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Facing the future without living in fear

One of our Parent Champions talks about her anxiety. 

You wouldn’t know that I suffered from anxiety. Indeed, I did not realise myself until quite recently. It was when my husband was reading an article on anxiety that he mentioned that it sounded just like me.

Most people, if they met me, wouldn’t think that I was remotely anxious. I come across quite happy, bubbly and confident. But inside it is a different matter. Inside I live in fear of conflict, fear of strangers (particularly men) and fear of being judged.

When most people think of someone who is anxious, they might think of someone sitting nervously in a corner chewing their nails. However, anxiety has many different forms and affects people in very different ways. 

One of the biggest problems I have with anxiety is clenching my jaw, something called bruxism. I do it when I am driving, I do it when I am sleeping and I do it throughout the day. I get terrible headaches and jaw ache. 

I am also not a very good sleeper. I probably sleep through the night once a year. Otherwise, I wake up hourly. I will check every window and door before bedtime, even if I know I haven’t been in a particular room. The only time I can really sleep well is in the daytime when my husband is home because I know we are safe and that I do not have to be on guard all night. This can make going on holiday quite scary because if we are in a villa, I worry about who has had the keys and I have been known to put glass bottles on door handles (so that if someone tries a door in the night, the bottle will smash and I will hear it).

It wasn’t until I got my first dog that I was able to go for a walk alone. Before that I would be very scared of someone coming towards me. If someone ran past me, I would get very dizzy and my vision would be affected.

I do not like to use public transport if I can help it, particularly if I have to stand on the tube close to someone or get on an almost empty train. I certainly wouldn’t be anywhere with my headphones in so I can be alert at all times.

Dealing with this has been very difficult, especially with having children as I have always felt the need to hide this. They actually have no idea that I am such a worrier as I keep it all bottled up, something I know is not good for me.

I am therefore what would be classified as hyper-sensitive and hyper-vigilant. I am very thin-skinned and see threats everywhere. I often feel therefore that I have to be in control of most situations so that everything runs smoothly; something that I have been working on. It is difficult to trust others to do something but I am certainly learning and becoming more relaxed to the point that my husband is sometimes amazed by my reactions to some events. Whereas before they would bug me for ages, now I can let them go much easier.

I think that is the hardest part of anxiety for me; always analyzing things and my mind is never at peace. When my mind isn’t working on overload, my leg is shaking from ALS (agitated leg syndrome); something that happens when I am relaxing because I can’t switch off.

I think the point at which I realised that I needed to speak to someone was in recognition that I had a problem and I finally had a willingness to speak out about it. It wasn’t anything to be ashamed about and actually, my husband is really proud of me for doing something about it. People need to be educated that we all have mental health and we need to look after it just like our physical health. I am ashamed that I did not do something about it sooner.

I am now on medication for my anxiety and, whilst I know that medication doesn’t always have the desired affect for some people and it is difficult to get the right diagnosis, it has transformed my life. My mind feels clearer. I am more confident in public and not as fearful as I once was. I am SO much more reasonable and thicker-skinned, which has been such a relief because I don’t actually care anymore what people think of me. I know who I am and I am proud of that. I still don’t sleep very well but that is mainly because I am haunted by my nightmares, but the following day they do not affect me throughout it and I am able to move on.

In summary, I will say this: if you are not happy with an aspect of your life, please speak to someone about it. It may transform your life and make you realise that life is actually worth living; I see my life now through a different lens and I wouldn’t change it for the world.