Panic at the Disco, quite literally

Anxiety: Advice from a fellow sufferer

Last Wednesday I had an anxiety attack in the centre of the dance floor in Cindies. I hid it well. I’ve gotten good at that. Bee-line for the loos, and – thank god for loud music – cried my eyes out in a cubical probably saturated with a far greater variety of bodily fluids that just tears.

This was the second anxiety attack I’d had since coming to Cambridge, and with only a mild and un-medicated form of anxiety, twice in 6 weeks is a lot for me.

It’s understandable that Cam would put a greater strain anyone’s mental health, just as it does our physical health (I no longer know what it is to wake up without a sore throat) but unlike popping a couple paracetamols, carrying around more loo-paper tissue substitutes than a mischievous teen on Halloween, or drinking copious amounts of ginger tea, how to deal with anxiety can feel a lot harder.

Anxiety for me, and I am very aware that it manifests itself in a variety of shitty forms for different people, is on average a four day process. Triggered often by stress, I’ll experience two days of feeling lethargic, sick to my stomach, and unable to concentrate before it manifests itself in an attack. By that point the attacks – much like being physically sick – are a bit of a relief. The attack is then followed by two more days of feeling shaky, weak and ill as I return to myself.

Nothing wrong with a little indulgence every now and then...

Nothing wrong with a little indulgence every now and then…

Like I say, I’ve gotten good at hiding it, but when it comes to my friends, I don’t want to have to hide it. I don’t want to feel embarrassed, but I do, and I want to stop having to tell people that it’s not them – it’s me. The irony is of course, as I’m sure many other sufferers will understand, is that we tend to spend as much – if not more time reassuring others that it’s nothing to do with them, than reassuring ourselves. “It’s not you, it’s me” is a phrase I’m yet to use on a break up, but have used countless times to explain why I can’t stop crying, or can’t get out of bed.

So how do we deal with this? Anxiety sufferers, and others alike (just because you don’t have it yet doesn’t mean you should take precautions on your mental health – that’s like never washing your hands because you’re yet to get a stomach bug) living and study and loving and crying at this mad university need now more than ever to know that it is oh, so, bloody important that we take care of ourselves and each other.

We need to listen to our bodies. If you’re feeling over tired; sleep. Take a nap – it won’t hurt to have a couple hours away from work. Eat three good meals a day, proper meals – don’t hid away in your room; go to the gyp, hall or just grab a friend and say “come watch me eat soup!” as if it’s the greatest adventure they’re going to have all day (knowing our lives, it probably is).

Those necessary check-ins

Those necessary check-ins

Perhaps more importantly, as the above can also apply to our physical health, we need to talk. We need to be open about who we are and what’s going on in our heads. I’ve been lucky; over the past 7 weeks I’ve managed to forge a brilliant support network of friends; we have tea and ‘check-ins’ nearly every day, go on ‘angry walks’ and we all know that should that ‘MAYDAY’ text be sent, we’d all come running.

With the intensity of pressure that is Cambridge, to be brought down by illness is to feel like you’re failing. To cry is to admit defeat, and to take a break is to quit.

Please, please know all of you that this is not the case. You are not quitters; you are survivors, fighters even.  Whatever stigma there is (if only one column could take down an entire perspective) it is utter BS.

Taken on an angry walk - I highly recommend!

Taken on an angry walk – I highly recommend!

If you feel it is too much, talk. Go to a friend, a tutor or the GP.

Take a breath, know that you are loved, and talk.