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issue-134

“Crafting helps me control my panic attacks”

Beccy Holiday from Kent suffers from Panic Disorder and Generalised Anxiety Disorder – but crafting has truly become her happy place…

“Crafting helps me control my panic attacks”

I had my first panic attack in 2010 when I was 30, as I was getting on a plane for our first family holiday abroad. I ended up being offloaded, along with the family, and taken to hospital. I thought at the time this was a one-off, having flown lots of times before, and didn’t think much else of it except for being disappointed that our holiday was cancelled. A few weeks later I had another panic attack at a concert. A few weeks after that, at a shopping centre… all getting closer and closer to home.

From then on I started to fear the panic and that’s when my problems really started; my world got so small that I struggled to leave the house. I would constantly be anxious about my anxiety and the ‘what ifs’ and so my Generalised Anxiety Disorder started; the fear of fear. It’s a vicious cycle.

For me, my anxiety manifests itself in heart palpitations (which can feel like you’re having a heart attack), hot sweats and a funny tummy, but also a feeling that I’m ‘going mad’ – although I don’t know what that is exactly. My mind whirs at a thousand miles an hour and my thoughts consume me. Will I be able to get to my daughters’ weddings? They’re nine and 11. What happens if…? Am I holding my family back? Are the kids missing out because we can’t go away anywhere?

As the months went on, it got worse and worse. While I was spending all this time at home, I’d browse Facebook and see these lovely crafty pages and think… I can make that. And so crafting began! I bought a Cricut Explore initially and now I also have the Cricut Maker, a Gemini and Big Shot all in constant use. I make cards, papercuts and scrapbook layouts, and have recently started using a MAMBI Happy Planner, which is just an excuse for adults to play with stickers. It’s awesome.

In the last 18 months I’ve become more aware of mindfulness. To use a sea analogy – crafting helps to keep the waves of anxiety moving rather than me getting stuck in the wave and tossed about. Recently I was suffering from a terrible panic attack, so I put a YouTube video on and learnt to crochet a mandala! Concentrating on how to do the stitches helped me stop focusing on the negative thoughts and feelings in my body. I’m now on my third mandala – each one represents me overcoming the panic and being a little bit more in control again.

I’d absolutely recommend anyone and everyone to take up a craft. A few weeks ago I was suffering and hadn’t created anything for a while so I put a post on my Instagram saying that my mental health wasn’t great. My crafting friends – none of whom I know in real life – were so incredibly supportive. On my own private feed of my ‘real life’ friends, not a single person acknowledged my struggle.

I have a long way to go until I’m back to the old me, and perhaps I never will be, but I hope that this won’t continue to control me forever. I can only be hopeful that this is just a blip – albeit a ten-year blip – and my life will return to normal.

Thank you for sharing your story, Beccy. If you need help or advice, visit nhs.uk

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