A personal post

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.

13 comments on “A personal post

  1. woollythinker

    Well done, Juliet! That’s a great achievement in so many ways.

    And thank you for speaking up. I seem to know so many smart, capable, hugely talented women who suffer from depression, anxiety etc. Even just as a bystander I can see how hellish it must be and I am always excited and proud to see a friend taking steps to look after themselves. It baffles me that someone could be so unsupportive as to give you a hard time about taking drugs for it – honestly, hooray for medicine! Hooray for help! And hooray for you. 🙂

  2. It’s brave of you to write this.

    I know because I was born with a terrible nervous system and have battled to do the things everyone takes for granted due to anxiety problems. Mine comes in the form of palpitations and shaking, from head to toes when extreme, which it has been due to taking care of my Mother for 20 years.

    Medication is the prop that enabled me to look after her through cancer, MND and dementia until all but the last few months of her life when she needed medical care I was not experienced enough to give. At the same time working at building a small business and helping other members of my family with their problems.

    Unless they have experienced it no one really understands just how difficult life can be living with anxiety/depressions, there are no obvious signs and most dismiss it with a shrug and ‘just pull your self together’. It is NOT a weakness to resort to medication and therapy to overcome Neurological problems. So next time anyone says to you ‘I have a headache where is the Aspirin’ just give a shrug and tell them to just relax and pull themselves together!!!

    My thoughts are with you

    • It sounds like you have had a rotten time, Jo. Thank you for taking the time to comment and I am sending you big hugs xx

  3. josiekitten

    Juliet, I applaud and admire you both for your achievements this weekend and also for overcoming what has clearly been an extremely debilitating condition. Your honesty and openness can only help others. In the high-pressure, fast moving world that we live and work in, there must be many others suffering from anxiety. Seeing you get help and take control is so positive and uplifting, and shows that things can get better.

  4. Hi Juliet, many congratulations on your Y3P achievement, that’s just brilliant, and really touching to read your story and reflections. We all face challenges in life, yet few have the courage you’ve shown in just putting yours out there. I hope life is treating you all well these days and please say hi to Paul. Our best wishes, Simon, Lisa and Ellis xxx

    • Thank you so much for taking the time to comment, Simon. Lots of love to all of you from all of us.

  5. Hi Juliet. As your fellow three peaker (and fellow talker of bowel movement worries on the day), I just wanted to say that we meant every word. You are a legend. What you achieved on Saturday was beyond amazing and we are all so proud of you. You were an inspiration- and all the while you had a smile on your face (apart from the scary decent down ingleborough). The best part, and what made it all real and made us feel like we had achieved something great, was when we walked through the car park at the end and you gave me and Anna a great big massive hug. It was exactly what we needed at exactly that moment. Thanks for being you and an integral part to the team. Dani. Xxx P.S I’ll send your backpack back tomorrow 😉

  6. Christina Nunn

    Thank you Juliet for sharing, not the easiest thing to do. Well done for how far you have come. I know it’s not an easy battle and it’s not just a one off. I find it’s something that has to be faced each day and you (I !!!!) have to actively choose how I am going to live that day; and some days are better than others. It’s good to hear how positive you are. Keep in up!

  7. Juliet, you’ve done so well! Our society has a tendency to be dismissive of anxiety-based problems, and the reality of such conditions is not sufficiently recognised. So congratulations on your achievements, and thanks for this post.

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