Hit the Panic Button

Posted by Judy Johnson On Sunday, 31 January 2010 00:54 0 comments
I've always been a nervous person. As one of the more shy girls in school I didn't like to put my hand up to ask a question, and if I had no choice then my heart would pound and my face would be red as I spoke. In the lead up to my GCSE's I was convinced I was really ill, feeling so sick every day that although I got myself to class I had to go and get fresh air all the time - my doctor assured me and my dad (who I sent in to reiterate my problem) that it was just stress. No it wasn't, I complained, I was clearly very ill. Then came July and the end of school and it was all better again. I still don't like that doctor though.

I think I know when my panic attacks started, though I find the thing that must have set them off quite trivial. I had celebrated my 19th birthday at a bar in Brighton, having hired it out in order to throw a big party. The problem with hosting your own party is that you stress about who's coming, when they're arriving, whether they're having a good time and making sure you speak to them all. So I drank quite a bit. People bought me drinks, I bought me drinks, all I remember are the drinks. Needless to say I left early feeling very ill and my then boyfriend whisked me home in a taxi to stay at his. Then in the middle of the night, I awoke feeling like something was pressing on my chest, my heart was pounding and I couldn't breathe. It scared me, and him. That was the first time.

Since then panic attacks or anxiety attacks have become a regular fixture in my life. I don't have to be consciously thinking about something stressful for them to occur, which is the most annoying thing - my subconscious mind surprises me by setting off these awful feelings of dread. I get hot, and feel light headed; I worry I'll faint, then and there, at the train station, in the bar, at work - wherever I am. This worry makes it worse. My heart pounds, heavy in my chest like it's beating me from the inside. I can't breathe normally, sometimes hyperventilate. I feel sick. Then I get the shivers. My legs go like jelly and my mind races with thoughts, both good and bad, one half of me trying to calm myself down and the other half running through all the things stressing me out and the worst case scenarios.

If you're a fellow sufferer then just reading those symptoms will probably make you feel nervous - so take a deep breath, you're OK. How to deal with these pesky panics? I'm not sure yet. Ideally, I'd run away to a desert island, spending my days relaxing, writing and enjoying the sun, away from the stresses of money, work, health and life in general. Unfortunately the penniless writer situation means I have to stay in claustrophobic London and deal with it.

So far I have learned that they're worse when I'm on my own - I panic that something will happen and no one is there to help. To make it stop I need distracting; from a Friends DVD to a friend reading to me or telling me funny stories from their day, anything to make me stop thinking about the feeling of my heart pounding will help. Courtesy of a very thoughtful person I have a few paper bags in the drawer next to my bed, with messages of keeping calm on them, if I feel I need them to slow my breathing. I tell myself to calm down, that I am absolutely fine, that I know it will pass, and think about one of my favourite movie scenes - Ally and Noah in the boat, in the rain in The Notebook. Not sure why, but it's calming.

A lovely PR has sent me a new product from Bachs Rescue Remedy - a chewing gum with flower extracts inside - to try out. Having never even tried Rescue Remedy I had no idea what it would be like but I've had three pieces of the gum in as many days (the panics have really been getting me this week) and I'm still not sure they help - but it's a work in progress and I'll do a blog on the results soon.

As mentioned in my previous post, Twitter has become a huge source of support and knowledge, and the lovely Nicola (@nic__nic) sent me a copy of Panic Away, which has already been helpful in giving coping techniques.

If you know any tried and tested tips for kicking panic attacks for good, do let me know - they're becoming quite the nuisance. In the meantime, sit back, relax, and breathe... stress is not worth stressing over.

Here's my favourite happy-moment scene that keeps me sane....

Image from http://www.isfym.com/

A Year (and a bit) of Life as a Twit

Posted by Judy Johnson On Saturday, 30 January 2010 23:17 3 comments
Just over a year ago I started working full time at Wahanda. Part of the job involved doing the PR for the company, and to get me started I was told that the future of PR was in social networking, and some site called 'Twitter'.

Well, I wasn't impressed. Pah, I thought. The status function of Facebook is one of its most irritating features (do I need to know that you love your boyfriend very much, coochy coochy coo? No, I think that's implied in the equally irritating Relationship Status, thanks) so who wants a website that's basically just status updates? Not me.

But in the name of work, I joined, tried to figure out how it worked and tried to quash flashacks of those awful chatrooms from when I discovered MSN as a teenager. I never used to write anything in chatrooms, because I was convinced they all knew each other and I'd be butting in - Twitter was a little like this at first, as I tried to look for tweets to reply to and tweeple to follow. But, save for a couple of weird ones who slightly stalked me and attempted to befriend me on Facebook (thank goodness for Block buttons), it didn't take long for me to feel part of the wave of the Twittering sea of people.

That was just over a year ago, and now, over 12,000 tweets later I cannot remember life B.T. (Before Twitter). What did I do when I had a random question? Who did I talk to at one in the morning when I was bored, awake and alone? How did I stay up to date with the very latest news? My year of Tweeting certainly made a dull 2009 a little less dull, for many reasons...

  • Friends - Obviously, number one is the people. Or Tweeple, if you can say that without cringeing. I talk to some of my favourite Twitter folk on a daily basis - that's probably more than I speak to some of my own friends. Whether I need to laugh or cry, learn or help, they are there to make me giggle, think, dream and share. I've even met a few of them and they're as lovely in real life as they are in their tweets.
  • Colleagues - As well as keeping in touch with past and current colleagues through the art of twittering, I have been introduced to new ones too. Someone who definitely falls under bullet-point one is Emma, who interned with us at Wahanda after messaging me, and has since become a great fellow writer, tweeter and friend who seems to know every website inside out. I've also discovered a brilliant bunch of writers who make me laugh out loud on a daily basis, and it's an honour to be listed with them in the slightly-old-already Twitter lists.
  • Bloggers - I never knew there were so many blogs out there. Beauty blogs, fashion blogs, gadget blogs, dating blogs... there are so many to choose from and there's such quality writing to enjoy. I talk to a lot of bloggers through Wahanda to help exchange links, and have also met some inspirational people whose blogs have grown already in the year that I've known them.
  • Charity - Penniless writer that I am, I rarely manage to contribute much to charity. But having spoken to some wonderfully inspirational people and hearing their stories of cancer survivals and battles, I just had to get involved for Breast Cancer Awareness month. From Pretty Stylish London's wonderful ladies night which Wahanda sponsored, to JJ's tweet up in Chelsea, through the power of Twitter money was raised for this fantastic cause and I was proud to be part of it. Let's continue to #kickcancer in 2010, starting with the Speed Dating!
  • News - Where were you when you heard about Michael Jackson? I was on Tweetdeck. I saw one tweet about a suspected heart attack and all of a sudden, the All Friends column filled up with the shock of the nation and Twitter went down. Twitter has become my instant news resource, whether it's to tell us it's snowing in W1 or to reveal who's won X Factor. All very important to know as and when they happen.
  • (Over) Sharing - Ah, the ultimate point of Twitter. To share stuff. I discovered Spotify and shared my playlists with friends through tweeting. I replaced drunk texts to people I really shouldn't text with drunk tweets to people who are happily entertained and not judgemental. I can tweet that I'm sad and a flood of support comes in; I can be excited and others want to hear the good news. I need a new dress, someone helps me find it, or sends me a discount code. If I don't know how to do something, I ask (this even involved me trying to figure out putting a bulb in my new lamp. Thanks guys). If X Factor's Jedward are driving me insane, I can rant, and tweeple rant with me. And, a great testament to how I started on Twitter, I can share Wahanda's MobDeals with people that I know love a bit of pampering or a cheap fitness class.
To the people I follow - you're brilliant. Keep doing what you're doing and I'll see you in Twitterville!

Special mentions...
I couldn't write this without pointing you to the friendly, funny, talented people I know through Twitter. Here's just a few (listed by Twitter name to make it easy for you to go follow them)
Ok this will take a while. Just follow everyone I follow!


Image courtesy of http://www.chris-wallace.com/
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