Bear with me, I know its a strange title but I haven’t lost the plot. Just yet.
Recently I started to feel a sudden tight stabby pain in my chest. Curious, I thought. Couldn’t find a pattern, no specific time of day, not when out walking, or when cleaning or running up the stairs. Seemed to mainly happen when relaxing or sat on the sofa.. So I did what everyone does and googled.. “Anxiety Attack” was what came back. ‘Ridiculous!’ I said tutting and shaking my head in disbelief..
‘I’ve nothing to be anxious about’ ‘Everything is going well’ ‘No setbacks’ These were all the thoughts whirling around my head. And then out of nowhere my thoughts went back 7 years to when I was having CBT and to 2 years ago to when my hair was thinning at an alarming rate..
I feel I’m jumping ahead, let me fill you in quickly..
My life has always been full of stress. From finding my Grandmas body after a heart attack when I was 4, spending time at my Dad’s with his new family when I was incredibly uncomfortable, coming home from a school trip to discover the house for sale and a trip around the world was planned, living out of a suitcase for years, an exclusive private school when I am not an exclusive private school person, abusive first relationship, to discovering my Mum was an alcoholic. So you see, stress has always been a part of my life and in a way I’m comfortable with stress.
At 19 I left Spain to join BA as cabin crew. Just for a ‘year or two’ as everyone says. Flying the world served me well. It was like a fake reality. Flying with different people everyday meant you could continuously reinvent yourself.. which in itself had its own pros and cons.
I lived a fairytale lifestyle, I mean make believe, not princes and castles. I did get my prince, but that came later. Staying in 5 star hotels, meeting celebrities, visiting exotic dream destinations. But you start to think that that is your life, That you can afford the celebrity lifestyle you see whilst working. ‘The Champagne Lifestyle On A Lemonade Budget’ Anyway I bonded with the ‘never never’ credit card too much and after a few years I found myself in choppy waters with the banks, credit cards etc. Not nice, self inflicted but hey, I’ve not always listened when advice has been offered. But a good amount of stress to keep me going. Many other things happened along the way, motorbike crash, bad breakups, bad dates, bad choices etc but I don’t want you to get bored and switch off..
My mum suffered from 3 brain aneurysms back in 2007.. I landed from New York to the kind of phone call you dread. But she survived, with a whole new personality or two. However that is where her chapter started to end. She moved back to Spain and her drinking spiralled. As did the lies, deceit, and sneakiness.
Landing back from a trip would always send my anxiety levels through the roof.. The real me would have to return to my real life and deal with my real problems. I’d fly out to Spain as much as possible, and it was always horrendous. So much so I’d often pray the plane would crash or I would get hit by a car on my slow walk up the hill to the flat. Seeing the person you love most in the world turn into someone you don’t recognise, have no idea how to help them, how to fix them, make them feel better or help them find a way back is the most horrendous kind of pain I have ever experienced. You feel such a failure and crown yourself worst daughter and human ever.
The inevitable happened and alcohol and my Mum’s own demons were too much, She died, me sat beside her. A month or so before she passed I found a Cognitive Behavioural Therapist who was brilliant. In a way she gently warned me that this would happen. She tried to make me see I wasn’t to blame for my Mum’s alcoholism and later, her death. That I could not have changed the outcome. It’s taken a while, but 7 years on I feel closer to believing this. But back to my point, quite a stressful few years.
14 months after my Mum’s passing I met my Prince. If I’d met him before we wouldn’t be married now. I had nothing to give and was a walking, talking, but barely functioning shell. I worked on my self, continued seeing my therapist, broke my foot with excessive sprinting (you can’t runaway from your problems) discovered Al Anon, Nacoa and happily, Tinder..
Fast forward a few years. I paid of all my debts, moved in with the prince, rented out my flat, left BA, became a chef, got hitched, survived the CoVid pandemic and that there is the ‘problem.’ All the good and happy bits I mentioned above are brilliant but also acceptably stressful.. Moving in together, getting hitched, new job, pandemic.
I am so used to feeling anxious and stressed that when I have nothing to stress about I will start to fixate on a ‘problem’ so I can have something to stress about. Recently I’ve noticed it presents itself in a sort of manic, compulsive way. For example, spending hours researching anti ageing skin care products, exploring the best make up and looks to recreate (hello, we’re in lockdown?!) Or how to naturally whiten teeth. That in itself is probably considered ok and acceptable by everyone reading. And probably something a lot of you relate to. But it’s when you start to fixate on that weeks ‘concern’. To paint a better picture of myself, l don’t even own a full length mirror, hair dryer or straighteners. I’m just trying to explain what I’ve been ‘stressing & anxious’ about theses last few weeks. I’m a flip flop and air dried hair kind of girl.. so worrying about a few wrinkles isn’t really what I’m about..
Last month I spent a small fortune on make up, skin care and toothpaste to be stunned when I noticed myself fixating on my hair the other night. Even though I haven’t had a negative thought about it in months. I thought I had dealt with these behavioural patterns after having therapy all those years ago. But this lockdown has made me see I haven’t. Well, it’s made me see, you have to stay vigilant. That we all have demons, you just have to find your way to silence them and realise you are stronger than they are.
So for the first time in 43 years having absolutely nothing to be anxious about it is terrifyingly unnerving. But I am incredibly proud of myself (and grateful to google for the prompt) for being aware of where my head was taking me and something was bothering me. I feel this could have easily escalated, hence why it is so important to understand and know yourself. To know when something isn’t quite right. Hopefully I can now break some of these learned bad habits and behaviours. I deserve to be happy. And I am worthy of pure happiness. And being blissfully happy and content is a fabulous thing. You don’t have to spend your life waiting for the other shoe to drop. Live in the now and be grateful.
I’m good at knowing when to seek to help. Like for my hair. I saw the doctor and was told ‘Nothing can be done. You’re just getting older and your hair is thinning, Deal with it’ Her actual words. So I sought the advice of Phillip Kingsley – which proved to be a very expensive day out. But best money I have ever spent. Investing in yourself is priceless and the best investment you’ll ever make. Anyway I was diagnosed with Androgenetic Alopecia – or Female Pattern Hair Loss if you want a full on punch in the tits.. There are many contributing factors. And mine was predominately brought on from stress, weight loss (Keto) and poor diet
(HAIR LOSS FROM KETO IS NOT OK. IT IS NOT WORTH IT. STOP AND SEEK AN EXPERT’S ADVICE. NOT FULANITA FROM FACEBOOK!!)
Rest assured, life is good. My hair is better than ever. But if I hadn’t sought professional help that could be a different story. I use my prescribed drops, changed my contraceptive pill, take my vitamins, eat a balanced diet and have upped my protein.
From the minute I acknowledged I’m anxious about not being anxious no more chest pain, better sleep and a calming feeling like a cuddle is present. Everyone is different and deals with things differently. All I can say is just learn to understand yourself, mentally and physically
So what have I learnt over the last 43 years?
A small amount of stress and anxiety is good for you. Think running for a bus, first date, job interview.. Chronic stress is not. You may not even know you are suffering from chronic stress, I definitely didn’t. But constant irritably, lack of concentration, difficulty in sleeping are just a few symptoms. It goes back to learning to know and understand yourself
If your gut tells you something is up, seek professional help. Don’t rely on Facebook, Google or trust anything that starts with ‘my friend Betty’s friend had/said/did’
It’s ok to not be ok. But try to find a way to feel ok. Acknowledging you’re not ok can open a whole can of uncomfortableness. Make sure you have a good support system in place.
You are a work in progress. The beauty of being alive is the constant ability to change, improve and better ourselves. From taking a class, changing careers, letting go of the past.. As Jim Rohn ‘If You Don’t Like Where You Are Move, You Are Not A Tree’
Hair loss in women needs to be talked about more. The stigma attached to it is horrendous. When I started to looking into a AA (Androgentic Alopecia) I was horrified people were listening to Facebook groups over seeing a trichologist or even a doctor. Yes, doctors may fob you off and seeing a trichologist can be expensive but no more so than investing in gallons of castor oil, weird non regulated supplements and potentially wigs.
Ask for help. There is an abundance of help out there. Take the first step and reach out to someone. Even if just to a friend or family member to hold your hand whilst you find the appropriate help.
Embrace nature. I have a new found love of squirrels, ducks, swans and birds.
Finding the perfect therapist is harder than finding your dreamboat life partner. Take your time, trust your gut, and research all the therapists out there. For me CBT was life changing but It isn’t the right type of counselling for everyone
I’m listing below a few links in case anyone needs some help (I’ve only added UK links as that’s all I know or have experience of)
Love and Hugs to you all.. As always, any questions. Get in touch xx