I’ve always been a worrier, I suppose a writer’s natural urge to ask “what if” means that it’s almost inevitable the two are linked. But I’m finding, as the taboos on mental health are slowly coming down, that my family has a history of anxiety.
The big trouble with anxiety attacks (at least for me. I can only speak for myself, I don’t claim to be an expert) is that unlike a full blown panic attack that stops you doing anything, anxiety attacks rumble away in the background. I can write with an attack, but I’m not as productive. The big problem is sleep. I can’t sleep when I’ve got an anxiety attack and as a result, last night I never got to bed until 3am.

They’re usually over something trivial. In fact, that’s how I differentiate between anxiety and genuine worry or stress. Money is always a good one although it was the fact that I used to get anxiety over money when I was doing OK that helped highlight them for me. But they can be over anything (somebody forgetting something, something going wrong, something that has the slimmest chance of happening) – worrying for worrying’s sake, so to speak.
I find antibiotics always leave me feeling a little flat and a friend once explained it as that “they kill the good bacteria as well as the bad”. I’m not sure how medically sound that is, but it kinda makes sense. I also have heightened anxiety. So when I went on a major dose for the leg, I suspected the anxiety would be acting up.
I’ve had a couple of attacks the last couple of days, but they’ve been expected. And as expected, they are over such stupid things that I cannot bare to admit them. I suspect they will quieten down over the days and weeks ahead. Trouble is, they always sneak up on you and catch you unaware, even when you are prepared for them.
I found, through no scientific basis other than my own experiments, that salt can heighten it. I’ve spoken to other anxiety sufferers and they’ve not had the same findings, but I have deliberately cut down on my salt intake as a result (especially crisps).
I think half the battle is knowing, is pointing the finger and saying “this is just stoopid anxiety”. Just as depression is (in very simplistic terms) feeling down for no reason, so anxiety is worrying for no reason. Being able to identify it weakens it a little, pushes it further back into the recesses of my mind but like depression it can creep up on you if you don’t know yourself really well. Even so there’s still that feeling of shame that you are being stupid over nothing, even though you know you are being stupid over nothing. You ask yourself “why am I worrying about this?” Nine times out of ten I can cure this worry by just asking someone to allay my fears but the anxiety holds it in place, makes you feel stupid asking stupid questions. And just as you can’t tell a depressed person to “cheer up”, you can’t tell an anxiety sufferer to “stop worrying”.
I think the other half the battle is knowing you are not alone. Hearing other people talk about it breaks the taboo, breaks that silence you put yourself in for fear that someone will say “why on earth are you worrying about that? What is wrong with you?”
My anxiety has actually been pretty good this past year (probably the best it’s ever been), so this flair up is difficult. But I suspect that once my body evens itself back out, the attacks will die down a lot. Other people are not so lucky and suffer in other ways. As I said, I am not an expert on these but if you are a sufferer as well, I hope the attacks pass soon too.