There it is. That sick feeling in my stomach combined with a kaleidoscope of butterflies reminding me of my terror.
On the really bad days, it’s hard to make my legs work, my hands are shaky and I’m sweating.
But my children are waiting – tiny infants school kids waiting for mum to take them home and nurture them with listening ears and milk and cookies.
I have to get out of the car and get them, but my legs don’t want to move.
I felt these symptoms regularly when it was time to pick up the kids from school.
At first, I became impatient with myself, telling myself to ‘get a grip’ and act like an adult. I used to be so mean to me.
My tough talk didn’t work and the episodes became more paralysing until I was sure the day would come I would not find the courage to walk inside the school grounds.
That was a couple of decades ago when there was virtually no support for mental health issues.
Happily, times are changing and people are recognising the dangers and debilitation of mental health problems such as depression and anxiety.
If I was still experiencing that kind of fear I could seek help as part of the one in four Australians who deal with an anxiety disorder.
I think my problem was relatively mild and what worked for me could help some, but I wouldn’t recommend ignoring professional help if the anxiety persists or increases.
Anxiety is the most common mental health issue in Australia and can lead to depression. The sooner people get help the better chance they have of recovering.
There are several different types of anxiety ranging from severe panic attacks, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) to general anxiety.
Research leads me to believe I struggled with social phobia.
According to Beyond Blue, a person with a social phobia has an ‘intense fear of being criticised, embarrassed or humiliated, even in everyday situations, such as speaking publicly, eating in public, being assertive at work or making small talk’.
The interesting thing is I’m fairly outgoing and love connecting with new people. My pre-children years as a journalist involved interviewing a variety of strangers and this never intimidated me.
Perhaps hormone changes due to childbirth changed things but when it came upon me, my distress was only evident during certain social situations, such as interacting with other mothers at after school pick up. Let’s face it, mothers’ groups can be terrifying to the toughest of us, but there were other, specific instances when anxiety nearly paralysed me.
According to Anxiety Recovery Centre, Victoria, (ARC VIC) people with severe anxiety may find it hard to undertake many routine and life-sustaining activities.
For people with social anxiety disorder, the key element is severe anxiety and worry about social interactions due to a persistent fear that people are thinking about them in a negative way, or fear of behaving in a way that may cause feelings of embarrassment or humiliation. The anxiety is experienced in situations where the person believes that he/she is being scrutinised or observed by others.
For some people the anxiety can lead to panic-like symptoms, which may include heart palpitations, blushing, trembling, nausea, faintness and profuse sweating. The anxiety usually triggers anxious thoughts about the feared social situations and contributes to a person’s distress and difficulty performing in such situations.
Right now I have to say how wonderful and exciting it is to be alive during a time you can go on the internet and see the many different groups offering help for just about every issue.
Back when my kids were young it was tricky getting help for something like anxiety and true to form, it wasn’t something I was happy admitting to. Many people struggling with mental health issues try to hide it from the world.
THE MAGIC OF A FOUR LETTER WORD
I remember one day when my legs were acting particularly leaden and my heart was racing and I was frantically begging the universe to give me the courage to get out of the car.
Out of nowhere the word ‘love’ came to mind and it was such a relief from my mind panic that I allowed myself to concentrate on that word for a few minutes.
I just kept saying the word over and over –‘love, love, love, love’.
Then I started to picture the word as white smoke, emanating from my heart and coming out of every pore of my body. Then the love smoke was swirling around me frantically – kind of like fairy floss (cotton candy) swirls around a stick – creating a buffer between me and the world.
After a few minutes of this unintentional creative visualisation, I found though I still felt rattled, I could leave the car, safe in my love armour.
This was such an enlightening moment for me and got me through those few years of anxiety and many other stressful times.
To this day, though I am much more relaxed and happier in my skin than I used to be, I create love armour for any situation that causes the slightest stress.
It not only works to give me confidence but also helps when dealing with unpleasant people.
I even use it for loved ones I’m angry with and have to face before I’ve dealt with the anger as it stops the negative flow.
Usually, I don’t even go through the visualisation process anymore, but use the word as a mantra – ‘love, love, love’.
You don’t have to suffer from the symptoms of anxiety to benefit from the magic of this word and I stress, if your symptoms are severe you would be wise to seek professional guidance.
The most wonderful thing about using this word is how people respond to you differently. People are friendlier as they pick up on the vibrations you are sending out.
Words have the power to hurt and destroy and to uplift and bring joy.
I think the word ‘love’ has extra special powers, like the power to heal – anxiety, anger, resentment, fear and more. It can be used like a superpower, an invisible cloak to protect yourself and spread the love at the same time.
Give it a try and let me know how you go in the comments.
Wishing you a life full of love and a gleeful week, Tamuria.