Welcome to ‘Anxiety Stories!’ I (Laura of The Mindful Mom Blographer), started Anxiety Stories after I read Brene’ Brown’s book ‘Daring Greatly’. In the book, Brown talks extensively about shame, which is something I think many people who suffer from anxiety feel – as well as feeling alone.
We all know there is a mental health stigma in today’s society. So how can we remove that stigma? By removing people’s shame, and let them know they’re not alone.
Anxiety is a lot more common than people realize – I know this from all the comments and DMs I get whenever I get vulnerable about my anxiety experiences. Yet still, the stigma!
My hope with Anxiety Stories is that we can normalize anxiety by showing people’s stories from all walks of life. I ask that each person who conducts an interview be willing to be a little bit vulnerable, and each person who reads these interviews holds the interviewee in a loving space, knowing they’ve put themselves out there for a good cause.
*If you are dealing with anxiety or another type of mental illness, please talk with a
There are some great resources on how to get help below:
- National Institute of Mental Health
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
- National Alliance on Mental Illness
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
- Anxiety and Depression Association of America: Online Resources and Finding Help
- Crisis Text Line: Text HELLO to 741741 (US number) to be connected with a trained crisis counselor.
- Finally, this is a great page from ‘Everyday Help’ with a ton of resources for mental health assistance such as financial help for therapy and medications, support groups, etc.
Last but not least, please note that I nor my interviewees aren’t medical professionals, and the resources and tips are not to replace professional medical advice. We are simply sharing our stories and what we know from working through our anxiety with professionals in our own life. If you are feeling any type of mental health symptoms, please seek medical assistance.
I hope you enjoy the interview.
Hi Sarah! Tell us a little bit about yourself! Who are you? Where are you from? What types of things do you enjoy doing?
Hi, I am Sarah, I’m an occupational therapist, mental health coordinator and personal trainer. I am live in Solihull, UK.
I love novelty so have a range of interests including baking, circus skills, power-kiting, walking and weightlifting. I am a bit of a home bird and love time at home with my cats.
What does the anxiety you experience look like (obsessive thoughts, extreme worry, intrusive thoughts, anxiety disorder, etc)?
Now that I am in my late 30s, I notice my anxiety when I get restless and my thoughts speed up. I find it difficult to assert my needs when I’m feeling anxious. The anxiety has changed over time, for example, in my 20s it was the occasional panic attack followed by weeks of fatigue.
Do you see a therapist/psychologist?
Because I was a mental health professional, I felt ashamed about asking for help. Eventually I did and work offered me free counselling. The first experience was awful, I didn’t feel listened to at all, after a few weeks I stopped. I then realised things weren’t getting better on their own and I went to see a student counsellor, she was kind but again I didn’t notice any tangible benefit. A few years later I decided to try some CBT, I found a private psychologist that I connected well with, and that really helped me develop self compassion. So I would say to anyone considering therapy, do not be put off by a negative experience. It just may be that it isn’t the right person at the right time.
And don’t be afraid to keep searching for someone you connect with!
Do you take medication for the anxiety?
No, medication can be really helpful, but I was always lucky that the physiological symptoms didn’t scare me so I have always been able to wait it out.
How long have you been dealing with anxiety?
Since my early 20s when a close friend was diagnosed with terminal cancer. There’s nothing more anxiety provoking to a control loving perfectionist than to be faced with mortality. I initially tried to ignore it, but three years into the bereavement my confidence was rock bottom and I had to take time off work as I became glued to the sofa. I felt as a mental health professional that I “shouldn’t” be in that situation and I “should” be able to “fix it”. I recognised I needed to get out of the house and start doing some of the things that scared me so I started ensuring that I left the house each day to walk to the postbox (I didn’t even have anything to post – it was just a place where it’s socially acceptable to do a 180 turn). From there I expanded and starting going to a local gym after having never previously exercised.
What are some triggers for the anxiety you experience?
Its usually when I am in busy, loud environments or if I am in unpredictable situations that I can’t control. It’s usually triggered by feeling not good enough to handle.
Have you ever dealt with the dreaded anxiety spiral?
No, I have always been comfortable that it will pass, as I know it is my body trying to keep me safe and prepare me for action in situations I am unsure I can handle.
Do you experience panic attacks?
Not any more!
What are some things you do while you’re having a panic attack or are in an anxiety spiral to help pull yourself out of it?
The anxiety attacks diminished after starting to do high intensity interval training. In this you put your body under physical stress for short periods of time and then have recovery time, this process helps to teach the body to calm quickly and lower the heart rate. This put me in a position of knowing I could recover from anxiety attacks. I honestly think the reason I no longer have anxiety attacks is that I spend a lot less effort trying to fight and resist anxiety. By framing it as my “limbic system is wanting to draw attention to me feeling threatened” I’ve become much more in tune with my body and am thankful for being able to recognise triggers.
What are some preventative measures that you take to help prevent the anxiety you experience?
I have become the queen of self care. I think there is still a misconception that self care involves spa days and long leisurely candlelit baths. Self care for me is more about allowing myself to find a task impossible, allowing myself to have things that trigger anxiety, and I have to regularly lift weights. Proprioception (feedback from your joints as to your position) is neurologically calming and can help manage the adrenaline and cortisol levels.
What are some of your favorite anxiety resources (websites, books, etc) that other people could reference if they’re struggling as well?
Oh there are so many.
I love the ACT model unwelcome party guest, I think that’s because I really wish I had seen it before I had to work out for myself how to be self compassionate.
I also think this Ted Talk can help break the anxiety cycle, as it gives you the information as to why your brain and body is behaving the way it is.
This free workbook is great for people whose anxiety is triggered by perfectionistic style thinking.
Why do you think the mental health stigma exists? Why are people afraid to talk about their mental illness?
I genuinely think that the stigma is making great shifts in reducing, but I think the primary reason for it is that a lot of mental health difficulties are characterised by shame, which then makes it hard for people to express and communicate about mental health.
I also think there is still a naivety; I hear lots of stories from my clients who have gone to their GP, to which the GP told the client whose physical symptoms are scaring them that it is “just anxiety”. I think that we need to change the language. It isn’t “just” anything; it can have a significant impact on daily function.
A huge thank you to Sarah for sharing her story!
Want to read more Anxiety Stories? Check out the other interviews here.
Want to share your own anxiety story? Check out the guidelines here!
Sarah Meharg is an occupational therapist and personal trainer. She offers holistic and trauma informed personal training at www.moodlifter.co.uk. She blogs on a range of mental health and body positive issues. Her instagram and facebook is @moodlifterPT
I love doing these anxiety stories. I love being able to provide a platform for others to share their stories. I love knowing that with each story, the mental health stigma breaks down that much more. I love knowing that there are others out there (maybe you) who identify with these stories. Who see themselves in these stories. Who for a while, like me, thought that you had to be the only person experiencing the symptoms of anxiety you were dealing with.
If you feel moved by these stories, please consider supporting me on my Patreon page. Doing so allows me to continue doing this type of work and even more – which only helps further the reduction of the mental health stigma. Thank you!