Living with Anxiety and Illness.

I have Generalised Anxiety Disorder, as well as Ulcerative Colitis. Unfortunately, my colitis is largely affected by my anxiety. It sets it off and makes me flare so badly. When your mental health (which by itself is bad enough), causes your physical health to worsen, it becomes a vicious cycle. A cycle of worrying about day to day life, worrying about your health, worrying about whether you can go out that day.

This constant circle of worrying and pain is exhausting. People really underestimate how much anxiety can affect your overall health. When you also live with an invisible illness, that’s made worse by it, you can’t help but feel isolated and misunderstood.

What is there to worry about? I honestly worry about absolutely everything. Does this person like me? Is my friend, even my friend at all? What if I’m ill when I’m out and there’s no toilet? Where’s the closest disabled toilet? What if I make a fool of myself and start to stutter? Can I trust this person? Is this person lying?

Having taken different SSRI’s like Citalopram and Sertraline, and attended Cognitive Behavioural Therapy to try and learn to control my spiral of worry and anxiety; I have become better at intercepting my worry before it goes too far.

But it still affects me every day. My self-esteem is so low, I constantly seek reassurance from the people around me. I regularly seek love and affection. I can’t help but try and control situations by making sure I’m usually the one doing the planning; picking a time and location, giving myself plenty of time before and after occasions to calm down and keeping a fairly strict schedule with my calendar. Over the last year in particular, I have learned to love myself more and calm down, with the help of my favourite people.

I’ve learned about how important self-care is, and the difference it makes. Everything from little every day acts, to taking a couple of days out to relax and reduce my stress. One trick I learnt from CBT, was mindfulness. When I’m feeling anxious, I focus on the environment if I can. One of my favourite mindful activities is taking my dogs for a walk and really focusing on the things around me – the sounds of the ducks and geese, the feel of the cold, crisp air, and the beauty of nature. It might sound wishy-washy, but for me, it makes the world of difference.

Though it doesn’t always work. Sometimes situations can become out of my control, and I get a full-on anxiety attack, and it genuinely affects me for days. It makes my Colitis flare, and if you’ve read my Living with Ulcerative Colitis blog post you’ll see how difficult that can be. But basically, it’s draining, continuous toilet trips up to 20 times a day with blood, extreme stomach pain, fatigue and joint pain.

Thankfully, my anxiety has improved enough for me to no longer require SSRI’s or therapy. But that doesn’t mean it’s gone. The thing with anxiety is it’s a hidden mental illness, so although I share the positive parts of my life on social media and with the people around me – it doesn’t mean anxiety isn’t there.

My treatment for anxiety was also to help control my Colitis. While I’m still in a flare (Since June 2016), it has at least been moved from “moderate” to “mild” and fingers crossed I get remission very very soon.