The fight or flight anxious energy we once felt when hunting wild animals for food and protecting our families is one of the inbuilt reactions that has stayed with us during human evolution. While the situations we feel it in have changed, most people suffer from symptoms of anxiety from time-to-time due to the demands of the modern world.
It can make you feel upset, worried, shaky, light-headed, frustrated or that you are out of control. It also can bring on panic or anxiety attacks and leave you feeling physically sick.
Anxiety is something I’ve heard many people with myasthenia talking about, but my first experience came long before my diagnosis. What triggered it out of the blue is something I’m still not sure of but it was probably related to the long hours I was working as a journalist and with the other stressors at home. My life was hectic and I rarely stopped to relax. Out of the blue I started having panic attacks in the middle of the night, for a while every second or third night, and I felt completely out of control.
Thankfully, I figured out how to control it with breathing techniques and giving into what my body did during the attacks rather than fighting it.
Since having myasthenia, I’ve felt anxious sporadically but never to the same intensity. This is not everyone’s experience as many people develop anxiety after getting diagnosed with MG.
The other day I was looking into anxiety while at Childline and realised I was having some of the symptoms described above. I’ve also had a panicky feeling for the last while that I’ve forgotten something. The fear feels like something is sitting on my chest and has been waking me up in the middle of the night. Even if I have forgotten something, it’s definitely not worth the way I’ve been feeling.
After recognising this, I looked at anxiety and myasthenia. Many people were asking about it online and for drugs to treat it. I found the following interesting from this document on myasthenia and stress:
Anxiety from continual worry that new symptoms may appear; anticipation of day to day fluctuations in strength, or a fear of crises. Anticipation of medication side effects or potential long term side effects of steroids can also cause anxiety.
I can relate to this, particularly the bit about new symptoms and the potential long-term side effects of the medication causing anxiety.
The same document has advice on steps you can take to deal with stress but not anxiety. However Childline has a page on managing your anxiety with some useful advice including boosting your confidence, exercise, relaxation techniques and challenging the negative thoughts. Having tried some of these coping strategies, even if you are sceptical, I would recommend giving them a try. It is also worth speaking to your doctor about the anxiety.