It seems like every time I go onto Facebook or Twitter there’s a new post up about the importance of speaking up about mental health. I’m really relating to these posts at the moment and thought it time I did my own in honour of mental health awareness week next week!
It affects so many people, so I thought I’d share my story with the world and encourage others to do the same. I’m very open about my experience with it, so why not share on my blog?! It’s not my usual topic and won’t be the main focus of this blog, but it’s important to spread awareness!
I have generalised anxiety and a lot of people are so surprised when I say this as I’m quite outgoing, will speak my mind and don’t fit into the typical stereotype of someone with anxiety. And this is the main reason I wanted to write this post – to let people know that anxiety isn’t just someone holed up at home, scared to leave the house and interact with the outside world, it’s someone like you or me.
Now, mine goes back a long time (although I didn’t know what it was until a couple of years ago) and started when I was about 12/ 13. Whenever I walked on stairs, my right leg would tremble for a few seconds, nothing life changing at first, but gradually grew in intensity and frequency over the years into what it is now.
So what is it now? My knee jerk reaction to shock is my legs trembling, crossing a busy road makes my legs tremble, a random child running loose in the supermarket will make my legs tremble, losing my footing in the shower will make my legs tremble – you get my drift.
At first it wasn’t too bad, I could still go out and function like a normal human being, but definitely worsened when I started to drive. I avoided walking too far and would park in random places to avoid having to cross the road.
The rational side of my conscious brain knows that there is no danger, but my subconscious cannot fathom that danger isn’t lurking.
My anxiety got 100 times worse in October last year when I thought I’d had a seizure walking out to my car after work one day. I suffered with epilepsy as a child and mistook my losing consciousness as a seizure as no one witnessed it happening and only found me passed out (leaves all in my hair) in the car park – until I visited the neurologist who confirmed that I’d suffered from a blackout/ faint.
Up until then I’d turned into quite the hypochondriac, Googling anything wrong with me, constantly on hyperalert to what sensations I was feeling and convincing myself it was going to happen again. Not ideal when you’re on holiday in Thailand, trying to enjoy the beautiful country and your boyfriend proposing to you and becoming your fiancé!
Hearing that I hadn’t had a seizure was music to my ears and I began on a journey of recovery. I was taking Sertraline for the panic attacks I’d been suffering since the incident (I couldn’t go anywhere alone as I was terrified I would seize again) and started to go to cognitive behavioural therapy again.
All was well until another blackout happened in February, I’d been out for a cigarette break at work, was talking to Aaron on the phone when my legs started to tremble (as usual and the same as the last time) my head started to spin and I instinctively turned to fall on my side, shouting out for Aaron to help (he was in the next town, so this was totally ridiculous and I can laugh about it now 😂).
The next thing I know, I’m walking back inside with our receptionist Cory and telling my team when they walked past – “sorry guys I had a seizure again (it wasn’t and 2 more doctors confirmed this after) so I won’t be back this afternoon!”
Aaron turned up having gotten straight in the car when he heard what was going on and followed behind the ambulance over to the hospital. The doctor in A&E asked what medication I was taking and what had I done just before it happened? I’d been taking Propranolol to help with my legs trembling (it’s a beta blocker which slows your heart rate and is commonly used for anxiety) and had taken one just before heading out for my afternoon fag. And there it was, the root cause of my faints. A silly tablet I’d been taking to help with my anxiety had caused my blood pressure to drop and me losing consciousness. I was signed off work for a week and immediately stopped taking the tablets.
The week that I was signed off I had a session with my amazing behavioural therapist, I was a quivering mess walking up to her office and told her everything as soon as I sat down. She didn’t give me a chance to object and got me back in my coat to head out into town to face my fears.
There’s a lot to be said for cognitive behavioural therapy and that day I really appreciated what it could do. When I walked out of that door and crossed the road into town, I was shaking all over, panicking about passing out and yet with each step I took it got easier. I walked a couple of laps with my therapist behind me and finally did a couple on my own. It was so liberating to be able to stroll through town without a care in the world and I felt ‘normal’ (although, I do sometimes wonder if anything or anyone is normal!)
That weekend I stopped smoking and got onto the vaping hype, started to go out for runs (which I’ll admit have stopped since I hurt my knee) and strolls around town during my lunch break at work.
However, this week I had a random panic attack walking out to my car after work (there seems to be a recurring theme) my leg trembled and I sat/fell on the floor feeling dizzy and my heart racing. One of the guys from work stopped his car, got out and stayed with me while I calmed down to drive home.
I don’t know if I’m being a hypochondriac, but I really feel like there’s something more to these shaky leg things than just anxiety – anxiety definitely make it worse, but I’m going back to the doctors next week to talk about what else it could be. I went yesterday morning and broke down in tears as I’ve had enough of it dominating my life – I’m sitting at home off work today because of it.
I don’t know anyone that has anxiety in this way and the fact that I can’t control knee jerk reactions makes me think there’s an underlying cause. But anxiety isn’t helping matters and I need to work on getting through it! My work have been amazing and so understanding about the whole thing which makes it easier for me to focus on getting better.
I hope you’ve found my story helpful and please share your own stories! You’re not alone and never will be!
Until next time…