Anxiety: My experience

I’m now a full time sports journalist but I’ve primarily led a dual life as a police communications officer and a radio football reporter since graduating with a journalism degree in 2005. These are challenging, pressured, public and enjoyable environments to work in. I’m happily married, have amazing friends and family, love walking, sport, films and more. I also live with anxiety.

I’ve probably always had some anxiety issues but was not consciously aware of it until my police job was at risk in 2013. I’ve always pushed myself and I like to do a good job but when our communications team was under review, I started to struggle, particularly when I was given a temporary, challenging managerial role.

Work started to be on my mind 24/7, thinking about and worrying about everything at work, which affected my personality at home. I struggled to sleep, waking up early and rolling around the same things in my head. I would work myself up, physically shaking, and really struggling to get out of bed. I increasingly worked longer hours but in reality, became less productive and less supportive of my colleagues. I didn’t feel I could take lunch breaks, I didn’t feel I could say anything due to fears for my job.

It was a good colleague of mine that saw I wasn’t right and one Friday pulled me to one side, telling me that she was referring me to our occupational health team. This was vital as I would undoubtedly had tried to keep going and getting myself into more difficulty.

Thankfully, after a period of absence, I managed to get myself back to work and landed a great role as part of a new structure. I thought I was fixed, enjoyed a more stable period but slowly over the next couple of years I started to worry more, put unnecessary pressure on myself, and started to work long hours again and see similar issues in terms of productivity and staff support. This time I recognised it and referred myself to occupational health but in reality again it was too late and I tried to go on for a number of weeks before a second period of absence.

It was at this point that a penny finally dropped and I realised that there are certain elements of my character that I needed to be more aware of and manage if I am to function, both as a person and as an employee. I’ve read some books, I take some medication, I’ve done counselling, I’ve developed some techniques to put into place when I feel anxious, I work my hours and I manage my leave much better to ensure I take regular breaks from work.

So some learning points from my experience…

  • If you think someone is struggling, talk to them.
  • If you think you’re struggling, talk to someone. A friend or loved one first, a professional second.
  • If you’re suffering from a mental health issue like anxiety, try not to think about being fixed, or right, or normal. For me it’s about accepting it and managing it. It doesn’t need to define you, or stop you, but being aware of your own mind is vital to a healthy and happy lifestyle.
  • Find an approach that works for you. There are lots of books, therapies, support groups, medicines available.

I’ll admit that I still suffer from anxiety but I’ve got myself to a place where I’m aware of it and look to manage it, as best as I can. No matter what your situation, you can too.

Adam Oxley