A is for anxiety (and here is my journey so far)9:15:00 AM
I didn't really notice I had serious anxiety issues until two recent events that happened back to back; two Saturdays ago at writer's party and last Saturday at a baby shower. At both events, it felt like my oxygen supply was cut, my palms started sweating and then there were all these people ( mind you both were private intimate parties with 20-30 people) and all I wanted was to be alone, at peace, with no pressure. For the first event, I took a few cans of cider and I was able to breathe but deep down I knew that was a big injustice to my body and to myself and when all I could do was hold a can to be powered to talk, dance and laugh, I dropped it and headed home.
At the second event, I had to do syke up walks in town just to get myself there and when I felt like someone had stepped on my oxygen supply, I didn't feel embarrassed to tell my host that I am feeling unwell and need to leave.
So what is anxiety and panic attacks? What causes them? What is the treatment? Are they even real illnesses? As mentioned, this last two events made me know something was wrong.
I reflected on events before that and traced my anxiety spike to my Ghana trip early October. I missed my flight because of a panic attack; there I was in Kampala airport and I couldn't talk, I couldn't walk, my air circulation cut and there at the airport I fell (thank God for Martin the kind stranger who sort me out and carried my luggage and made sure I got on the next available flight all on his tab). Another major incident after that, was a Zanzibar treat from my Tanzanian pal, The Don. He wanted to do something for me after my Ghana trip, so i travelled all the way to Dar but that night, at 3 am, I felt like the sheets were choking me, my eyes couldn't stop tearing, my palms were sweating and i woke my pal back here in Kenya and told him I just couldn't go to Zanzibar and he advised me to come back home. Before that I had had several episodes which I never gave attention to but the more I looked at them, the more I see my anxiety pattern. Armed with that information, I decided to actively learn more and do something about it.
In mental health speak, they are considered minor mental health conditions in comparison to schizophrenia and bipolar which are up on the severity scale. For proper general anxiety and panic attacks, the symptoms must be there for at least 6 months and include; excessive worry, expectations that something terrible may happen disturbance in concentration and thinking, trouble sleeping, rapid heart beat, dizziness, breathing difficulty, shaking, sweating, hot/cold flushes, an urge to flee, blurred vision. And how do you deal ( I am using all these and I am open to more ideas)
1. Know self
Make a list of at least five events in the recent past that you felt most anxious and the circumstances around them.
2. Talk about it
Having anxiety is not something to be ashamed of, it is a real illness with need for real intervention before it cripples you and your dreams. Talk to a psychologist and have them help you work on identifying your triggers and working round them.
I personally hate medication, but if need be, after talking to a psychologist, you can be referred to a psychiatrist who will prescribe a few tabs. (I am currently exploring homeopathy after meeting a practitioner last Saturday. I have loads of emails asking about it and I will blog about my experience even though I already got under fire on twitter for using pseudoscience)
4. Exercise and diet
This is the cheapest and surest self medication. I renewed my gym membership and despite the muscle screams, I can attest that my worry levels have kinda reduced, my concentration is somewhere - I can finish a Sudoku game in one sitting... the diet part is still under construction.
5. Support groups
You would be surprised by the number of people out there who go through the same thing. Don't suffer in silence but meet up with others online or physically and through the discussions learn and get encouraged.
You are here to live life to the fullest. Remember, as enticing as alcohol is, it is not a treatment option. It just gives you artificial confidence that may lead to dependancy.If you or anyone you know has panic attacks and anxiety, holla at me and I will hook you up with a psychologist and/or support group. Don't suffer in silence.