Anna Williamson: My battle with anxiety
Anxiety is an important emotion and reaction to dangerous and unpleasant things.
After all, if we didn't get an anxious feeling crossing the road, we'd naively stroll in front of a passing car without thinking about the possible consequences. The right level of anxiety is good for us, it keeps us safe. However, it's when the anxiety triggers are over sensitive and over stimulated that it can become a real problem. I know, I've experienced generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) and panic disorder for the past 10 years.
I know the feelings of dread only too well: irrational thinking about everything, not wanting to go out for fear of having a panic attack, the lonely debilitating rut you find yourself in, the sweaty palms, the heart flutter, the dry throat, the rabbit in headlights eyes. I've been there. It sucks. At the time you feel like you're going crazy and that no one will understand. Let me tell you know, I understand. And so do the millions of others living with anxiety.
It was after a tough few months in a controlling relationship that my nerves had had enough and I experienced what I now know to be a panic attack. The most horrible experience in the world. The severity of the attack caused a constant state of anxiety, which during the following months would be peppered with yet more panic attacks when I least expected it.
Night time was the worst. It's a lonely time at the best of times and I used to lie awake all night worrying about being ok for my show the next day. I was presenting for GMTV at the time and loved my job so much, yet I put even more pressure on myself as I feared failure or anyone spotting I was suffering in silence.
Three months of a cycle of panic attacks, insomnia, anxious feelings about the most trivial of things (I remember choosing my dinner off a menu caused one at the height of it) took its toll.
After yet another sleepless night, I arrived at ITV and dissolved into floods of tears in front of my co-presenter. It turns out it was the best thing I could have done as it was from this moment I asked for help. I felt very exposed and embarrassed, the stigma around mental health is wrong and unfair. My aim is to kick this stigma into touch.
I have so many people contacting me to say "they are me" and asking for help and advice. We all need to start talking, understanding and not judging others, it could so easily be you. Anxiety can happen to anyone.
I was fortunate to get some incredible life-changing help from a consultant psychiatrist, who really helped me understand what I was going through: talking therapies are essential in my opinion.
I am very proud, that in addition to my telly and journalistic work, I am a supporter of Mental Health Awareness Week 2014, a Childline Counsellor and I'm most proud to have proven that people living with mental health problems can beat them, having been the last girl standing and the only one off the 10m board in the recent series of ITV's Splash.