a doctor again. The night before the appointment I was up all night pacing, crying and ready to phone to cancel as soon as the surgery opened. I was sick with worry because I had never met this doctor before and had in my mind that he was going to think that I was attention seeking just like everyone else had thought of me. I fought it inside but I went the next morning, concentrating on my breathing to prevent an attack. I went into the doctors room and ended up feeling instantly comfortable enough to blurt out everything I was feeling. He was the first the doctor I had seen that I actually felt like he was listening. The doctor asked me to complete a test which asks a series of questions on how often I feel certain ways and to what extent. I scored high in the test which meant I was suffering from severe anxiety. This wasn't a shock to me as I already knew I had it with the way I am around people but to have it officially diagnosed is still a lot to deal with. Seeing a doctor was the best thing I could've done and I feel I have benefitted not only myself but my children too. The medicine and support will hopefully start helping me with taking the children to clubs, parties and school events. It was a turning point for me to sit in a GP's office and I ended up feeling on the top of the world. 

I wanted to share five tips I have been taught to help with anxiety if you experience it too:

*Control your diet
There are certain foods and drinks that are thought to bring on anxiety. These are caffeine, sugar, starch, and alcohol. Cutting down on these could have a huge impact on anxiety levels. Keeping yourself healthy and ensuring you are getting the right nutrients is important and will help raise mood levels and lower the hormones responsible for stress. 

*Get moving
They say that regular exercise relieves symptoms of everyday anxiety and improves feelings of well-being. Consider giving yoga a try. I spend an hour doing yoga in the safety of my own home, through youtube. I enjoy the chance to be quiet, calm and focused, I always feel great afterwards. If the thought of exercising itself makes you anxious, start off with a low impact physical activity such as a ten minute walk around your neighbourhood. Fresh air really helps to boost your mood every day. 

When you feel stressed and anxious, breathing deeply and slowly is important to prevent a panic attack occurring. I find that if I focus on breathing from my diaphragm and not my chest it helps to decrease my blood pressure and relaxes my muscles, more air will flow through my body this way. 

*Find an activity you enjoy
Anxiety could occur when you have too much time to think about your problems. If you have half an hour in your day when you are not doing anything, fill this space with a hobby which brings you peace. Some examples you could try are reading, writing, sports, sewing, or painting. Distracting yourself away from your thoughts is a great way to tackle anxiety. 

*Get lots of sleep
Everyone needs at least 8-9 hours of unbroken sleep a day. If like me you have children, this is very difficult to manage but the more sleep we get the better we will feel mentally. Try going to bed and waking up at the same times every day to regulate your sleep cycle. Also, I know its hard but avoid your using electronics such as your phone, laptop and television an hour before bedtime. The bright lights from these devices can prevent the sleep hormone Melatonin from being produced properly. 

I wasn't going to post this because it's quite personal and slightly embarrassing for me to talk about mental health issues but I have found that more and more people have come forward as having anxiety, so I know I'm not alone. I hope this helped a little if you suffer from anxiety too. For me, it is going to be a long journey to recover and hopefully I will manage to make the trip to Brit mums live next year. 

Thank you for reading, 
Gem x



  1. Meghan @ Simple Life Soliloquies27 March 2015 at 03:41

    You should be anything but embarrassed. It never feels like it, but there are so many of us out there who can relate & are so blessed to read similar stories. Thank you for your bravery in sharing your heart AND tips for others!

  2. Well done you lovely on posting what is a very personal and heartfelt message - it takes guts to do that so big pat on your own back for that. You've made the first positive steps and I'm sure with your determination you will make it to Brit Mums next year. xxx

  3. You should feel proud about posting this, not at all embarrased.
    There are many people out there, even bloggers who can relate to every word.
    Great idea to share the tips as well, i'm sure they will be very helpful to others.
    Stay strong :)
    Sarah xx

  4. what a great post and well done for having the guts to post it. I think you're right there seem to be loads of bloggers out there who suffer from mental health problems and I think it's fantastic that more people are talking about the issues that affect them. You should not think that anybody will judge you for being the carer of your children.

    In fact my husband is a stay at home dad despite having suffered from fairly severe depression off and on for several years. It doesn't stop him from being a fantastic father and I'm very proud of him.

    Keep writing and I hope you make it to Britmums :)

  5. Christine @afamilyday28 March 2015 at 08:10

    I think you'd be surprised at just how many people suffer in a similar way. I don't have severe anxiety but I do get worried about things - I find a walk in the countryside or going for a run really helps. #pocolo

  6. Well done on blogging this, as a sufferer of general and social anxiety I understand your journey and think you're fab for speaking about and opening up in real life. I really hope you get great support in dealing with this ive kinda hit a brick wall. Well done on setting yourself a target too that's great xx

  7. You should feel proud for sharing your story. I don't suffer from anxiety so can't begin to understand how you feel but I think you took the first step on the road to feeling better by speaking to your doctor. Best of
    Luck x

  8. I want to hug you. I cant proclaim anything but what you are feeling .... is so familiar. I too ... have stopped talking to people. School run is painful as I have to put up a mask that I am okay when talking to other mothers really scare me. I am so detach with the outside world that I stutter when I talk to people. Because I really dont know how to talk to people anymore. I too have pass on some reviews and invitations due to this. Reading your post is like reading whats inside of me. This is what I am doing now actually. Exercising and trying to beat my demons by it. #pocolo

  9. Truly Madlykids29 March 2015 at 10:55

    Gemma - this is amazing. Well done for writing it all down. I suffer from generalised anxiety disorder (triggered by my father's death) and although I haven't had an episode in a while, when it hits I can't get our of bed. Panic attacks are terrible.

  10. Truly Madlykids29 March 2015 at 10:56

    Your methods to help are great and I'm sure they'll help someone else. Lots of love t

  11. Rachael Robinson29 March 2015 at 14:16

    First off =, I just want to say how brave you are to post this and you should be very proud of yourself. Talking about mental health, from anxiety to manic depression, is always difficult and those who suffer from mental health issues often feel the need to hide this fact.
    Secondly, I am 100% with you. I was 18 too when I got diagnosed with Social Anxiety. I didn't go to college, even though I knew as soon as I got there I would be fine, with people I knew and liked, the idea of leaving the house and going, terrified me. I worked at the weekends and at one point, my then-boyfriend's-mum had to give me a lift to work, otherwise I just couldn't bring myself to go. There weren't many people who knew about how bad I was because I hid it. One day I decided to tell me 'best friend' that I was terrified to go outside. She bullied me into going outside telling me to grow up and I had a panic attack in the middle of the street. I was mortified and embarrassed which made the entire experience far more unpleasant. I can really go on and on, but if you ever want to talk to me about your anxiety - please feel free to because I would be more than happy to chat. You can email me at [email protected] if you would like.
    Those are some really great tips, especially the first one about the diet!!
    Ray @ #SundayStar

  12. Ah you are so brave to post this, and its is a great step forward I am sure, I so hope I get to meet you next year at Brit Mums xx

  13. Victoria Welton30 March 2015 at 10:30

    Bless you. This is such a brave post to write - but I always feel that if you write something like this, not only does it help you but it may very well help someone else too. Such an important thing to do. Well done and keep going. Thank you for linking to #PoCoLo x

  14. Karen (@karenjwhitlock)1 April 2015 at 14:00

    You shouldn't feel embarrassed about sharing - you are very brave and by acknowledging that you need help to achieve your target you have already made a positive step towards achieving this. Good luck and thanks for linking up with #SundayStars

  15. Great honest post and thanks for spreading the word. I know its never easy to share the vulnerable parts of us but I know your words and experiences will help so so many! I had anxiety after 2 pregnancies and I can see it as part of my grief too! I will be sharing this with friends on FB - thanks Gemma!x


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