Anna Williamson is a TV presenter, regularly featuring on Daybreak, This Morning and Nickelodeon. She experienced anxiety and panic attacks for many years and, having been through the daunting process of seeking help herself, hopes to encourage others to do the same. Anna has recently released her new book "Breaking Mad", to do just that.
Ten years ago, I found myself in the grips of a crippling anxiety disorder. Until then, I had no idea what that even meant, let alone how it was supposed to feel. At the time I was presenting a number one ITV kids’ television show, Toonattik – a job I absolutely loved and valued.
However, due to a concoction of stress building up due to a tricky relationship, a pressured and extremely energetic job which required a smile plastered on my face at all times, and a general inability to talk about my feelings to anyone, I imploded. Big time.
"I can remember the day IT happened as clear as anything."
I hadn’t slept for what seemed like months, I felt like a rabbit caught in the headlights, almost drifting along on autopilot not belonging to my own body or mind, petrified with every move and decision I had to make …
Even having to choose between ’diet’ or ‘fat’ coke seemed like an exam interrogation … it was like I was existing through a fog, as though I wasn’t quite ‘present’ in anything.
I don’t know about you, but for me, there’s perhaps nothing quite as exposing or mortifying as crying in public, it’s just so damn cringey.
"We have this oddly programmed mentality to not show our emotions for fear of being labelled ‘weak’ or it being embarrassing..."
And it doesn’t help when people seem to shuffle awkwardly and run a mile when faced with a weeping walrus.
To be fair I am not a pretty crier – I seem to produce enough snot and general facial secretions to rival a tantruming toddler.
"That day I was feeling frazzled with insomnia, anxiety, stabbing chest pains and a foggy mush of a brain."
I dragged myself into the TV studios to record another high-octane show, when something inside just snapped, and the months of fighting back tears burst like a dam. And suddenly they flowed … and flowed.
"All it took for this release was a simple yet concerned ‘Anna are you OK?’ from a passing colleague."
It was like a key had unlocked months of pent-up worry, frustration, self-doubt and anxiety, and wow, it felt good to let it just spill out.
Not initially, mind you. Being quietly smuggled into the back of a cab, and sent home until I ‘felt better’ felt all too odd and surreal.
But the three weeks off work and talking therapy that followed, and some short-term anti-anxiety medication to help me finally sleep, proved to be life changing.
"That ‘meltdown’ was a sharp wake-up call to learn what anxiety was, who I was, what I wanted in life – and crucially, what I didn’t want."
My subsequent journey learning how to counteract the signs of anxiety and find balance has led me, ten years later, to writing this book.
In the years that followed my ‘meltdown’, I studied and trained myself, in a mission of self-discovery, and now with counselling, life coaching and NLP qualifications in my toolkit, it’s great to be able to share with you the anxiety-busting skills, tips and techniques I’ve tried and tested.
"Talking about anxiety can be the most terrifying thing to contemplate, I appreciate that, but it really shouldn’t be."
In my experience both personally, and as a TV and radio agony aunt and life coach, taking the first step to say ‘help’ is the most empowering thing you can do.
In Breaking Mad, I’ll be sharing some of my personal anxiety experiences to help give some context and clarity, and tips and techniques I’ve personally used and developed with my clients, to cope with some of the most common symptoms, and typical situations in which anxiety can present.
So, help is at hand my friend, I hope you find this book enlightening, and here’s to kicking anxiety into touch.
Breaking Mad: The Insider’s Guide to Conquering Anxiety is published by Bloomsbury and available from all good bookshops. Read more about it on Amazon.
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