RitaRita’s Story

I have had one form of anxiety or another for as far back as I can remember. I was a chronic worrier from the age of around 5 or 6. I was then diagnosed at 14 with OCD and over the years have been in and out of anxious episodes and obsessive thinking patterns.

The last 7 years were pretty constant with what I guess is a generalized anxiety state. I suffered panic attacks and anxiety fairly constantly for those years. It was the bane of my existence! I also suffered terrible derealisation, which I’m very happy to say is gone! HURRAH! It’s a horribly underestimated pain in the backside for all sufferers, but so hard to explain that most of us keep quiet about it. IT DOES GO AWAY….I promise! In the last 2 years I have been on a journey that has taken me to a place where I finally feel the best I have done in many years. Having tried every therapy, fad and crazy so called solution, it all came back to good old CBT and meditation. I was able to conquer my OCD very easily as a young girl with CBT and I have made a huge difference to reducing the level of anxiety in the same way, but with Mindfulness Meditation included. I believe that I will always be an anxious person, but these days I choose (mostly!) to look at the situation as just that…a situation….and how I respond to that situation, will determine how much anxiety I in fact…bring upon myself. This comes from learning to meditate. Of course I have bad days, but they are so few and far between. I have the skills to look at the situation very differently these days and anyone suffering can also learn to do the same. You can change the way you feel in a split second if you know how to do it. Being an actress can have its challenges for an anxiety sufferer, but it can also be a wonderful way to face your anxiety head on and overcome it by doing so. Avoidance will never lead you anywhere helpful….no matter how tempting it seems. I was always told that the only reason we have anxiety is because we are highly intelligent people, who have the creativity and the depth to look so deeply into things…..not to say that all non-sufferers are dull as dishwater of course! They are just lucky! But take that wonderful, creative personality, and intelligence that you surely have, and put it to good use, by recovering and living a beautiful, contented life. Just like I’m doing now. 🙂 If I can overcome anxiety….anyone can. Don’t give up, you WILL NOT fail! Good luck everyone xxx

An Interview with Rita Simons

Best known for her starring role as Roxy Mitchell in BBC’s iconic soap EastEnders, Rita Simons has suffered with mental health issues from a very young age. No Panic recently caught up with one of country’s most loved actresses who has been touring the country in Legally Blonde the Musical. Sarah chatted with Rita about anxiety and how it has affected her life. Legally Blonde the Musical has been a huge success with most dates being complete sell-outs. It must be totally exhausting with seven shows a week. How do you manage to look after your mind and body with such a busy schedule? Absolutely, with the shows, rehearsals, interviews etc. there isn’t much time for anything else! I do try to be aware of eating healthily, even if I am eating my dinner at 11pm! I guess it is about prioritising too. Making sure my body gets the right fuels under such pressure is essential.

Do you get anxious before a show? Oh absolutely, it doesn’t matter how many times I go on stage, I get apprehensive every time. Live acting is very different to doing television or films. You always have the ‘what ifs’ in your mind, so yes the butterflies are there.

And how do you calm yourself down pre-show? Well I try and give myself about 30 minutes to prepare before the curtain goes up. I shut myself away in my dressing room and do a bit of mindfulness.

Do you find it easy to switch off after the shows? I’ve never been a great sleeper, I find it difficult to wind down and turn off my over-active brain. So over time I have tried and tested a few things. I have a bit of a routine now where I switch off social media etc. about half an hour before retiring, it’s so easy to get lost in time when connected. I have a shower to wash away the day’s stress, then make notes of things I have to remember for the following day. I like to fall asleep listening to relaxation music.

You were diagnosed with OCD at the age of 14, how has that affected your life? Over the years I seemed to be in and out of anxious episodes and obsessive thinking patterns. I suffered panic attacks and anxiety fairly constantly for those years. It was the bane of my existence! I also suffered terrible derealisation. It was hard, these things weren’t spoken about then like they are now and help wasn’t easily available.

What kind of therapies/help have you tried? I think I tried every therapy, fad and crazy so called solution that ever existed! In the end it all came back to good old CBT and meditation. I was able to conquer my OCD very easily as a young girl with NBT and I have made a huge difference to reducing the level of anxiety in the same way, but with Mindfulness Meditation included. I believe that I will always be an anxious person, but these days I choose (mostly!) to look at the situation as just that…a situation….and how I respond to that situation, will determine how much anxiety I in fact…bring upon myself. This comes from learning to meditate. Of course I have bad days, but they are so few and far between. I have the skills to look at the situation very differently these days and anyone suffering can also learn to do the same. You can change the way you feel in a split second if you know how to do it. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. I would also say, there is no better time than now. Anxiety can be controlled, If I can do it….anyone can. Don’t give up, you WILL NOT fail!

What is the one piece of advice that helped you, that you would you give to anyone suffering from anxiety/OCD? Avoidance will never lead you anywhere helpful….no matter how tempting it seems. Facing what you fear is the only way to overcome the problem. Don’t put it off either. The sooner you start on the road to recovery the better.

5 Comments

  1. I too have suffered with generalised anxiety disorder my whole adult life (I’m 37) however since removing alcohol from my life completely I have improved beyond my wildest dreams.

    The only downside I have now is that when I took alcohol away my eating disorder returned with a vengeance. I tried to beat this on my own but eventually had to give in to my psychiatrist and go back on prozac.

    I So wish I could have a life without tablets but my docs think it’s unfair to put my family through my moods and despair. So I take the tablets for them (my girls are 3 & 6).

    I feel like I’ll never have an ordinary life as my feelings are numbed but for my children I’m happy and stable. Maybe one day…

  2. I have suffered for years and it’s getting worse, not sure what to do. Tried cbb but they sent me away saying I left the house so wasn’t that bad I just hate feeling this way, I avoid things all the time or if I do go somewhere don’t always enjoy it

  3. I have suffered anxiety my whole life it’s a horrible thing to go through I’m always panicking every day and sometimes I can’t control when it happens I’m always having panic attacks one day I had about 5 panic attacks in one day! (Not exaggerating) I now have to be on an inhaler to control my breathing for anxiety because I’m so breathless and feel faint and like I’m about to pass out which I have done once! (Thank god I haven’t done it since!) but one day I will show this anxiety who’s boss and if Rita can do it we all can!

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