I have just finished my third shift this week on the helpline, I filled in today (Sunday 09/08/2015) as it is the Summer and people can`t always do their shifts. My usual shifts are Friday evenings and Saturday afternoons.
The people I speak to have Anxieties or Phobias, all have something that is making their daily lives more challenging than they should be. These are some of the most common symptoms of anxiety and panic. All of these symptoms can be very frightening, they are normal bodily functions but when anxiety takes them out of their proper use and time it is a shock to your body and you. These aren’t dangerous and won’t harm you, keep working on your breathing and let it happen. Don’t worry if one of your symptoms is not on the list and you may not have them all. You may only have one or two.
- Unshakable feelings of dread, apprehension, and irrational fears
- Heart palpitations
- Difficulty breathing or Hyperventilating
- Dizziness and feeling faint
- Chest pains and other symptoms similar to those of a heart attack
- Inability to concentrate
- Chills and perhaps hot flashes
- Dry mouth
- Sense of impending doom
- Stomach cramps, diarrhoea, nausea and other intestinal symptoms
- Muscle tension, aches and pains
- Pins and needles
- Excessive sweating
- Dry mouth
- Feeling unreal or suffering depersonalization
- Have you spoken to your GP?
- Offer to teach or go through the breathing exercise together. Not everyone wants to do it with me and so I always give them to option of listening and practicing with the webpages recording of it.
- Diet plays a part in how we feel, especially for those that miss breakfast or don`t eat correctly during the day as we often feel unwell when our sugar levels drop. Also caffeine is often a negative factor as i found myself in the past, so I now drink decaff when I can.
- Exercise is a good thing to do, even if for only ten minutes a day as if burns off the stress and brings on the feel good endorphins.
- I have to offer recovery groups or one to one mentoring.
- Relaxation should be encouraged and for me this is Tai chi, but it`s different for everyone.
I think one reason I chose to do it is because of our present climate of being labelled a `benefit scrounger` even when you have justified reasons for being on them. Yes I am disabled but there are things I can still do within my own home to help others.
People throw about the word `rewarding` willy nilly, and often I will nod and agree as I feel id be seen in a bad light if I didn`t to be honest, but it isn`t why I do it and no, it isn`t always rewarding; Challenging, humorous, distressing and irritating are words I could use, as I am no saint. What is rewarding is being able to make someone laugh towards the end of a call and them saying that I had helped and made them feel better.
The different age groups bring different reasons for their anxieties.
With young adults, we have this carefree view of them being out and about free and enjoying life in their youth, yet I have spoken to several that are suffering with panic attacks and anxiety, from Uni students, a boxer to a topless waiter to mention but a few. What we forget though is that it`s a time where everything changes and more is expected of them, voting, bills, relationships. Top this off with being under far more scrutiny than the previous generations; the added pressures of social media, Social isolation where they communicate by text instead of the spoken voice or in person; the magazine expectations of looks, weight and relationships can all be overwhelming. There are also the parental expectations to do well for their futures, and this can be exacerbated if they come out in their sexuality or date someone from another culture and these don`t meet those parental prospects.
When men ring they are often the ones most embarrassed that they are calling, and I find myself taking a different attitude when speaking to them because of it; I don`t make light of their feelings but do take a lighter tone in some ways so they are less ashamed. They use logic and just want to be armed with an understanding and the tools, this way they feel they regain the control to move forward and start to try and combat it.
Often a cry I hear when women ring is that their spouses don`t understand, they don`t support them or they get angry. One of the reasons for the helpline is this, as often with spouses it can a double edged sword. On one hand the sufferer wants to share, feel supported and for their spouse to understand them and how they feel. For the spouse it can be a time where they want to understand but they don’t, they don`t want to hear it every day to the exclusion of their own needs, and this invisible enemy is taking over their relationship and home life but they don`t understand it well enough to know what to do as they watch it`s erosion of the life they knew.
The ones that I find stay with me afterwards are the aged mid seventies and over, the old Ladies that cry and say they are frightened and no one visits them, they can be difficult, as once you have asked them the general questions all you can do is listen. Some get to you more than others but you feel for them, especially as most still miss their deceased spouse.
There are some that ring that have more than anxiety etc and have mental health problems where they have been sectioned or are on anti psychotic medication, this isn`t our field but I let them chat away. It can be a little Alice in Wonderland sometimes but that never bothers me.
I now recognise my `regulars` by voice and now greet them by name and listen to them, some have been ringing for ten years or more which is sad but these are often the `yes but………` crew, you can advice them, they already have more knowledge than most of us but will put barriers in the way to try and almost becomes a part of who they are. I do find these frustrating sometimes as I can`t understand why they don`t try but it is not for me to judge and I don`t.
The conditions are varied and it helps to know about each and what relevant information to give, though I am still learning about OCD and PTSD, though my Ex Sister in law was a huge help with one. The reasons are equally as varied, rape, accidents, loss of loved ones, domestic abuse, drink, drugs, losing children through divorce, loneliness, Isolation, a drink being spiked triggering a panic attack, illness, I`ve heard all these and more, but sometimes a panic attack just happens and frightens them so much they can`t shake the fear off.
The most re-occurring themes though are isolation and loneliness, both so debilitating that they affect their every being throughout each day. With too much time alone comes too much time to think, and this results in over analysing every emotion, thought or physical sensation and results in looping thoughts.
So after nine hours over three days this Sunday I felt mentally worn, some remained with me and I just needed to switch off with nothing too challenging, as for those hours I can`t go and do anything but be prepared, and be theirs. I understand them, I`ve been there, and I never had anyone like me or the volunteers when it happened to me, so it`s not a job, it`s more a vocation for me.
This is only my account of being a helpliner, but here are two more accounts: