When Caroline Foran started suffering from stomach problems a few years ago, she blamed it on everything from having a “dicky tummy” to the tap water in her new home.
What she didn’t realise was that her physical health was suffering because of anxiety and her body was sending her early warning signs. “It was trying to tell me you need to take a step back,” she said, “I just ignored it, I didn’t want to admit the anxiety and then eventually it graduated into the most earth shattering anxiety.”
Caroline was Ryan Tubridy’s guest on Tuesday, where she spoke about her new book, Owning it: Your Bullsh*t-Free Guide to Living with Anxiety.
As she explained, she struggled to accept that she had anxiety as there was no traumatic experience to pin it on. She was unhappy in her new job but otherwise life was good. She had a new boyfriend and a good group of friends.
“It felt like, what’s wrong with me? Everyone else has stressful jobs and are handling so much more stress…I have everything going really well for me so why can’t I just get it together?”
“For me it was a very physical feeling of being on fire, flames burning through my chest and this overwhelming feeling of wanting to just get as far away as possible,” she said, “I had pains in my gums from clenching my teeth.”
Caroline’s anxiety worsened to the point where she quit her job and turned to her parents for support. “It was really hard to be able to come and say ‘listen, I’m not ok’,” she said. It was also a difficult situation to address in her new relationship.
“I just moved in with my boyfriend, we were relatively new in a relationship and up until then he thought I was this cool easy breezy girlfriend and suddenly I was not able to leave the house.”
However, her boyfriend was “beyond brilliant”. “Something that really made a difference for me was instead of him not saying ‘look, you’ll get through this,’ he said ‘we’re going to get through this.”
Caroline said she wrote the book in the hope that mental health can soon be talked about in the same way as physical health. There is no quick fix, she said, but accepting that anxiety is a part of life can help. She referenced a TED talk by Professor Kelly McGonigal which helped her to understand it.
“Really what matters is not the presence of stress and anxiety in your body but your perception of it. So instead of trying to live a life stress-free or anxiety free, what if I work at changing my perception of it…When I decided, okay, maybe I should just accept it and make it work for me rather than against me, that’s when I started to turn a corner.”
You can listen back to the full interview here.
Owning it: Your Bullsh*t-Free Guide to Living with Anxiety by Caroline Foran is published by Hachette Ireland
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