My battle with anxiety one year on

IT’S been just over a year since I spoke openly about my anxiety and I wanted to let you all know that I am doing ok. In fact, I am doing wonderfully, and I couldn’t be more proud of how far I have come.

I get asked all the time how I am coping and how I have helped myself. So, I wanted to take this opportunity to thank you all for your support. Thank you!

I also wanted to answer some of the questions people constantly have about my mental health and to give some of you hope that might be struggling right now.

I was in a dark place last year and, to be honest, I can’t even pinpoint what fully caused my spiral. All I know is it was hell and I wouldn’t have gotten through it without the support of you, and my friends and family.

I got asked to explain to a girlfriend the other day just how my little brain works as she was still struggling to understand anxiety. I told her it’s like jumping on a merry-go-round and every day, going round and round and round and round … haha ok, you get the picture!

The irrational thoughts and fears overtake your brain and YOU wholeheartedly believe the stories you’re telling yourself. No-one can convince you otherwise. They can try, but once you’re in that deep, dark place, it can be very hard to get out of it.

I have been very lucky. The support and love I have been shown, not just from the Perth community, but around the globe filled my heart with love, and I now know I am not in this alone.

Unfortunately, some people still believe they are. So, if this is YOU, then this column I have written to inspire you also.

I had been suffering for a very long time but I never really understood what was going on. So, I drowned the anxious feeling EVERY weekend with copious amounts of red wine, ciggies and recreational drugs.

Today, I still drink – probably too much – but I have my anxiety under control … well, most days!

Anxiety doesn’t just disappear and it will never fully go away, but I have learnt to live with it and I now understand it a whole lot better.

I solemnly swear that the best thing I ever did for my anxiety was telling people about it. Sharing and accepting my mental illness has been the best thing I have ever done, and I encourage every one of you to do that if you feel the urge.

It might not be for everyone, but just sharing my story helped me out of the darkness. When I spoke about my anxiety on the radio, we shared this video.

I was inundated with messages of support, love and people sharing their own stories from all around the world. People stopped me on the street to speak to me about their anxiety. I was completely overwhelmed with a number of people that had been suffering alone.

Opening up means people now understand me. Sometimes I would come across disconnected, not all there, moody, agitated, aggressive and stressed, and people often wondered what they had done wrong.

But they had done nothing wrong! My anxiety had taken over my entire body and I was full of fear.

It could and would happen in any situation, especially if I was pushed out of my comfort zone, or if I thought I was losing control.

Colleagues, friends and family often saw it and just thought “Oh, that’s Heidi,” and the most exhausting part was in every situation like this, I would spend days, sometimes even weeks, beating myself up for the way I reacted.

I couldn’t win either way.

Today is a different story. Now, everyone knows I am an anxious person and they understand my behaviour, and can empathise where I’m coming from and not take things personally.

Since I’ve spoken out, I feel like I am no longer hiding anything. So to be honest, my behaviour has changed naturally anyway.

The road to where I am now hasn’t been easy, but I wouldn’t change a thing. I have learnt so much about myself, and anxiety, and I am super excited to share this with you.

I thought about medication at times when my brain just wouldn’t shut the hell up, and I looked into it, but I heard about some of the side effects and I couldn’t deal with having a shitty sex drive, considering I only see my partner every second week as he works away. So for me it wasn’t an option.

So instead, I chose to tackle my anxiety through all different avenues. Now, some of these might work for you and some of them may not.

I have absolutely nothing against medication, you must do what it right for you! My Mum and my best friend (I know, us anxious folk really do stick together) are both medicated and doing really well.

For me, as I said, I wanted to try other means.

I see a psychologist by the name of Jan, from Masters Psychology, and she has been an absolute godsend, I couldn’t have got this far without her. I have also been trying a therapy called Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) and, without getting too technical (Google it), it has really helped me and my anxiety.

It was developed in the 1980s to alleviate the symptoms associated with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Since then, however, it has become a widely used and effective technique for other psychological disorders, including various phobias and addiction, as well as PTSD.

Meditation has also been a HUGE help and one that I still need to do more of. I constantly find excuses to avoid sitting in silence, but I am getting there and trying to do it a few times a week because when I do, it works wonders! Yin Yoga at my bestie’s yoga studio has encouraged me to check-in with myself, and switch off, to seek that peace my brain struggles so hard to find.

I have doterra oils burning in the house and I wear an oil called ‘Balance’ every day. Some people may find this really woo-woo, but I guarantee it has helped me in some crazy way! I read lots of articles and books to educate myself on mental health.

I also openly share my story now and speak at events, even though this does cause some anxiety, but I figure I am allowed to have it as I’m speaking about anxiety. So, it’s a guaranteed laugh at the beginning!

I’ve done courses and I’ve surrounded myself with like-minded individuals, such as Julian Pace from ‘The Happiness Co’ where I am now an ambassador, after completing his 21-day course.

For the past few weeks, I have also been trying something new! Do yourselves a favour, and look up the ‘Brain and Wellness Spa’ in South Perth, which is owned and run by Terri Bowman. This therapy is super relaxing and not confronting at all. It’s a bit hard to explain, so I’ll let her website do the talking.

I can’t promise you that any of this will work for you but, what I can promise you, is that there is hope. We’re in this together and you are not alone.

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