Richard, 30. Anxiety and Panic attacks.
Name: Richard Davies.
Mood today? Pretty good, energized, because I actually dragged myself out of bed at 6.30am – I always feel better getting up early, I’ve just been hibernating too much because of the weather recently.
Wine, coffee or green smoothie? Coffee, usually 2 or 3 cups in the morning. I had one at 6pm yesterday and ended up just being tired and anxious instead of alert and focused. So that was a bad idea.
3 vices. Drinking, Cheese and currently Playing Dice with my friends.
3 virtues. I try to be giving (in advice and charity with friends), good head for business and I can draw some stuff.
What’s the most useful thing anyone has ever said to you? It is harder to fall then it is to rise.
If you weren’t running your businesses, what would you be doing? I’d be a teacher. I took a year out before going to university to be one, but never went back.
What’s in your Headcase? I suffer from anxiety and panic attacks, and up until recently (but probably will again) imposter syndrome.
When did you first notice things might not be quite…. ‘right’.
Looking back it has been a thing in me for years. But the breaking point was last year when I had to liquidate my old company and start afresh. I put far too much of the pressure and work onto myself, as I didn’t want my old business partner to have to deal with it or my new one to have to put the pieces back together. I wanted to deliver a fixed, ready entity. It caused me to feel very alone and trapped, and it resulted in panic attacks and about 6 months of crippling self-doubt and anxiety.
What were the symptoms?
I didn’t trust my own decisions, I believed that long-term friends and peers hated me if they hadn’t spoken to me, I didn’t feel that I was good enough to run my own business. I had panic attacks and I avoided a lot of confrontation.
How did you feel?
Very simply, I didn’t feel like myself. I’m a very rational person, so when my body and mind reacted to the smallest accident or mistake in such a crippling manner, it was totally alien and against what I knew, which made me feel even worse. I couldn’t listen to anyone else’s advice and just felt alone and stuck in my own head.
Did you know what it was, or what to do?
Luckily I had friends who had suffered from anxiety and other issues before, and they talked me through it. That helped a lot, because I could name it from early on, and I felt I could control it – I couldn’t, but it did help.
How long did you wait before telling anyone?
I was quite open about it from the start, and over time I became even more so, as I found it cathartic to discuss it. If I owned it and didn’t let it own me, then my rational side could at least function.
Who did you talk to?
Initially, to my three friends Robbie, Martin and Dave, and then to my wife, after they told me what was wrong. I think the first day my wife knew about it was when I called her from my car, unable to drive, because I couldn’t stop shaking. That was my first panic attack in years, and it was terrifying.
What help did you get?
None, except for talking with my friends, and on social media.
What happened then?
I started to win small battles. The business started to function well again and I faced a lot of my demons, and beat them. A lot of it came down to impostor syndrome and self-doubt in my abilities. Proving to myself that that idea was false, and I could succeed, helped massively. Another aspect was the amount of people who reached out to me to thank me for discussing anxiety. A big thing for me was feeling alone, so when people told me they felt less alone because of what I was posting and saying, that helped me too.
How are you now?
Much better. I still have slips and issues, of course, but I can ask myself and my body why it’s happening and let the rational side of me break down the irrational anxiety a lot of the time. Or if I know it is bad, I know I just need to try and get out of that bad place in my head - or get some sleep!
What was the moment you remember things changed for the better?
Last October. I was hitting a wall with a part of the business and staff, and my business partner Colin sat me down and told me to not give so much of a fuck, and focus on myself and what I should be doing. I changed my work/life balance, took some time to do things I enjoy, and everything just clicked. I started to trust myself again. That was when I came up with the “I am Not My Anxiety” slogan, and started to really own it. It's popularity in terms of merchandise sales on the site shows that a lot of people feel the same way!
Who helped you the most?
My friend Martin was a massive help. He has suffered from a lot of similar issues and is also a business owner. He and I spent a lot of time talking over anxiety, self-development, ways to make our work flow better and loads of other things. Those have been some of the most important conversations this year.
What is the best piece of advice you were given?
You can’t make changes until you are ready to listen to yourself.
What worked best for you?
Talking, reaching out to others and making fun of it.
What you would say to anyone who is suffering similar things, or to yourself in that state?
That you aren’t alone. It affects SO many of us, and it isn’t something ugly that you can’t talk about. And, “Give yourself a break”!
What’s the biggest change in mental health you would like to see?
Lift the taboo and discuss it more often. My dad had a panic attack in the night last year and it freaked both my parents out. They didn’t know what it was because their generation didn’t talk about it. Our generation is better, but it still has a way to go.
If you could say anything to your mental health issue, what would it be?
I am not my anxiety.
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