Mental Health Awareness: Notes from a Mental Health Nurse

Words: Notes from a Mental Health Nurse
Illustrations: Liv Auckland

To celebrate the launch of our new mental health awareness and advice column, which begins in June, allow us to introduce the second part of the new feature: Notes from a Mental Health nurse. Each month, our anonymous mental nurse, who has over two decades on experience working in Nottingham, will deal with a specific mental health issue with practical, accessible advice... 

Dry mouth, tingling hands, tight chest, need the loo…. Am I having a heart attack? No, it’s anxiety. That’s what I’ve been telling myself as I’ve tried to write this. I’m out of my comfort zone; it’s new, feels a bit awkward. I remind myself that anxiety is normal, human life would never have existed if we had remained calm and relaxed. The problem is, why do I feel anxious in the absence of any real threat?

It’s understandable when you get off the night bus and think you’re being followed. All that released adrenalin helps you fight (not advisable) or leg it away from the perceived threat. But writing for the LeftLion about anxiety when it’s your day to day job? Get a grip: that should not cause anxiety.

I meet people with anxiety every day. They have usually battled with it for years on their own, hiding away their worries. Often lonely and isolated and feeling that the anxiety has ruled their lives and they have no control. Most have used alcohol to self-medicate, “It’s a great calmer, Dutch courage before a night out…. steadies my nerves”. Sadly this only avoids dealing with the root problem and adds a layer of complication. Soon people need a drink before work, college, a date; they lose sight of the real person trapped inside.

What to do? Admit you’re not okay, even if it's just to yourself, is enough to start with. When you get used to that, then read about anxiety or talk to a friend or colleague, a school or college/Uni tutor, a support worker - anyone you can connect with. The Mind website has great fact sheets, not much jargon and sensible advice. Your GP/Practise Nurse/Midwife/School or Uni Counsellor can listen and help too.

You can manage anxiety and learn to control it. Knowledge is power, so don’t let it control you.

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