I know that world mental health day is coming up next month and I felt why not talk about anxiety and MS. Anxiety is something I have been dealing with for many years, long before my MS diagnosis. From a teenager into my young adult years and to present, I have been trying to handle my anxiety as it has been very crippling in my past and to date. I really can’t remember a time when I wasn’t such an anxious person. I like many others with anxiety, may have days that aren’t too bad and then I have days where I feel like I can’t cope. I’ve been on busy buses/trains in the past and I’ve gotten out at a random stop because I would feel suffocated or not safe. For years I would wake up every day with palpitations first thing in the morning, and every night before bed, with worries of how my day would be. Having anything from 2-8 panic attacks a day was normal to me for many years up until very recently. Not many people would know because they wouldn’t see it and of course I never really spoke about it, maybe only to one person, my sister.
This blog is a way for me to share my ideas and thoughts about how I now try to handle situations where my anxiety levels are well and truly through the roof. I am not saying this gets rid of your anxiety because it doesn’t, I am just suggesting some things that have worked for me in keeping a panic overload at bay and to minimise symptoms. Drinking more water is good for everybody and especially those who are very anxious like myself. Reducing caffeine intake, I am one of those weirdo’s that doesn’t drink tea or coffee but I’m a sucker for Pepsi-Max, seriously I am addicted! Cutting down on coffee and soft drinks can help, well it has helped me. Exercising is a great way to deal with stress and worries. Even if it’s a small walk, any small thing, whatever your body is comfortable doing. I try to get out jogging or out for walks at least twice a week but sometimes with MS, it isn’t as simple as that. I also found that smoking didn’t help my anxiety, so I gave it up almost a year ago. I have smoked on nights out and I feel worse for it, when hungover, feeling anxious. Once again I’m not saying these things have got rid of my anxiety because they haven’t but these small steps have reduced the extremities of my panic attacks and anxious mind.
I have also found if I am feeling like a panic attack is coming on, I usually whip out my phone and put some music on, as when I’m listening to music, it keeps my mind on that instead of panicking. Although this doesn’t always work especially if you are mid panic attack. Sometimes, if I know I am feeling on edge, I will take some deep breaths in, raising my shoulders up and exhaling the air out. Unfortunately sometimes if you are mid panic attack there might not be much to do but let it pass, but other times I have looked around me to look at three things I can see, hear or touch and sometimes reaching to hold something cold can bring me back to reality and out of a heightened place.
So what about anxiety and MS? I am an anxious person and have suffered with anxiety for many years but dealing with an MS diagnosis and every day living with MS can really add fuel to the fire. There is no doubt in my mind that a lot of others with MS and other chronic illnesses would experience anxiety as well. MS is a very unpredictable disease and that itself can cause people many worries and apprehensions. You might ask yourself questions like:
What will my MS be like in the future?
Will I need care? Will someone need to look after me?
Will I lose the ability to walk?
Will I lose my vision?
These are many questions I have thought about. Then there is the everyday concerns like:
What if I have an accident in public?
What if I fall? What if people think I’m drunk?
What if people think I’m rude?
What if I have an accident and I’m alone?
Money issues from maybe being out of work or working part-time hours due to disease.
Now, I am not saying there is a miracle cure for anxiety because there certainly isn’t. In the past few months, I have decided to keep a little diary of three things.
1: three things I am grateful for
2: three things that made me happy today
3: my current thoughts, hopes, prayers, dreams etc
This has really helped me because I am writing down the things I am happy about and grateful for. I am also writing my worries down and I feel that this is a great method of self-healing and self-care. I have always looked at things in a positive light or I have tried to at least. Anxiety is more than just a little unpleasant and I’m sure a lot of people know that. I am not saying that its not okay to feel this way or ask those questions about your MS because I think it’s a very normal thing to do. I have found in the past few months and from keeping my diary that gratitude is and always has been very important to me. Now I find myself writing about how grateful I am. Instead of looking at the negatives, I try to find the positives in the negative and Shitty situations because MS is a horrible shitty disease. I try not to focus on the things I don’t have or the things I have lost, I now focus on the things I DO have and the things that I CAN do and the things I have GAINED.
In general, I feel that a lot of people in this world take things for-granted, I know I did before I got the MS diagnosis. MS is a pain in the backside! I don’t like it and wish it didn’t exist but I now realise that I appreciate life a lot more. Every day I am so thankful and grateful that I can walk, talk, feed myself, dress myself, shower myself, skip down the road if I want. Well maybe not skip too fast but you get my point. I may complain that I am exhausted or that my words don’t come out right or that I have so many spasms but when I do that, I think about all the things I can do. This just helps me and perhaps is a coping mechanism, but I find it a good one. Please remember, if you are suffering with panic attacks, anxieties or a diagnosis of MS of any kind, or any condition, you can go to your GP and talk to them. Counselling is always a good option or reach out to a charity team, because sometimes I think talking and being understood can make all the difference. 😊