Thursday, 19 April 2018

Panic Attacks and What Causes Them.

Good evening!

Hope the week has been good, at least it's Friyay tomorrow! My week has had its ups and downs but I've got my little trip to look forward to for a long weekend away. For this post I have decided to help you understand what panic attacks are, what causes them and what to do if you find yourself having one.

I used to suffer with panic attacks a lot more when I was younger, I used to get them when I had heart palpitations - mostly down to the fact when I was that age I didn't really understand what heart palpitations were I panicked every time I experienced them.


What is a panic attack?


A panic attack is a rush of intense anxiety and a variety of physical symptoms, you could feel fear, dread, loss of control and entrapment. They can happen suddenly and can be very frightening and most of the time occur for no clear reason.

When having a panic attack you may experience racing or what feels like an irregular heartbeat, you could start sweating, trembling, hyperventilating which is when you have a shortness of breath, you can also feel as if you're choking, nausea, dizziness, having a tingling sensation in your fingers or have ringing in your ears.

A lot of the time people think they're having a heart attack because of the irregular heart beats or the fast pace of your heart, this can panic people even more and few often think they're going to die.

However panic attacks don't last for a long time, at most they can last up to 20 minutes. This is  because at this point your body is releasing a lot of adrenaline and your body can't keep releasing it so when it stops doing that the panic attack ends. For me I found it quite interesting to know what your body is doing during a panic attack, because understanding this helps me calm myself down during panic attacks.

For me as well, I found that I would experience a panic attack and then for the rest of the day my anxiety would be pretty bad. I have always wondered if this was something else others experienced as well.

There's no specific time that a panic attack can happen, some people may have one panic attack in their lifetime and then never experience another one, or it might be a regular thing. It is common for things to trigger panic attacks, may that be particular places, situations or activities you are doing at the time. As for a more common example you could experience one before a doctors appointment or any appointment that you may find stressful.

    What to do if you're having a panic attack?


    Whilst having a panic attack there are a few things you can do to help you get through it.

    Concentrate on your breathing - doing this can help you calm down, if you try and breathe slowly, take slow deep breaths and maybe try counting as well it could help you calm down.

    Focus on your senses - It can help to focus on something like tasting, touching or cuddling something. I find that focusing on my surroundings can help me to calm down.

    Having someone there with you - If you find yourself having a panic attack and you're with a good friend or with family then it's always good to have them there to help calm you down. I find it's helpful when someone is there helping you to breathe or talking to me about something, almost like they're distracting you from the panic attack.

     - A little story about this for myself is when I went to the doctors to have a blood test and my mum came along with me and started speaking to me about the weather - it made me laugh so much, it's such a British thing to do. 

    Recently I have learnt from my research into this topic over the last few months that stamping on the spot can help, it's supposed to help control your breathing. This isn't one I've tried, so maybe if I do experience another I'll give it a go!

    As I said above after I experience a panic attack I often feel pretty bad for the rest of the day so it's important to help yourself afterwards as well.

    Self-care is very important, you may find that your body needs to rest after a panic attack so it might be a good idea to rest somewhere, maybe lie down and close your eyes and try to relax. Your body could also want something to eat or drink - these are all every day things we do but could be something your body really needs after a panic attack.
      As mentioned before when having a panic attack I find it's good to have someone there with you, if you are on your own or you out in public with no one around you that you feel safe or comfortable with then it's always a good idea to tell someone when you can what you've just gone through. They can help with making you feel better afterwards and also it's good to tell them because if you experience another they know what to look out for and maybe can help you out next time.


      If you want anymore information on panic attacks you can visit the NHS website or visit mental health charity websites such as MIND as they can go into more detail about them.

      Hope this short post about panic attacks have given you more of a understanding or helped in any way if you suffer with these. Thank you so much for reading, I know this is posted a lot earlier than usual as I explained at the beginning I am away until Tuesday next week! Hope you all have a lovely weekend, at least the weather is great ay!

      I will be back again with another post next Sunday as usual!

      As always, chat soon.






      Sunday, 15 April 2018

      My self help reading

      Good afternoon❣

      Hope you are all well and have something positive on the agenda today. I thought I'd share a post on some of my favourite books I have read over the past few months that have helped me a lot and I have found extremely interesting to read.

      I'm going to do a few posts about this as I have read a few and it would be too much to read if it was written into one post, so enjoy the first blog post about my self help reading. 



      The first book I read was one that a good friend had sent me. It's called 'Anxiety, Panicking about Panic' by Joshua Fletcher. Now as this was my first book that I've read about anxiety I didn't really know what to expect. This book really helped me understand what anxiety is and how anxiety can affect you mentally and physically. It was one of the biggest steps that helped me feel like I was stepping out of this shadow that was holding me back.

      In the book he doesn't focus on his own experience as most anxiety books you read do. It's split into different parts and then at the end of the book he does have a couple of pages about his story which is a choice if you want to read it or not, I think that's why he leaves it till the very end. The first part is talking about what anxiety is and helps you to understand if it's something that you do suffer with. He also has illustrations to explain some of the thoughts that people get from anxiety which helped me in a way because it confirmed to me that this is something I am suffering with. He goes into quite some detail about panic attacks as well which I found to be very interesting. It's made me think about panic attacks differently - usually when you have a panic attack a lot of people don't understand and you think you're potentially having a heart attack - it's such a terrifying moment. Joshua explains about how panic attacks are caused and how you can tell you're having a panic attack and not a heart attack.

      He then goes onto Part two where he explains the symptoms. This section really got to me because some of the symptoms he discusses I had no idea are caused by anxiety. As I was reading I felt like waves of relief had hit me, I suffer with heart palpitations and I hate it when I experience these, they feel so uncomfortable and it makes you think that something is wrong with your heart and if you don't find out what it is or you don't get any sort of treatment for it from a doctor then you're going to end up having a heart problem. However from reading about it in this book I now understand that these are happening because of anxiety, I don't have a heart problem, it's just that, it's anxiety.

      Another big step up for me was learning that all these symptoms are caused by anxiety, because instead of having all these worries that you have loads of things wrong with you, you know that the only thing you need to treat is the anxiety and in result of that it's going to stop all these symptoms.

      The last few parts of the book is advice and ways to help yourself and what to do when you're struggling with anxiety so obviously these are extremely helpful and important to help you help yourself. Once I started reading this book I couldn't really put it down, it's not a long book it only has 130 odd pages or so. If you're looking for a book to help you understand what anxiety is and something that doesn't seem so overwhelming I'd recommend this one, it only took me a few days to read!

      He also has a website called 'The Panic Room' which has more information on and also a place to contact him if you need any advice - http://www.thepanicroom.co.uk/

      Picture taken from the Spotify webpage

      Now as you can see this one isn't a 'book' but a podcast. Even though it's not something you read I felt it fit perfectly into this post. So another self help method recently that has helped me is Fearne Cotton's 'Happy' podcast. I never really listened to podcasts before, for some reason they never really interested me and I didn't feel like there was a good time to listen to them. This is quite a new podcast - its came about from the book that Fearne had written called 'Happy' which will feature in a future post.

      Fearne speaks to people - some of which you may have heard of - about what makes them happy. They talk about their stories, what they've gone through, and what they do to make themselves happy. It's such an inspiring podcast to listen to. So far the guests include - Tom Daley and Dustin Lance, Dawn French, Paloma Faith, Matt Haig, Stephen Fry, Zephyr Wildman and Alexandra Shulman. I have listened to them all, I think I'm a bit of a fan!

      I love that they all talk about different things, different moments that have affected their lives and how they have stayed positive through these experiences. I have found also that listening to podcasts are quite relaxing. I had a day where I spent pretty much all morning just listening to these podcasts and it didn't feel like a waste, I enjoyed every second, it was relaxing and inspiring at the same time. If you aren't really into reading then a podcast might be something that you can sink your teeth into. It's like when you listen to music, you can be doing something else at the same time. You can be cooking yourself a meal and at the same time you have this podcast to listen to.

      I'm looking forward to the other podcast episodes to come.

      If you have a look at these I hope you enjoy them as much as I did and I hope they help you as much as they helped me. Next week I'll go back to a similar post from last week - 'what anxiety is' - and go into a method that can help you overcome anxiety and help yourself to get better. I will be away next weekend in Northen Ireland so the next post will be on Thursday 19th instead!

      Thank you for reading! And don't forget if you want to share your story then please send them across - chloechatsstories@gmail.com

      As always, chat soon.


      Sunday, 8 April 2018

      Anxiety - What is it?

      Good afternoon!

      I just wanted to start this post off with a massive thank you, I have been so grateful and overwhelmed with all the support I have had from my previous post. I have had so many messages off people showing their support as well as reaching out to me about similar issues they're going through. I'm always here if anyone needs to chat.

      I've decided to write my first post about is what anxiety is. Reading about anxiety has been one of the biggest helps for me - learning about what it is and what causes it. Being able to understand how anxiety works and exploring all the symptoms has bought me clarity and put my mind at ease.

      One of the worst things anxiety did to me was make me feel physically unwell, I got cold-like symptoms, I vomited a lot, I felt sick every time I tried to eat, constant fatigue, I got chest pains, I had heart palpitations, panic attacks, migraines, I even had skin problems - for a while my brain was so full of worrying that I had so many different things wrong with me, and little did I know it was all down to anxiety. Learning that anxiety was the cause helped ease my mind a little, instead of constantly worrying about potentially loads of different illnesses, I only had one thing to worry about - anxiety. I still suffer with many of the symptoms listed but they're not as over bearing because I don't have a hundred worries on my mind, just the one.

      Below is a list of common physical symptoms, and many of which I have suffered with as a result of anxiety:

      Heart palpitations - This is something I have suffered with pretty much all my life - and yet I've only just realised it's because of anxiety. I never really questioned why I got them, when I was younger whenever I had heart palpitations it would normally lead to a panic attack - it used to terrify me. Now they don't cause many panic attacks for me but it still makes me feel very uncomfortable.

      If you're unsure what heart palpitations are they're kind of like chest flutters, like your heart skips a beat and then quickly tries to catch up,you become self aware that your heart is beating irregularly. The most common reason for this is anxiety, feeling stressed or because you've had a lot of caffeine, nicotine or alcohol - which is why it is often recommended that if you suffer with anxiety to not drink so much caffeine, alcohol or smoke as much.

      Abdominal and chest pains - This could be pains or the tightness in your chest or stomach. I often get chest pains, sometimes it can be so bad that I have to hold my chest. It can often lead to panic attacks because you fear that you have something wrong with your heart, your mind starts believing that you're going to have a heart attack. 

      I find it's quite worrying actually, if you search 'chest pains' into Google it comes up with the worst possible reasons and for someone who suffers with these as a result of anxiety searching for answers on the internet is probably going to make you feel even worse. Obviously experiencing chest pains can be a dangerous thing so it is wise to go to the doctors to make sure.

      IBS is another symptom you can experience. Obviously this can be it's own issue but it is also common for people who suffer with anxiety to experience these symptoms. This is when you feel constipated, indigestion, trapped wind, or gut and intestinal pains etc. It's not directly caused by anxiety however feeling stressed or anxious can affect your immune system which can then be a trigger to IBS.

      Derealisation - This is something I found to be worst and still feel uncomfortable with when it happens. It's when you feel detached from your surroundings, you have difficulty in focusing. It's strange, it's like you're there in a room but you don't actually feel like you're there - almost dream-like. When I was at my worst I had this a lot when I'd be at work, but when it happens it's hard to shake myself out of it. This is probably the one I still struggle with the most - but I'm working on it.
       
      Head - headaches that may last longer than usual, dizziness or vertigo etc. - these are all symptoms of anxiety. Of course you can get these symptoms because of other things but they can also link to anxiety. I suffered with vertigo not too long ago, every time I moved my head to the side I felt dizzy. This was one of the last physical issues I had when I was going through the worst of my anxiety, again, I didn't think it was related to anxiety but having read about it I've come to understand.

      Energy - Feeling constantly tired, exhausted from doing something so little, I'm getting a lot better with this. A few weeks back I was terrible with feeling tired, I would come home from work and go straight to my room to sleep and I'd wake up for dinner some evenings and then go straight back  to sleep till the morning - I had all that sleep and I would wake up in the morning feeling shattered, it was an endless cycle.

      When feeling like this you often feel like you cannot focus on life because of how tired you feel. This symptom often creates that same never ending cycle feeling. You can feel tired from anxiety, but also be anxious about not sleeping, this feeds in the cycle.

      Those are a few of the most common physical symptoms that an anxiety sufferer can deal with - I found it quite surprising personally, it's crazy that anxiety can do so much to you.

      In simple terms as Joshua Fletcher explains "what has happened is your body has arrived at a state of chemical imbalance as a result of trying to deal with high amounts of stress and operating using a poor mental routine. In other words, unexplainable anxiety is your body's way of telling you that it has simply had enough and something has to change." 

      The most common feeling someone would get that suffers with anxiety is feeling trapped or stuck in an endless cycle worrying about thoughts or constantly feeling panicked. When we start constantly worrying we end up dwelling on the fact that you're feeling that way and start panicking about why and that's when anxiety really controls you and takes over your mind. This is my mentality at the moment and this is what then can cause all those physical symptoms I mentioned above, this is what can make you spiral downhill fast. Someone who suffers with anxiety can often feel like it's tailored to the individual, the longer these symptoms continue we start to believe that there's something wrong with our brain - this is why learning about anxiety and talking to others is so important. A few months back I would get in such states where I would be crying my eyes out because I felt like there was something wrong with my head, I thought in simpler terms, I was going crazy.

      It has been such a relief for me personally to be able to identify and relate to the symptoms which can occur with anxiety. Being able to understand that I was experiencing certain symptoms because of anxiety has been so important in easing my mind and helping me to get better. 

      I hope this post has been helpful in explaining what anxiety is and exploring the symptoms anxiety can cause. Not everyone suffers with anxiety but if everyone's knowledge, whether you suffer or not, increases then we can all understand and help each other a little more

      Hope you've all had a lovely weekend and I shall be back next week with a new post, 



      Chat soon. 



      A lot of my understanding of this is from reading 'Anxiety Panicking about Panic' but Joshua Fletcher which is where a lot of my information has come from. 















      Sunday, 1 April 2018

      My Story.

      Good evening! 

      Hope you are having a lovely day, it's Sunday after all, the day of rest - time to relax! 

      As you are aware from my previous post I've been away for quite some time. I kind of left behind what I loved doing and started to become just like a machine in a constant routine. I stopped blogging and I never really thought about coming back to it, I just felt like I didn't have the time. I was wrong of course, you shouldn't stop doing something you love. 

      Anyway that was explained in the previous post and I also explained about the route I wanted to go down when starting up my blog again. Before I go into it, I just want to put a disclaimer out there: I am not a professional and these views are my own and from my own experience, and also if you start reading this and feel like it's too triggering then please feel free to stop

       

      I have always had a hard time dealing with anxiety, it's always been a bit more overbearing than it should be. I could go on about many of my anxious experiences I have had but I will only talk about 2018 as it was a bad start to the year. Of course anxiety is something everyone deals with from time to time, it could be that you have a job interview one day and you're feeling quite anxious about it, that's completely normal. However you then have your interview and usually start feeling less anxious because its over and you go back to your normal self. With me and with many others you can suffer from anxiety that feels like its controlling you and almost taking over your life. It can stop you from doing simple things like going out to see your best friend, some of you might be thinking, why would you feel anxious about visiting a friend? but that's what anxiety can do.


      January 2018: 

      I'm not sure when my anxiety got worse, when I ask my mum about it she says it was before the start of the year and back in December but because I didn't realise what was going on I guess I didn't pick up on it. The first thing that I started to notice was how ill I was getting - when I say ill, I mean general illnesses like a cold, a sore throat, a fever, and throwing up etc. I noticed it more in January, as I would get a cold for a week let's say, it will then disappear for a few days and then I'd pick up another cold, or I'd be throwing up and this was constant for over two months. You're probably thinking, why would you not go to a doctor if you keep getting ill for over two months? Well I just didn't realise what was going on, I started to believe it was normal, I thought that it was Winter and that's what happens. I kept saying to my family who were worried, that it was my weak immune system and it will be fine soon. Of course me saying that out loud made me think, wait, why do I have a weak immune system then? 

      At this stage I decided to go to the doctors and talk to a professional about it. I still at this point didn't really think it was anything to do with anxiety because why would it be, why would getting general colds/flu be linked to anxiety? While I was in the waiting room with my mum I sat in silence and looked around, I felt out of place, I felt like I shouldn't be there. I said to my mum that I felt silly that I have come to the doctors about this. She asked me why and I explained that I didn't feel worthy about being there, I said - there's people out there who are going through life threatening illnesses and I'm here because I've been having colds constantly and because of that I've been feeling down and miserable all the time. At this point its worth mentioning that I also slept a lot and I didn't really eat - a lot of days I would hardly eat anything while at work and I would not have any dinner in the evening because I felt full up even though I hadn't eaten anything. The issue with not eating did get progressively worse but I will talk about that further on. 

      I spoke to the doctor, she did general checks on me and told me to have a blood test, just to rule out that it wasn't anything physical that was making me feel like this. She also mentioned that if the results come back clear and I am still feeling the way I am then to come back. I did talk about everything from how ill I kept getting, to how it was making me feel, and the other symptoms of feeling tired all the time, not eating, and generally having a negative outlook on every thing, of course the mention of anxiety and depression came up but this is when the doctor told me that it was normal for women my age to be feeling like this. That statement annoyed me a little because maybe it is a common thing for women my age to go through but that's also not very helpful. I then booked my blood test, had that a few days later and of course the results were all clear, there was nothing physically wrong with me. Hearing the results I thought what do I do to stop getting so ill all the time? 

      It felt like I was getting worse and I didn't know what to do. I carried on getting ill, I carried on not eating - every time I went to eat something, I felt a lump in my throat - kind of like that feeling you get when you're about to throw up. I felt like if I forced myself to eat I'd just be sick. This was all in my head, I probably wouldn't have thrown up, it was just stuck in my mind that I would and so it was as if I feared eating. I was still feeling constantly tired, I slept a lot, I would come home from work and go to sleep and then wake up in the morning - it was far too much. The week after getting my blood test and having the all clear I came down with a horrible flu - I honestly hadn't had a cold like that in years. My whole body ached so much that I struggled to walk, when trying to get down the stairs my legs would shake so much and they were so weak that I couldn't do it. I still couldn't eat so I was constantly feeling dizzy and every time my mum would help me up she'd have to immediately sit me back down because I would have collapsed, I was throwing up, I had bad headaches, I was so miserable and negative that I cried a lot and I even had a panic attack - I used to get these a lot when I was a bit younger but this was the first one I had for a while. 

      Even while all that was happening I said it was because I had a weak immune system. Now I know what it is, it makes me laugh a little bit, I kept saying I had a weak immune system but I never questioned why, even after knowing it wasn't anything physical that was causing it. I ended up having that whole week off work and I started to feel better by the end of the week as you normally would when the flu has gone out of your system. That Saturday I then pushed myself to go out because I had been bed ridden for a week, I hadn't stepped outside at all, and I thought maybe it would be good to get some fresh air and actually do something other than watching the TV. Immediately after I went out I felt it wasn't a great idea however in hindsight that day was the beginning of me getting better - I'll explain. 

      So I went to a Wedding fair at the NEC in Birmingham, it was very busy and I found it hard, I was still just getting over my flu and I still wasn't eating so I had zero energy and I felt awful most of the day. A bit later on that day I ended up going to Wagamama's, I didn't get any food there so I did feel a bit silly but I got a positive smoothie and some of the money you pay towards that goes to the Mind charity which is a mental health charity - quite apt I guess. Anyway, I started talking about how I was feeling and how I could stop feeling like this, it was frustrating, I was stuck in this constant loop where I would get ill and then that would make me feel negative and miserable and then somehow feeling like that would keep making me ill. I felt like there was no way to get out of it. It was at that moment when I decided to message my friend who is a mental health nurse, I thought who better to ask than someone who has learnt about it. So I remember writing out this massive essay and pressing send, I was so nervous. She replied to me and I started to read it while in the restaurant and I broke down. I started crying and it was so embarrassing, I felt so awkward sitting in a restaurant and crying with so many people around me. 

      However that moment there, the moment where I reached out for help was my turning point. It was the start to my recovery, it was from there that I progressed rather than spiraling down. It made me realise how much the loved ones in my life meant to me, how much they cared about me. I had a few people I could talk to about what I was going through. At the start of the year when my anxiety was at its worse I know I had loved ones around me that were trying to help and I would push them away. I even had some gifts like self care books/cards/colouring books/a cute care bear package which had fluffy socks, chocolate and one of my favourite things which was a mug that says "a little brew to get you through" which I love. I was so surprised when I received them through the post because I wasn't expecting them and it just shows how much the people closest mean to you, how much they care about you, and how important they are. 



      I'm not a hundred percent better and I'm not saying that just talking to people has completely got rid of my anxiety, I've done a few different things but I don't want to write about it in this blog post as this is more about my story of the more negative moments. I have realised now that everything I had gone through and still going through is all down to anxiety. I've learnt a lot about anxiety, I've got a lot of books written by authors that have gone through these exact symptoms and explained how anxiety cause them, and the better understanding about it has really helped me recover and clear up my mind. 

      I want to talk further about what I have learnt and also how I have got to this stage I am at now where I'm feeling so much more positive. This will be in different blog posts as you'll end up having to read a very long blog post if I didn't! 

      I just want to say as well I'm not a professional and the things that I did to help me might not help you so if you are worried or if you are feeling like this then please go to a doctor or speak to a family member or a close friend. If you want to message me for any general advice or just want someone to talk to about it then I am very happy to do that. My social media links are on my contact page, I will answer on any, as written in my previous posts I also have a email - chloechatsstories@gmail.com where you can send me your experiences with anxiety and depression which I will happily publish if that is your wish. I hope reading this has helped or made you understand anxiety a little bit more, I want to say thank you to whoever is reading this as well because writing this down has really helped me and I know there's a chance that no one will read this, especially because there's a lot of writing to read, but either way this is something I've been thinking about doing for a while. 

      There will be another post soon about some self help options that have really helped me. 

      Thank you, chat soon.