Please introduce yourself, who are you?
Hi, my name is Elizabeth, and I live in a little village with my husband and our two beautiful daughters. My eldest sister lives up the road from me, my other sister lives 20 minutes away and my dad still lives in my childhood house five minutes down the road. I’ve had anxiety since I was in my early twenties, but since having children and losing my mum, I have noticed it more and more.
Tell us a little more about your family
We are a close family and I see my dad most days for a cuppa and a chat. My eldest daughter sadly suffers with severe eczema all over her body. At nine months old I fed her some hummus. She vomited immediately, but I thought nothing of it. After I cleaned it up she looked at me and her lips had swelled, a rash had formed on her face and her hands were covered in hives. She was then diagnosed with a severe allergy to sesame and now has an epi-pen.
My mum sadly passed away a few years ago from cancer. She had been diagnosed with a 10cm tumor on her kidney, which had gone undetected for at least 15 years with no symptoms. After major surgery to remove the tumor and the kidney, things were great for a few months and we all thought they had caught it. However at a routine check up they noticed some nodules on her lungs and she was sadly diagnosed with secondary lung cancer. She passed away a few months later when my daughter was just 5 months old.
When did you first experience anxiety?
I actually first experienced anxiety when I was around 22 years old. I remember being in a relationship with a boy and feeling rather stressed about it. The anxiety and panic attacks only lasted for around six months, and seemed to only come when I was driving on my own. They soon passed. I didn’t think anything more of it. I came out of the stressful relationship, felt much happier and was back to my old self. Then it came back for the second time when I was heavily pregnant with my second baby and it still hasn’t gone. My anxiety seems to present itself in certain situations. I wouldn’t say it is a daily occurrence but If I put myself in those situations, where I know it will be triggered, it will rear its ugly head with a vengeance.
Where do you think it came from?
I think my anxiety comes from a number of factors; stress, tiredness, grief, change of lifestyle, feeling slightly lost with being a stay at home mummy and not having the independence that I used to have when I was working.
What does it feel like?
My first panic attack the second time around happened when I was driving through my local town. It came on very quickly and really did take me by surprise as I thought I had gotten past that feeling a long time ago. My heart started to race, my breathing was becoming faster and faster, my hands and legs were shaking slightly and I was feeling extremely trapped in a traffic jam that I just wanted to get out of. I remember opening the window to try and get some fresh air and hope the feeling would pass fairly quickly.
How has your anxiety changed or developed?
From that moment it has manifested into something so much bigger. I stopped driving that route, and others, which I feared would get me into the same situation. That feeling I felt when I was in the car was just horrendous and I now avoid anything that might trigger it again.
I recognise this is totally wrong, and you should conquer these fears, as the only way they are going to get better is to do it, but for some reason I just can’t seem to do it. And then I feel that that makes me feel worse and a little low that I’m not able to do these simple things that I used to do without batting an eyelid.
But also that feeling of emptiness inside me since my mum passed away and being at home 24/7, often looking after the girls on my own, because my husband works away a lot, means my confidence has somewhat taken a beating.
However I think one of the biggest factors is my eldest daughter’s health. The feeling of not being able to control her eczema and rid her of all these allergies, one which is life threatening, is the most awful feeling as a mother. As a full-time mummy and losing my mummy to an awful disease, there’s something inside me that is trying to control a situation with her that I know I cannot control. I couldn’t make my mum better and the feeling that I cannot make my own daughter better is eating me up inside.
How did you begin to start helping yourself?
Hitting the five year milestone of my mum passing away, I decided I needed to get some help. So I plucked up the courage and found a counsellor who I went to see every week for a few weeks. She helped me hugely in talking about my experiences with my mum and my daughter.
But most of all she has helped me to have some independence and time away from my children. She gave me tips to ease the anxiety, for example, making sure the fridge and cupboards are stocked full of food and dinners the girls could eat and writing down their daily routine for my husband. Making sure everything my eldest needs is in the house and easily accessible. With that reassurance from her that I can’t control everything and sometimes I need to let go a little will help me feel better inside but also give me a life outside of just being a mum.
Together with the help of my two very best friends that I’ve known since I was six years old, she has helped me to overcome this feeling. We planned a weekend away, six months in advance and having their support meant the world to me and I’ll never forget that. It has now made my anxiety over leaving the girls for a couple of nights ease considerably. I have since gone to Salcombe for two nights with another group of girls and It felt totally fine.
What makes you anxious nowadays?
Currently my anxiety seems to centre around travelling on my own. I am still deciding how to combat this, do I go back and see my counsellor or do I just have to start doing it again or do I just carry on ignoring it and hoping it’ll go on its own – the later I know is total rubbish because It won’t it never does.
When you’re struggling what do you do to help yourself?
Nowadays I take deep breaths, reassure myself everything is ok, call my husband or my friends or sister and after all this if I need to, I will take some Rescue Remedy to help me control the racing heart. Within a matter of minutes that feeling has passed and I can carry on doing whatever I was doing. But then knowing in the back of my head that it’ll happen again at some point but I’ve gotten over this one, I’ll just wait for the next one to happen.
Is your anxiety improving?
In some ways yes it is improving. I feel like I can leave the house and leave my daughters for a weekend to enjoy some ‘me’ time and not worry about what is happening at home, having some trust in my husband that he will look after her just as well as I would. But not in other areas especially when travelling on my own.
Do you see a time when you don’t think you will be anxious?
I would love to be able to say yes in six months time I hope I am anxiety free, but in reality who knows – will I still feel panicky and anxious when I drive down a motorway I don’t know but I really do hope I won’t.