It has taken me a couple of weeks to write this, as I knew it would be hard for me to write. But here it goes…
My first memory of having anxiety, was when I was working as a Beauty Therapist. I must have been around 18. I remember I had just performed a beautiful skin treatment on a client and following the treatment I was speaking to her about what products she should use on her skin. This woman was particularly difficult (she was a bitch) and was giving me a really hard time! Questioning me, and talking to me like I was an idiot. This lead me to feel stupid and helpless and extremely under pressure… I didn’t know how to handle myself in that situation. Suddenly my face, my neck and my chest felt like they were on fire! I was BRIGHT red, like the colour of a tomato!!! I started stuttering, and was talking absolute gibberish. At that point I remember I was so mortified that I ran out of the room and burst into tears. I was so embarrassed. One of the other girls had to go in and finish the sale for me.
Writing that, it sounds so silly and not a big deal. But at the time, I felt like a real dickhead.
This was the beginning of my many years of going bright red whenever I was in a social situation, and felt I was “on the spot”. And when I say on the spot, I mean if someone started talking to me. This, and the fact I was already quiet and shy meant that whenever I would go to a party or social gathering, I would hardly say a peep. I was generally the one that would attach myself to one friend, and wouldn’t really talk to anyone else. I’m sure that people thought I was rude or unfriendly, or didn’t like them. That was never the case. I was just so scared of what people thought of me, I thought it was just easier if they didn’t really know me at all.
Through the years this has affected me in a lot of different situations. Each time I have been bridesmaid, I have taken valium and drunk myself silly, just so I could handle walking down the aisle and not turning into a beetroot. Even for my own wedding I went to Vegas and got married… yes it was cheaper and much easier to do, but it also meant I didn’t have 80 people looking directly at me. So I managed to stay skin colour. Just!
Every job interview I have ever been to, I have needed to wear a high neck top (an attractive skivvy) or a scarf (even when it was hot) to cover my redness, and have needed to pop a valium before I went. Because if I didn’t, the redness would take over my cheeks, too.
One thing that my redness has REALLY affected me with, is my work life. I have been in management roles since I was 22. I am a very good manager, BUT do you know how hard it has been to hold a staff meeting, with the fear of looking like I had contracted some awful disease on my skin?! I would either find a way out of it, or I’d manage to get someone to help me run it, so the focus was taken off me. There were a few occasions where I would need to take valium at work, just to be able to get a few sentences out in front of any more than 3 people, without looking like a twat. It was terrible.
Rewind again to when I was around 20 or so, I started to have panic attacks. The first one I ever had was watching a movie at the cinemas. I literally ran out half way through the movie, and thought I was going to die. My heart was beating SO fast, I was hot and sweaty, I was dizzy, I felt “out of body”, and I honestly thought I was going to have a stroke or a heart attack. After that time, I couldn’t go to the movies for 3 whole years. To say it was shit is an understatement.
Fast forward to two years ago when we first moved to the Gold Coast, I started a job at a Dermatology clinic. Within two months I was lucky enough to be promoted to a position that I felt was way over my head (which it wasn’t…). It was then that my anxiety took a turn for the worse. I was practice manager of a very busy and prestigious Dermatology clinic. I was managing people twice my age, 10 times my experience who were all very good at what they did. Better than me, I used to tell myself. I just felt so out of my depth, that every day was a struggle for me to be there. But I persevered for almost two years, because I loved my bosses, I loved everyone I worked with and it was a really great job to have.
But I wasn’t sleeping well. I was cranky all the time. My husband and I would fight constantly. I was in a constant state of “fight or flight”. I therefore had no energy to go out on the weekends because I was so drained and didn’t want to see ANYONE. I was stressed and I wasn’t happy within myself.
When I started my Naturopathy degree in July last year was when I hit my rock bottom. I was working this stressful job, then, in a pursuit to follow my dreams, I started studying a degree that was bloody hard!!! So I started to have trouble sleeping. I ended up sleeping in the spare room as any movement from my husband would wake me. I went and saw three different naturopaths. I changed my diet. I drank sleepy teas. I meditated twice a day. I diffused essential oils at night. I listened to hypnosis stuff while trying to fall asleep. I started running. I turned my phone off an hour before bed and had a bath. I did EVERYTHING I could!!!
But, because I hadn’t removed the cause of my anxiety, it wasn’t getting any better.
After six weeks of not sleeping, I had a mental break down at work. I literally fell in to a heap in our staff room and was crying uncontrollably. I actually thought I was losing my mind, and it was the scariest thing I have ever been through in my life. Luckily, I had the most amazing and supportive team, and a couple of them encouraged me to see a doctor and get help. So reluctantly, I did. But I felt like such a failure having to take medication.
So I went and saw my GP that day, and was put on Lexapro for anxiety, and another sleeping pill to knock me out at night. I took the sleeping pill every night for about a month after that, and then weened myself off them. I stayed on the Lexapro until I found out I was pregnant…
I am now 25 weeks preggers, and 33 years old. And I can honestly say that I have overcome most of what I have just spoken about (hitting rock bottom is the perfect way to really turn things around for yourself!)
I will always be an introvert and shy at times (and now bloody proud of it, let me tell you!), but I have learnt how to not only make the most of my strengths and use them to my advantage, but I have finally learned to REALLY love myself. Like truly value myself. Hence, my anxiety doesn’t bother me too much anymore. And when it does, I have found ways to manage it… Which brings me to this blog 🙂
Part three of my journey with anxiety will be what I have done to overcome my anxiety, build my confidence and learn to love myself. I look forward to sharing that with you.
If you’re still reading, I appreciate it so much. Thank you 🙂
Love Erin xoxo