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.
Trigger warning: assault – this story contains details of the writer being physically assaulted while in college.
Tell us a little bit about yourself! Who are you? Where are you from? What types of things do you enjoy doing?
Hi Laura, thank you so much for inviting me to share my story with your readers. My name is Catherine from the blog, Caite Elizabeth. I have two beautiful children, a fur baby and wonderful husband. We are based in the UK, but have plans by the end of this year to travel full time starting in Europe. Most of my time is spent being mum as my two children are only 2 and 1 years old, so depend upon me a lot. You’ll often find us baking, building lego houses and robots or playing hide and seek. When I’m not being mum, I am working from home either as an online ESL teacher or on my blog. Outside of work, you’ll often find us having family days out walking our dog or taking the kids on day trips such as to the farm, play centre or beach. My husband and I also love any spare moment we get to continue our travel plans for later this year.
What does the anxiety you experience look like (obsessive thoughts, extreme worry, intrusive thoughts, anxiety disorder, etc)?
My anxiety materialises through a lot of obsessive and negative thoughts. I have to check both doors are locked and the oven is off before bed, even though I know I have checked everything earlier in the evening when I have put my children to bed. If I don’t it plays on my mind and I cannot sleep until I have done so. Most of my thoughts now relate to my children. Since becoming a mother, I have daily negative thoughts which relate to either something happening to my kids or something happening to me and I can’t be there to protect them. It becomes quite obsessive and I honestly do not talk to anyone about how extreme it is. I have nightmares every night relating to my children or myself. My husband works away at night a lot and they become worse when he isn’t home. Any noise or creek I hear in the house, always leads to irrational thoughts and someone is coming to hurt us. Luckily, I have my dog who is always the first to alert me to anything unusual. So, when she is calm, she helps to calm my thoughts also.
Do you see a therapist/psychologist?
No I don’t. I did see a psychologist a number of years ago but only for a short period of time. When I was 18 and attending university for the first time, a group of men took a dislike to my friends and I in our halls of residence. One evening, they came with different ‘weapons’ such as belts and knives and blocked everyone into their rooms, trying to barricade the doors down. Unfortunately, I got caught in the hallway and one of the men pushed me against the wall and held a knife to my throat. When the police then did nothing and released them back the next day, I no longer felt safe and left University with the support of my family. However, I was left with a lot of emotional and mental difficulties mostly leading to severe panic attacks and flashbacks. The panic attacks came on so strongly I couldn’t control them and couldn’t breathe. All I saw was the men from the attack and felt trapped. From then on, anytime I felt trapped, I went straight back to that day and ended up in a panic attack. It even impacted upon my work and everyday life.
I was placed onto a waiting list for an NHS psychologist, but, as you may know, the NHS is under huge strains and I had to wait a very long time. By the time I was able to see a psychologist, It was 18 months later and I had applied to attend a different university and had learnt to take more control of my panic attacks. Though, when I did see the psychologist, she helped immensely in providing me tools so that I could control the attacks even more, with breathing exercises and a safe space.
I still struggle when I feel trapped and have great difficulty when I do not feel in control of any aspect of my life. But, I now don’t have such physical panic attacks, they are more internal struggles.
Do you take medication for the anxiety?
No, I was offered them from the doctor when I was experiencing panic attacks. But, for me personally, I felt like I didn’t want a drug to control my feelings and body reactions. I wanted to take back control and learn how to face the panic attacks myself.
How long have you been dealing with anxiety?
For as long as I can remember. As a young child, I found out my father wasn’t my real dad biologically, though he is in my mind. My biological father did not want me and unfortunately had passed away since, so I was never able to ask him questions and understand why. I then till this day had a really difficult and challenging relationship with my biological family on his side. It turned into negative feelings of rejection and that there must be something wrong with me for my own family to not want to spend time and get to know me. Hence, since a young girl, I have had real difficulties in feeling accepted and good enough. I have grown up needing to please others and becoming wrapped up when someone takes a dislike to me or makes any criticism. I struggle to focus on the positives and not to be caught up in the negatives, no matter how minor they may be. I also cannot face confrontation for this reason either.
What are some triggers for the anxiety you experience?
As I mentioned earlier, my anxiety increases when my husband is away. I feel safe with him and when he is around. So when he works away on a night, my mind becomes quite creative in how harm can come to my children and myself.
I also really struggle in new environments or around new people. I am often told how confident I am, but I am very good at putting on a front. I feel extremely anxious with new people and constantly wondering what they are thinking of me and telling myself all the reasons they probably don’t like me.
Any type of confrontation gives me a huge fight or flight response and can send me on the verge of an internal panic attack. Confrontations are the worst type of situation for me and if I find myself in one, I just want to get away as quickly as possible and am left with that feeling of your head spinning with all kinds of thoughts from what I did wrong to whether I offended that person and feeling like I can’t go back to that place or see that person again.
Have you ever dealt with the dreaded anxiety spiral?
Unfortunately yes. Anxiety spirals can happen extremely quickly and uncontrollably. Thoughts are kind of like a snowballing effect in that once your mind thinks of one negative thought, five others emerge and it can continue unless you have methods in place to stop it.
I find if I haven’t been out of the house for a while, I then make up reasons not to go out. I am completely a creature of habit and it is easy for me to not need to leave the house for several days in a row with working from home and my kids not attending school, being 2 and 1. The only time I then leave the house is when necessary e.g. for an appointment. If I notice that I haven’t been out for a few days, I force myself outside, even if just for a walk, to ensure my anxiety doesn’t prevent me from staying in.
Do you experience panic attacks?
Yes. When I was a young adult, they included a physical outlet at the same time with uncontrollable breathing, hysterical crying, rocking and needing to rub material for comfort.
Now, I no longer have a physical outlet but I do have internal panic attacks when I have increased anxiety and thought spirals. I end up with a voice telling me over and over I can’t do something or I need to leave immediately.
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?
When it was physical, I learnt to focus on nothing else but my breathing. Taking everything back to basics and just that instinct for survival, I didn’t think about where I was, who was around me or what caused it in the first place. I just felt my breathing, in and out. Eventually, this helped an incredible amount to slow my heart rate down and bring me back into the present and awareness.
Mental spirals I am still learning how to manage. I really struggle with these and often end up having an emotional outlet crying myself to sleep when they happen. I am improving by turning my negative thoughts into positive ones. Since I started my health and wellness business alongside a network marketing company, I have been taught all about personal development. They have helped to teach me different skills and techniques to help change my mindset. I have also incorporated personal development books and podcasts into my daily life, which is improving the way I think and hence the increase in more positive thoughts. When I can see a negative train of thoughts, I use that time to break it up with affirmations and a daily gratitude list.
What are some preventative measures that you take to help prevent the anxiety you experience?
As I mentioned above, I have started to incorporate personal development in my everyday life. I spend time each day writing down daily gratitudes and creating my own personal affirmations. These have all really helped in my mindset and to lower the amount of anxiety spirals I experience. I still suffer from anxiety everyday, but it feels more under control.
If I feel able to, I try and get out for a walk in nature. What I mean by that is not where I live in the local housing estate, but somewhere such as a nature reserve or in the woods. I find these spaces really calming and I am so focused on the beauty around me that I don’t have time to listen to any thoughts or worries. When I don’t feel up to getting outside, I just ensure there is a natural flow of air with the windows open, I turn on a diffuser filled with lavender essential oil and I listen to some relaxing piano music. During this time, I close my eyes and concentrate on my breathing, whether I do this for 1 minute or 10 minutes, however long I feel I need in order to calm down and refocus.
What are some of your favorite anxiety resources (websites, books, etc) that other people could reference if they’re struggling as well?
I honestly do not have a particular website or favourite book. I mentioned above that I have started listening to podcasts and reading books, but these surround more to do with personal development rather than anxiety itself. So helping with mindset and positive thinking.
Personally, I have really found writing down gratitudes and saying aloud affirmations such as I am safe. I am happy. I am a good mum, all help to keep anxiety under control.
Why do you think the mental health stigma exists? Why are people afraid to talk about their mental illness?
I think it is more a case of people fear mental health and so hide away from it. But the more it is hidden and unspoken of, the more people fear of it and the less support is provided.
I think the fear surrounds the fact it cannot be seen so easily as say a physical disability. When people cannot see a physical challenge, they misunderstand when an individual who suffers from mental health demonstrates their difficulties. I think sometimes people jump to conclusions and find mental illness unpredictable, so hide away from it.
I honestly think that it is improving, more people are being brave and coming forward in the public eye. The more that people have the confidence to share their challenges, the more educated others become on the matter and will be willing to share their own experiences.
A huge thank you to Caite 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!
Catherine is the face behind the blog Caite Elizabeth. She’s a mum of two, wife and dog mummy from the UK. She swapped out the traditional life of 9-5 in order to work from home around her family and be more present with her children.
She now wishes to share her experiences with you and aim to inspire and support mums just like herself, looking for a way out of the fast lane and live in the moment with her kids.
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!