City Girl Talks Anxiety: Interview with Jenny
What’s your name, age and profession?
I’m Jenny, I’m 29 and I work in social media marketing. I came to Brighton for university 10 years ago.
Since when have you suffered from anxiety? Has it been going steadily?
I think for me it’s kind of always been there, even as a kid I remember being anxious. It got worse when I was a teenager and the added social pressure of going out and partying made me feel really anxious on different occasions. I didn’t really know what it was, it was quite confusing. When I started going to uni it got better and I felt more comfortable, but entering a new life phase after graduating made me feel more anxious again. It was at 24 that I realized that it is anxiety I’m suffering from and I went to get a diagnosis. Since then it has been going up and down and big life changes have a big impact.
How would you describe your anxiety and its symptoms to someone who is new to all of this and might be experiencing anxiety, too?
When I first had anxiety it started with me having panic attacks, I had a heightened sense of nausea, feeling sick, hot and cold shakes and breathing difficulties. At that time I didn’t know what it was or how to control it. It was like a very strange sensation and physical panic, like a fight or flight situation. Now when I get anxiety I still get a little shaky, but no panic attacks anymore, more like a large sense of nervousness. If you’re not really sure if you’re feeling that or not, you should ask yourself when you start feeling like that. Is it a situation where you’re doing something new you haven’t done before, like an interview or an exam; a situation where it’s normal to feel nervous. Or is it in a situation where you just need to go out and do some grocery shopping or something trivial like that which makes you anxious?
If you notice yourself feeling anxious in every day life situation it probably is anxiety.
What do you think are common misconceptions people have about anxiety and those who suffer from it?
It can be quite overlooked as something that’s less serious, because it is a mental and not a physical issue, but it does have a big impact on people’s every day life. Because everyone is talking about it, people tend to take it less seriously. I guess as women we have a really good support system and networks like Brighton Girl obviously help, too; it makes you feel less alone.
A common misconception is that self-care can solve your mental illness. People sometimes pretend like taking a bath, lighting a candle and going for a walk can make your anxiety go away. It’s different than being stressed out where a bath can help you relax.
It affects people of all ages, not just young women. I think that’s being overlooked, too.
Have you had any weird reactions from people?
I had a few people staying quiet, because they couldn’t relate. But I’ve also had friends tell me that they’ve experienced anxiety, too. Like one of my oldest friends has been having anxiety and actually told me to go see a doctor and talked openly about it with me.
Have you found coping mechanisms and tricks that help you calm down when you’re feeling anxious?
The main thing that helped me was seeing a doctor who referred me for CBT-cognitive behavioral therapy. When you notice yourself feeling anxious and you stay indoors and have thoughts about not being safe, there are mechanisms that help you stay grounded and feel safe.
Also putting a lot of pressure on myself, for example when I’m going out and want to have a really good time, sometimes I just need to take myself out of it and realize I can just ‘go with the flow‘.
When you notice yourself feeling anxious and have thoughts about not being safe, there are mechanisms that help you stay grounded and feel safe. Grounding yourself means feeling your feet on the ground, your bum on the seat, noticing your breathing and feeling heavy, making you feel present. This often takes away the wondering thoughts you experience with anxiety and panic.
One thing that I'd really like to mention is the Mind website to give information and support: https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/anxiety-and-panic-attacks/
Where did you find the info on how to deal with anxiety? Did you consult a doctor or psychiatrist and get a diagnosis?
Talking to my friend, googling and going to the doctor who recommended me for treatment helped me a lot. He was so good and immediately prescribed medication and referred me for counseling. I was lucky I got a good doctor. Try to be open for a diagnosis, hearing what your problem is and being offered ways of treatment is really helpful.
Have you ever been prescribed medication to ease your symptoms?
I was prescribed typical anxiety medication, but I ended up not taking it. But some of my friends have been feeling a lot better since starting medication, it has really helped them.
In what situations do you feel your anxiety get worse/better?
Quite annoyingly I mix up feelings of excitement and nervousness. Going to new places, traveling and flying and not knowing how to find my way around makes me a little anxious at times. When it gets to it I’m fine, but the anticipation makes me really nervous.
When I’m at home and feel really calm in my safe space my anxiety calms down. As I got older I learned in what situations I feel more comfortable like having casual drinks with my friends, knowing that I can go home anytime and don’t have to push myself to do something I’m actually not that into doing. Taking the expectation out of things, I don’t need to do these big, exciting things if I don’t want to.
Does your anxiety affect your work, social life and relationships? If so, in what way?
Socially, I do say no to a lot of things, because I know my limits. I do’t really like to stay out until early in the morning and drinking to get drunk is not my thing. I like having a few drinks, but not crazy binge drinking. I’d love to go out and travel, but deep down something in me says that I might get nervous and it might not be for me, so I do more chill stuff.
I like the stability of going to work at the same place, having a routine helps a lot. In relationships I’ve told partners that I have anxiety and they need to be patient with me. But I’ve also had a boyfriend who pushed me to stop worrying and just go for it and that was actually quite good for me to have someone who is very confident.
Do you think that you will live with anxiety for the rest of your life or do you think it could eventually go away?
I don’t know, because I’ve always had it. You need to accept that it’s a feeling like happiness or sadness, that will bubble up at times. Feelings are temporary and its important to remember that anxiety is a feeling and it won't last forever. I don’t want to say that it will go away, but I’m learning how to handle it, as time goes by it gets easier, because I know my limits. Being able to manage it becomes way easier the older I get, it’s only going to get better.
What are some last tips for people who have just realised that they might be suffering from anxiety?
Overall, you need to work out if you’re stressed about something in particular, because that’s obviously fine or is it something that’s making you scared to leave the house, is it something you’d usually do without worrying about it? If so, you should go straight to a doctor, speak to them and get a diagnosis. Be open to what kind of treatments might work for you. Don’t be afraid to try different therapists or different medication. Keep an open mind about where your anxiety has come from and how you can help yourself. Talk about it with people that you feel comfortable with, don’t be afraid. There is treatment available and you will get better! There is a going to be a lot of work to do, but you can definitely learn to be in control of your life.
Written by Michelle Pantke, who can be found as @badwolf95 on Instagram.