When I think about what triggers my anxiety and anxiety attacks and things that stress me out, some seem reasonable and others are obviously totally irrational. I thought I’d make a list of things that have caused me stress and anxiety or induced an anxiety attack in the past or at present, so you can see that if you think you have anxiety attacks with weird triggers, don’t worry I do too 🙂
Certain stretches of road and motorway
Looking at my whole face or eyes in the mirror (but I can focus on specific parts)
Upstairs in my house, especially when I’m in alone
The bathroom at home
Being away from home because I’m a fussy eater and I struggle to sleep out of my own bed
Drinking, because being tipsy feels like I’m having an anxiety attack
Football grounds (Huddersfield Town need to get it sorted because my anxiety attacks are always way worse when I’m there for away matches 😉 )
Being alone, in public or at home
Presentations and public speaking
Change, like from high school to sixth form to uni
Talking about anxiety attacks
Eye contact, but I more feel uncomfortable with that than it causing me stress
Performing on stage (which is a problem when you dance) especially when I know people watching
Changes in light
Changes in temperature
Sometimes if I hear my own voice or see pictures of myself when I feel off I start to feel worse
Trying to get to sleep
People sitting behind me
I sometimes feel better/worse if I sit in a certain place or walk on a certain side of the road
Going to a place I’ve had an anxiety attack before
I think some people don’t always understand why these things trigger my anxiety attacks and half the time neither do I, but eventually I have managed to eliminate some of these things from the list. We all have odd thing we stress about, so if you think you are alone, you’re 100% not…
I was always outgoing when I was younger. I loved being on stage dancing, meeting new people and talking to everyone. I think that all changed really after my anxiety diagnosis. I really worry about talking to new people and making new friends. Public speaking terrifies me and I hate eye contact.
When I was in sixth form I had a large group of friends, granted it took me a year to pluck up the courage to talk to them, but they were, and still are, my friends. I also still remain close to quite a few of my friends from high school and before. This made me think that when I got to university I would make new friends easily, but that wasn’t the case.
At university, a lot of people met people in their accommodation from their course and became close friends with them, but as I still lived at home, I couldn’t meet friends that way. I was very lucky that on the second day, I met two girls in my tutorial group and we just clicked. We got on really well and one of them still lived at home too! I thought, ‘This is great, I’ve got friends, I like the course!” A couple of weeks in and my friend that lived at home decided the course wasn’t for her and she decided to change courses and moved to a different college. This was what she wanted and I wish her all the best on her new course.
A few days later, my other friend met a another girl on our course, through societies (whilst I was ill) and since then it has been the three of us. Don’t get me wrong, I talk to other people, but I don’t know them well enough to call them friends yet. It worried me a bit when I saw other people with loads of new friends, but then I realised I would rather have two close friends than 10 acquaintances that I only know a bit about.
This week, my friend I met on the second day has decided that she wants to move universities next year, for personal reasons. I don’t resent her because if I was in her position, I would probably do the same. However, the whole situation has got me worried about what will happen next year and how will me and my one other uni friend get on. At the moment, I’m trying to concentrate on things to look forward to, like a home friend’s birthday celebrations on Friday, the football on Saturday and a 5 Seconds of Summer concert at Easter, but I can’t help worrying about what will happen in September…
Since birth I have been a dedicated Nottingham Forest supporter. When I was younger, I did not make it to many matches because of my dancing commitments on a Saturday, but in recent years I have begun to attend more matches, both home and away. Since my anxiety attacks became a problem, I have struggled with football matches. The first problem is the journey down- I sometimes have anxiety attacks whilst on the motorway and I often feel uncomfortable travelling on them. The second is the match itself. I have been to quite a few evening matches recently and the changes in light (daylight to floodlights) during the match often can give me anxiety attacks. This is teamed alongside the fact I don’t feel comfortable in large,open spaces. So, for the past few years I have taken my medication (beta-blockers) or rescue remedy (a herbal solution with calming effects) before or at the start of a match, but all this changed yesterday.
Yesterday, Nottingham Forest hosted Watford in the FA Cup and the match was a bit of an achievement for me. I only took rescue remedy before I set off and only felt mildly anxious and for a short period of time during the game. To top the day off, I also made it back up the motorway and around the supermarket without my medication or any further rescue remedy too. To many people this may seem like no big deal, but I felt pretty proud at the end of the day!
The only bad part was that it was pretty chilly (I think that helped distract my anxiety slightly) and a defensive error from Kelvin Wilson, late in the match, meant that we lost and were knocked out of the cup. In two weeks, I’m going back to Nottingham to watch us play Huddersfield in the league, so I’ll see if I can make it through the match without my medication again, and hopefully this time it will be warmer and with a less disappointing result…
Bottling up your feelings is not going to help you with dealing with your problems. It doesn’t have to be parents or teachers, but telling a friend can help you share the load.
2. Get professional help
They are there to help and know what they are talking about. I hated going to the psychologist at first but it really helps me. There are lots of government services available, as well as charities and private services, so there is always some there for you
3. Manage your stresses
One thing my psychologist tells me to do is manage my stresses by considering responsibility. Say I am stressed about my homework because I think I won’t complete it on time. I have to find the time to do it as this is my responsibility but don’t let it get on top of me as it is not the end of the world if I don’t complete it once (not that I’m saying do your homework late). However, say my dad can’t find a house he wants to live in (a current stress of mine) then that is not my responsibility, so I shouldn’t let it get on top of me. A lot of the time I find I can only take limited responsibility for my stresses and so I find, once I’ve realised this, that I feel less stressed.
4. Avoid avoidance
If you avoid going somewhere because it makes you anxious then you’re going to make little progress. This is a lesson that it took me sometime to learn. Eventually, I realised this is the most important part of getting back on track. I have an unfortunate problem with supermarkets (weird I know, but my body misinterprets the change in light as a threat and then I have an anxiety attack) and use to avoid going into them. Slowly I got back to going into them by gradually going into the shop further and for longer periods of time. I still don’t enjoy going into supermarkets that much, but I go into them now, which is more than I would have done before. This principle of small steps can be applied to anything, so take it one step at a time.
5. Take time to relax
No matter how busy life gets, you’ve got to find the time to take a step back and de-stress. I like to take time out to see my friends, listen to music or watch TV or youtube to have sometime for me. If you don’t take some time out things are going to get more and more stressed until it feels unmanageable.
The day of my diagnosis, I went in to inform the school and I was in a bit of a state really so I got sent home. From then on the problems started.
The first problem was finding me help. I was prescribed beta-blockers to help manage my panic attacks, but I needed some other help. After visiting the doctor I was referred to CAMHS (Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services) but in my local area the waiting list was six months long. As my mum has private health cover with work, she managed to find me a psychologist to see, but being diagnosed just before Christmas meant that I had to wait until January to get an appointment.
In the build up to the Christmas holidays I don’t remember being in school much as, at this point, I was refusing to go to school. Although taking my medication, I was still terrified of having another severe anxiety attack. I have found since that taking my medication does not prevent the feeling of an anxiety attack fully, but prevents me having a major one. I was being supported by the inclusion team, but I still felt no-one really understood me and just wanted me in the classroom. I felt a bit like I was considered more as a vital statistic than a person.
Over the Christmas holidays, I think my family began to realise the severity of my problem. After spending all of Christmas Day and Boxing Day indoors, I began to develop a fear of open spaces. My parents tried for 2 or 3 days to get me out of the front door but I would have an anxiety attack trying. Eventually my mum got me in the car and we made it about one mile down the road. I began sobbing and screaming until my mum turned the car around. I remember clutching my mum’s arm as she held the gear stick. Taylor Swift was playing on the radio (it was either We are Never Ever Getting Back Together or I Knew You Were Trouble) which is a weird thing to remember, but I can just hear it looking back. Some day after this, but before my return to school, I had a really bad anxiety attack. I cried and hugged my mum as I felt like I didn’t know who or where I was. She called the out-of-hours GP and they advised her to take me A&E and ask for the Crisis team. My mum took me to A&E and asked for the Crisis team as instructed, with my dad meeting us there. The Crisis team are there to deal with suicidal patients and so I did not speak to anyone in the team. I was instead sent to see a doctor. Warn out and on edge, the only advice I was given was a booklet printed on the internet, before I was sent home. This made me feel misunderstood and alone.
Before returning to school, I think I had my first meeting with the psychologist. They decided Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) was the best way to help me with my condition. At the first appointment my parents went in with me. I don’t remember much, but I think I talked about what tasks, places and things I felt manageable to do and attend again.
By this point I was not avoiding school and not going to dancing or Guides.
Trying to get me to go to school was a nightmare. I would cry and scream everyday. I would go and sit in the inclusion teams office as I was too scared to go to lessons, if they managed to get me in at all. My mum not going to work and my dad was sometimes leaving early to pick me up so my mum could go in. I remember one day where I felt forced into lessons and so I began to resist even more. I resisted advice from the psychologist to go in, the efforts of the teachers trying to get me in and my parents willing me to go back. It all reached a head one day when the education welfare officer came to my house. My attendance hadn’t slipped that low yet, but with me refusing to come in they wanted to speak to me. That was when I really began to hate going to school. I felt like they saw me as a naughty child playing truant. Even after the visit I refused to go in that afternoon because it just got me worked up. I felt so alone and guilty, because I didn’t want my parents to get into trouble. Whilst I avoided school, my mum and I wanted me to be given work to complete at home but I was not always given it. Eventually, my parents and the inclusion team took a harder line with me as I remember being in more and sitting in the inclusion office doing work. After receiving a school report expressing concerns in my attendance to lessons from one subject, I continued to feel lonely and isolated. The next few weeks are a bit of a blur, but I think everyone was getting more and more worried about the state I was getting myself into, especially as my GCSEs were approaching and I was going to move schools for sixth form.
I don’t know when it happened, but one day I reached a bit of an epiphany. I remember thinking, no-one cares about me so I’m going to back with as little of there help as possible and do this for myself. Once again, I remember very little of what happened after this, but by my exams, I was dealing with my anxiety attacks in lessons and staying in the classrooms, instead of leaving like I had previously done. I was in school every day and was trying my hardest with the work. I had previsions in place to help me through exams, like a separate room, and I had a pass to leave lessons if necessary. My parents would take me in and pick me up everyday and I think I went home for lunch sometimes. Teachers would allow me to sit with my friends in lessons so they could help me if I began to feel anxious. I would go to the psychologist’s every Thursday and I gradually came to enjoy going rather than dreading it.
In the end, I passed me exams and got into sixth form. I had to choose whether to go a place I liked alone or with my friends, but in the end I chose to go with my friends so I had a support network already. So then it was on to sixth form…
It is January and the start of semester 2, which means time for semester 1 exams and that means I am stressed out! I always stress at exams but seem to perform ok in them- I think I must thrive of the pressure a bit. At this current point in time, I have done two exams and have two left. I had the worst of the bunch last week and I was a bit of a wreck prior to it. I had been to see my psychologist before the exam and I felt ok once I had left the practice that evening, but a few days before the exam I was stressed out. I was crying and had convinced myself I had not done enough work. Although I had convinced myself of this before every exam, this time I was sure I hadn’t (just like I was sure I was going to mess up my A-Levels, but they were alright in the end) and it got to the point where my Mum had to say stop working and relax. I sat the exam and had a mild anxiety attack whilst there. It wasn’t a great exam but I have found this is the topic most people struggle with. With two exams left, I currently feel less stressed, but a bit nervous as everyone will. My attempts to de-stress have consisted of going to Nandos with my friends last night,for a break, and listening to some of my favourite songs when I wake up. Although, not medically proven, I am 100% convinced listening to the Vamps, Taylor Swift, the Janoskians and Cimorelli has medicinal effects and destressing qualities. I’ll let the doctors test that one out though…