DEALING WITH HIGH FUNCTIONING ANXIETY - GUEST POST

Saturday

This is a guest post from Rachael Hawksworth.

Hi. My name is Rachael, I have a full and fun social life, a fantastic job and crippling high functioning anxiety.


Since I was a little girl I have been very talkative. I've been described as HAPPY, talkative, bubbly and enthusiastic my whole life. I attended drama school, studied dance and put myself out there to help anyone out, with anything. Anyone meeting me would describe me as confident, outgoing and friendly.


However I viewed myself as annoying. Loud, rude, in your face too much. Convinced that I talk too much, to much about myself or don't talk enough! I have a terrible habit of trying to please everyone and keep everyone happy from fear of them disliking me or not wanting to be my friend. Because I have believed for so long that no one would actually want to be friends with me, it must be because of things I do for them. Or, even worse, that if I do anything wrong then they’ll realise they don’t actually like me!



Underneath all this self doubt, I was desperately sad. But everyone always told me I was happy? Super positive!? I found myself convincing myself I was ok because everyone saw me that way.


I only realised when I was 28 that torturing myself this way wasn’t just how I was, it was anxiety. It took YEARS for me to accept and ask for help. Mainly because I didn’t realise what anxiety really looked like, the emotional and the physical symptoms are what caught me off guard. I always thought of anxiety as a strong anxious feeling! But its so much more.


I knew I had a problem for a while. I’d find myself rocking back and forth with my head in my hands, trying to soothe myself. Working in a busy, customer facing management role in hospitality, managing 3 teams of 120 people total and yet I couldn’t bring myself to leave the house sometimes, crippled with social anxiety and a feeling of severe dread for no apparent reason. I’d be going to parties with friends one weekend, then the next I’d barely be able to get my words out, stuttering and uncontrollable overthinking.


Cycle of completing a task with high functioning anxiety
Cycle of completing a task with high functioning anxiety


I did nothing about it. I didn’t seek help, I ignored it. Made all the typical excuses...
I talk to hundreds of staff and customers every week, I host parties at work and am always putting myself out there... how could I be ‘Anxious’’


I'm so confident... I can’t have anxiety? I felt GUILTY for even thinking that I could have anxiety... like I was belittling others who REALLY suffered with anxiety by comparing myself with them.


The reason I am sharing this with you and the rest of the internet is because there are bound to be hundreds, even thousands of people out there who are suffering in silence. Battling with themselves and unable to admit there is anything wrong. Could be you, could be someone you care about...


Everyone’s experience of anxiety disorders is different. Not everyone who has an anxiety disorder will experience the same symptoms.


Mental symptoms of anxiety can include:

  • racing thoughts,
  • uncontrollable over-thinking,
  • difficulties concentrating,
  • feelings of dread, panic or ‘impending doom’,
  • feeling irritable,
  • heightened alertness,
  • problems with sleep,
  • changes in appetite,
  • wanting to escape from the situation you are in, and
  • dissociation.


If you dissociate you might feel like you are not connected to your own body. Or like you are watching things happen around you, without feeling it.


Physical symptoms of anxiety can include:

  • sweating,
  • heavy and fast breathing,
  • hot flushes or blushing,
  • dry mouth,
  • shaking,
  • hair loss,
  • fast heartbeat,
  • extreme tiredness or lack of energy
  • dizziness and fainting, and
  • stomach aches and sickness.

What is High Functioning Anxiety?


High Functioning Anxiety - How it appears vs how it feels

High Functioning Anxiety - How it appears vs how it feels


If you feel like this is you, then I hope you might feel a sense of relief. Like you finally have permission to accept that you are struggling! Your feelings are validated and your not just ‘broken’ or ‘crazy’ - BOTH things I told myself for YEARS.


Human beings are not perfect, no one of us is! You don’t have to try to be. You can seem like a social butterfly and still suffer from a inability to even leave the house some days.


What to do if you recognise the symptoms of High Functioning Anxiety in yourself...


  • Reach out for help!
    It is not weak to ask for help, its the strongest thing you can do. Family, friends, loved ones who you can trust are great ones to reach out too but there are also lots of websites and organisations that you can speak too for advice.

    Anxiety UK
    Charity providing support if you have been diagnosed with an anxiety condition.
    Phone: 03444 775 774 (Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 5.30pm)
    Website: www.anxietyuk.org.uk

    CALM
    CALM is the Campaign Against Living Miserably. A charity providing a mental health helpline and webchat.
    Phone: 0800 58 58 58 (daily, 5pm to midnight)
    Website: www.thecalmzone.net

    Men's Health Forum
    24/7 stress support for men by text, chat and email.
    Website: www.menshealthforum.org.uk

    Mental Health Foundation
    Provides information and support for anyone with mental health problems or learning disabilities.
    Website: www.mentalhealth.org.uk

    Mind
    Promotes the views and needs of people with mental health problems.
    Phone: 0300 123 3393 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm)
    Website: www.mind.org.uk

    Rethink Mental Illness
    Support and advice for people living with mental illness.
    Phone: 0300 5000 927 (Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 4pm)
    Website: www.rethink.org
  • Recognise and address symptoms as they come up. There are plenty of grounding techniques and mindfulness & breathing exercises to do.
  • Start journaling!
    There is a journal for everything nowadays - productivity journals, daily, weekly or monthly journals, mindfulness journals... anything that you could want or need to track and plan - THERES A JOURNAL OR PLANNER FOR IT! Feeling organised and physically writing down your thoughts and ideas helps ease anxiety symptoms SO much.
    Often times your heads a mess with over thinking and your not able to focus... writing everything down, getting it out of your head and into physical form means you can make sense of it all.
  • Speak to your doctor and consider counselling
    Anti-depressants and anti anxiety medication has had this stigma around it for so long, its very annoying!! If you had a illness in your body and you need help, you go to your doctor no they prescribe medicine. This includes your mental health! Your doctor will go over all your options, they are highly trained in dealing with mental health and can advise you in any way you need. Plus they can refer you to local mental health organisations and even for counselling.

If you know someone who has High Functioning Anxiety or you think might have then speak to them about it. Be gentle and kind, understand that they may not be ready to talk about it but showing them that you are there to listen when they are ready to talk will make the biggest difference!


Most of the time someone with a anxiety disorder really needs to just talk, they need someone who will listen to them and let them vent and feel what they are feeling! It’s easy to try to say things which you THINK are helpful but that’s really not...


Things NOT to say to someone who is suffering from a anxiety disorder...


‘’It could be worse, other people have it way worse than you’’

‘’Cheer up’’

‘’You’ll be fine, you’ll get over it’’

‘’But your so happy, are you sure its anxiety and your not just being dramatic?’’


What may not seem like much on the outside, could be significantly effecting someone on the inside. No doubt the person who is opening up to you about their anxiety disorder, already has been telling themselves all of the above! The fact they feel comfortable speaking to you about it and opening up is a HUGE step. 



SANE Provides emotional support, information and guidance for people affected by mental illness, their families and carers.
Textcare: comfort and care via text message, sent when the person needs it most: www.sane.org.uk/textcare
Peer support forum: www.sane.org.uk/supportforum
Website: www.sane.org.uk/support

YoungMinds provide information on child and adolescent mental health. Services for parents and professionals.
Parents' helpline 0808 802 5544

25 comments

  1. I really enjoyed reading this and can relate to it on so many levels as I also suffer with anxiety and have done my whole life. Thank you for sharing and including resources to help others x

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  2. This is such an important topic, not only for people that experience anxiety but also for people that don’t. I still have a hard time taking a step back, because of the shame I feel about not being a 100% all the time, but I’m getting there. Thank you for sharing!

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  3. As an anxiety sufferer I can relate to so much of this. Great Post and thank you for sharing.

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  4. Thank you for letting me write a Guest post on something that’d so important to me and so important. Love you xx

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  5. I've suffered from anxiety for the past three years. It can be so debilitating... The constant over-thinking and feeling of impending doom as you say are so hard to manage. It's so important to talk about it, thank you so much for writing about it x
    earthlyem.co.uk

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  6. This was a very great read and I am glad that we are speaking up about anxiety more! Trouble to say no to people fearing they won't be there after, I completely understand. Thank you for sharing your experience Rachel x

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  7. Loved this post. I didn't really know anything about high-functioning anxiety so I'm glad you've opened my eyes to it.

    Tash - A Girl with a View

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  8. I have been recently diagnosed with anxiety and by gosh it's exhausting! I had an inkling that I've had it for a while but it was only a few months ago that I decided to do something about it. Thank you so much for sharing your experience as well as these lil' infographics!

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  9. Wow, this is so eye-opening. I totally relate to the cycle of completing a task - I'm constantly trying to put myself out there. This is a great post :) x

    Caroline | https://envirolineblog.com/

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  10. This is such an insightful post, and really helps to understand the different complexities to anxiety! Thanks for sharing, wonderful guest post!
    Aimsy xoxo
    Aimsy’s Antics

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  11. Thank you so much for sharing this! So many people are going through this and you or even they wouldn’t even know. Thank you for talking about it and sharing your story!

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  12. Omg I can totally relate to this and am exactly the same! Being social is so hard and incredibly draining on me. I talk too much because I get so uncomfortable and people have no idea what you're actually feeling inside. Siobhan ♡ | Vegan Babe Life

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  13. I loved reading this post as I can relate to this so much, a great read x

    Lucy | www.lucymary.co.uk

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  14. Such an important post, thanks for writing about how you are doing, I'm sure you've helped so many people xo

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  15. I suffer with depression and anxiety, and people say to me, you can't be depressed, you are too happy. I hate that this puts people off speaking or getting help for anxiety etc. Thank you for this post.

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  16. Thank your for sharing, I relate to so much of this post, as someone that suffers from anxiety it really puts what I'm going through in some light

    Nic | Nic's Adventures & Bakes

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  17. Amazing post. Thanks to both of you for sharing. This type of anxiety definitely isn't spoken about enough but so many people suffer from it x

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  18. I also have anxiety, and while others don't see it as that, my head can be a wild place. People who don't have mental illnesses have so much trouble understanding life with one, and people who have them don't talk about it because they don't want to be the "crazy" one, so it's so important for this information to get out there, for people to realize it doesn't have to be that way.

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  19. This is an excellent and wonderfully written post. I have anxiety and I can't stress to you enough just how horrible it can be. Thank you so much for hosting this.

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  20. This is such an important topic and I'm so glad it's being spoken about more often now! Thank you!

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  21. I enjoyed reading it. It is so informative. Although, I don't have anxiety, but this detailed information will help me to deal with people around me who has anxiety issues.
    Thanks for such a great article

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