The Mental Bit

I suppose because I am a sensitive person I do tend to be a bit more anxious. I think this is normal and I would guess that most people have a degree of anxiety whether it is work related, relationships, money worries or just general every day life. Those who are not anxious I congratulate you.

My anxiety was ‘normal’ meaning I was not a basket case and I didn’t need containing in a padded cell. However, retrospectively it is now obvious that my anxiety levels started to change around the time my SD started. Of course I didn’t know this then.

So, what does anxiety feel like. Well, I think it is different for everyone. I am not a psychologist or a psychiatrist so I won’t attempt to tell you what anxiety is. What I can tell you is what it feels like for me.

I have always been outgoing, I make friends easily and enjoy socialising. I was able to go to work and function normally, interact and more importantly speak when I needed to. My job entailed quite a lot of speaking and often in front of groups of people. Now, I have never enjoyed public speaking or being the center of attention, but I could hold my own when I had to. I may have felt nervous or anxious, call it what you will, but I was still able to function.

That is until my SD started. The first time it happened was on the phone. I have already mentioned that I had a domineering boss and was having a heated conversation with her. What happened that day was bizarre and frightening. I thought I was so worked up that it was a one off experience. Why was my voice so ‘strangled’ and ‘strained’

Unfortunately, this continued and progressively became more frequent. So, for example I could not say the word director because of the letter I. When I attempted to say it the I would sound strangled, and I could not finish the word. I quickly became aware that I could not say my vowel sounds which is quite a lot of words!  Think of all the words with vowels in them

Apple-would come out as a——pple, with an interruption straight after the letter A. Longer words such as immediately-would sound like i——mme—–dia—–tely with even more breaks making my voice sound terrible. This of course took a huge amount of effort as not only did I sound like I was being strangled, it felt like it too.

I can’t recall the actual timeline of how this all played out, but I do know that my life changed, as in communication was now a real struggle.

This is when I thought I was losing it and had mental health issues. Why couldn’t I speak.

Enter the phone. This was and still is by far the hardest way of communicating. For some reason unknown to doctors, speaking on the phone is virtually impossible with SD. I know this now, but I didn’t then. At this time my job involved leaving voice messages every day updating my team on the days events. What a nightmare. I would practice beforehand, but as soon as I started to speak on the phone it would happen straight away.  No wonder I thought I was mental. Speaking is like breathing you don’t think about it, you just do it. Well not for me folks.

So, losing the ability to speak, let’s see, how does that make one feel?

Well I can tell you first hand it makes you feel like you are going mad. ‘One flew over the Cuckoos Nest’ sort of mad.  Not to mention the physical aspects of it. The tremendous effort it took to push the words out was utterly exhausting. I felt like I had a hand INSIDE my neck (not out side) squeezing my throat. To add insult to injury there was a second hand inside squeezing my oesophagous (That’s your food pipe). I don’t expect you to understand what that feels like but it’s the best explanation I can give.

Next question-did people notice? Well yes, of course they did. This is where I started playing it down. I would say I had allergies- what a ridiculous thing to say! It sounded nothing like allergies. I was grasping at anything to say, but how I really felt. Why? because I was ashamed. I really thought I was having some sort of breakdown, which of course I wasn’t, but I didn’t know that at the time.

So, I told myself to get a grip it wasn’t real. Pull yourself up by the bootstraps and get on with it. Get on with what exactly? Well speaking of course.

Mmmm…..easier said than done. Me who never had a problem saying what I thought, suddenly became a different person. I would avoid people. I definitely avoided the phone.

I permanently felt like I had bricks in my chest-damn those bricks you don’t belong in my body, but I couldn’t get rid of them. I tried so hard. My energy levels were depleted by having to speak. That was not normal for me, I love to chat remember. Work became almost impossible because I had to speak.

I’m not sure how long this went on for before I went to the doctor. I remember so clearly sitting in his office telling him (or trying to) that I was struggling to speak. I will never forget the look on his face-priceless! He looked like he had never seen or heard anything like it before. His look was one of shock and disbelief. My voice was at it’s worst, it was almost incomprehensible. The doctor had difficulty understanding me-his eyes almost pitied me. He told me I was suffering from extreme anxiety and wrote me a prescription for Valium (bad move). I left his office feeling none the wiser. How on earth could I be this anxious and why can’t it be addressed. I took my Valium tablet as directed and remember thinking it was putting a plaster on a problem that Valium could not possibly fix.

I knew my own body and my own voice-Valium was not the answer. I had to figure something else out. I never give up on anything. Anyone who knows me will say that I never give up. I wasn’t about to now. So, I abandoned my Valium and set about figuring something else out to help my pathetic voice, or lack of it.

Did I still feel like I was going mad? Yes, I did. I thought should I commit myself I can’t even speak! what’s going on!! Frustration at it’s worst.

Oh well, life throws curve balls at you all the time, but this was more than a curve ball, it was a football in the face. Still, I wasn’t giving up. Yes, I avoided people but that didn’t mean I was giving up.

What next? Lots of alternative therapies.

Did they help? Well let’s wait and see what the next chapter brings.

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