This is an unashamedly personal post from me and has nothing to do with knitting, so please don’t read on if you don’t like this kind of ‘sharing’.
I have had an amazing weekend because I took part in the Yorkshire 3 Peaks challenge with the lovely people from Stylecraft. I only managed 2 peaks but I still have an huge sense of achievement. Not only because we were treated to a couple of feet of snow and a hailstorm but also because what simply being there meant to me.
As I drove up on Friday I listened to Woman’s Hour with Kim Catrall writing about her insomnia. She is an actress I have always admired and to hear about how her feelings of self doubt and how they impacted on her ability to sleep really resonated with me. She is perceived as such a strong woman but tells how weak she felt inside.
I have no problem sleeping but I have battled for years with anxiety and panic attacks. I don’t get the palpitations and the feeling that you are having a heart attack. The way my anxiety manifests itself is through nervous diaorrhea. Sorry if that is just too much information for you, but for me it is terrifying, embarrassing and debilitating.
I think it started when my brother was diagnosed with testicular cancer back at the turn of the century. He was very ill as a baby and his cancer must have unlocked something from my early childhood. Within the space of just 7 years my dad had a triple heart bypass, my mum had a radical hysterectomy followed by breast cancer, my beloved dog was killed, my grandmother died and then my dad died. I had a young family and I remember just being so frightened of just what would happen next. My business was bigger than it is now and I was responsible for 3 staff.
At it’s worst I couldn’t even walk the 10 minutes to the shops without having to rush to the loo. I can’t tell you the number of times I have stopped on a motorway to run in to the bushes or asked in shops if I could use their loo. I never wanted to go out and would come up with all kinds of excuses not to meet up with friends. Anywhere I had to go I carefully mapped out where every loo was. Holidays were a nightmare because I simply didn’t know where the next public convenience was and even whether I would get there in time.
I was put on anti-depressants, diagnosed with IBS (which I don’t have) and finally given some anti-anxiety tablets which work really well. I had a friend who gave me a really hard time for taking my prescription drugs but frankly she wasn’t locked up in the hell I had to live with every day.
If you know me or have worked with me you probably had no idea about any of this. I was so good at hiding my fears which only added to them.
Then my doctor referred me to the local mental health unit for some CBT. It was really hard work and I was very sceptical, but I was desperate to reclaim some kind of normality. A lovely psychologist guided me through the process and it worked. Not immediately but gradually.
Today I still have to be aware – apparently if you are prone to panic attacks they will always be with you – so I meditate and use breathing exercises.
Driving up to the Y3P challenge and listening to Kim Catrall I realised just how far I had come. I was about to scale mountains without knowing where the next loo was and put myself through the kind of physical duress I actively try to avoid. Look at me!
Two mountains out of three is more than I could ever have dreamed I would be able to do. Sadly I don’t qualify for a certificate, but who cares? Inside, I will be smiling for many months to come.