Anxiety and the City

“When I die, Dublin will be written on my heart” -James Joyce.

I was born in Dublin 23 years ago. I’ve lived here my entire life. It’s a city with great character and bundles of  history. There are so many places around the county that hold a special place in my heart, from Dún Laoghaire to the Irish Museum of Modern Art, and from my Nanny’s house to Smock Alley Theatre.

Unfortunately, the city itself has turned into one of my least favourite places. My anxiety disorder makes trips to the Big Smoke a complete and utter nightmare. I hop on the bus full of hope for the adventure ahead, but by the time it pulls up on Dame Street I am flooded with waves of panic and overcome with a feeling of dread. Anxiety is defined as ‘a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease about something with an uncertain outcome’. Symptoms range from difficulty concentrating to headaches, and from nausea to constantly feeling on edge.

I’ve learned to live with my disorder, but I still struggle in the city. However, I don’t want my anxiety to get in the way of me living my life, so I’ve found a few little tricks that help me when I’m feeling extremely anxious in the city centre, and hopefully they can help someone else who is struggling too.

Music

It’s simple but so effective. I know sticking on Spotify isn’t going to cure your anxiety disorder, but it can help a lot, so give it a chance. I find that listening to quiet, soothing sounds can help calm your heart rate and breathing. I listen to Ben Howard, Birdy and Tom Odell when I’m walking around Dublin. Focusing on the music also distracts you from worrying. Slow music can help reduce stress levels which will ease both your body and mind when your anxiety rears it’s ugly head.

Company

My friends have been an incredible help to me. They’ve supported me when I’ve had panic attacks, reassured me when I felt stressed and understood that sometimes the city can be too much for me. If you speak to your friends in an open and honest way about your anxiety disorder you will feel a lot better. They will take t into account when you’re making plans. Your friends will make sure that you’re okay and will always keep an eye on you. Talking about mental health is difficult, because a lot of people can be dismissive, but your friends will understand and do their very best to help in whatever way they can. Knowing you have your friends support will help make outings to the city easier, and ten times more enjoyable.

Organisation

This has been the most helpful trick for me so far. Planning your trip into the city will ease your mind and will help you stay focused. Pick out the cafe beforehand if you’re meeting a friend for coffee. Decide what shops you need to visit on your journey into town. Sticking to a schedule will keep your anxiety at bay because you will feel in control of the situation. Chanel your inner Monica Geller, but maybe leave your label maker at home if you’re heading out for cocktails with the girls.

Sincerely Yours,

Kat

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Living with Anxiety

Hello.

I’ve wanted to blog about my anxiety disorder for such a long time, and today I’m finally ready to sit down and talk about it. I’ve spoken to the Journal about my mental health and shared my story over on SpunOut, but I felt like it was time to write about it here on Scribbles By Kat.

I’ve been battling with anxiety for over two years now. There have been many difficult moments during this ongoing battle, from extreme panic attacks to isolating myself from friends and family and from difficult GP visits to emotional counselling sessions. It hasn’t been easy, but as time goes by I’ve learned how to live with my anxiety.

Back in 2015 my anxiety was extremely bad. There were days when I couldn’t leave the house or get on bus or speak to anyone or visit the city centre. I was crippled with an intense fear and waves of worry flooded my mind. There were days when I cancelled plans with my dearest friends, because I was too anxious to get out of my bed. There were days when I stood at my bus stop and let dozens of buses pass me by, because I was too anxious to move and go into the city. There were nights where I had to leave bars because I just couldn’t deal with the crowds. There have been days when I’d leave to go to college and then turn back home, because I couldn’t handle the bus journey or being with my classmates or delivering a presentation. There have been sleepless nights and panic attacks and constant tears.

Anxiety isn’t cute or trendy. It’s not about being shy or bashful. I can’t just ‘get over it’ or ‘be more confident’. It’s not about being too sensitive or too nervous. It’s a serious mental illness that many people fail to treat with respect or care.

I am learning to live with my anxiety disorder. I still have my bad days, but this year there have been more good days than bad. I still have panic attacks, I still suffer from sleep paralysis triggered by my anxiety, I still struggle to go into the city centre, I still find it hard to breathe, I still get intense heart palpitations. I still have days when my mind is full of worry and dread and unbearable negative thoughts.

There are so many people that dismiss anxiety. There are so many people who don’t take it seriously. There are so many people who believe it doesn’t matter. There are so many people who don’t treat it like a real illness.

“You’re just a bit shy.”

“You need to go out in the fresh air more.”

“There’s nothing wrong with you, you’re just being silly.”

“Stop looking for attention.”

“You’re just over-reacting.”

However, there are people who are making a difference by opening up and talking about mental health. When writing about depression in Reasons To Stay Alive, Matt Haig says “Depression is also smaller than you. Always, it is smaller than you, even when it feels vast. It operates within you, you do not operate within it. It may be a dark cloud passing across the sky, but- if that is the metaphor- you are the sky.

You were there before it. And the cloud can’t exist without the sky, but the sky can exist without the cloud.”

I remind myself of his words every single day. My anxiety isn’t in control of my life. My anxiety isn’t bigger than me. My anxiety isn’t more powerful. My anxiety isn’t going to win.

People will dismiss anxiety. People will mock you and belittle you and disrespect you when you speak about anxiety. People will tell you to ‘get over yourself’ or to ‘shake it off’. People will tell you that you’re being over the top or attention seeking, but you’re not.

This is my anxiety story and I will continue to fight against my disorder, and I will continue to talk about it, no matter how many people knock me down. Living with anxiety is an ongoing battle. It is a real disorder that needs to be taken seriously. We may live in a country where many people dismiss mental health, however, together we can change things by talking about anxiety in an open and honest way.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

-Margaret Mead

Sincerely Yours,

Kat