Let’s face it I have been pretty much an open book about many things in the last year. Prior to that, I probably (definitely) should have been a lot more open about the struggles I was dealing with inside my head. Rather than turn to Hubby, family or friends I bottled it all up thinking it would go away. Turns out that it doesn’t actually work that way. I also didn’t want to be seen as needy, dramatic or even weird. And of course I didn’t want to be judged.
Anxiety is really sucky like that, and coupled with a healthy dose of depression undermining any actual healthy thoughts I might have had that I was loved, worthwhile, needed (as opposed to needy!) and supported, I bottled it all up.
Anyway, there are probably a few things I might not have shared with you about Anxiety and me. It is something I live with everyday, I think I am getting much better at managing it, maybe. I guess I had really get used to it because it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere in any sort of a hurry. I am not sharing any of this to garner sympathy from anyone. This is more by way of an explanation to you from me to perhaps explain why I maybe do some of the things I do and help you to understand that disconnect between my head, heart and body that happens sometimes.
So here goes:
1. It affects me on a physical level but you can’t always see that.
This usually starts with me getting really, really hot. Kind of like a flush you might get if you are embarrassed, I just keep getting hotter and hotter, the hotter I get the more my mind starts going a little bit crazy. I start to panic what is wrong; is everyone else hot; is it just me; am I going mad? Then the more my mind heads off into crazy town my heart starts to race and I can feel that it is getting really hard to breathe, my chest is tightening and my hands are getting really clammy and my fingers will start to tingle. The only things that you might notice is I might start fanning myself, I might shake my hands like you might do if you are shaking water off, I might even kind of push on my chest. If you weren’t looking out for these things you wouldn’t necessarily know unless I get particularly bad. I think I am getting a little bit better at slowing down my breathing which helps calm all the other physical symptoms. Of course this doesn’t really help with my brain that is well and truly lost in crazy town, I eventually find my way out though.
2. Leaving the house can be ridiculously hard!
Part of the problem with this one is a lot of leaving the house revolves around my memory and given I don’t have that day-to-day continuity this is harder than you think! Every week I have to do this when the transport comes to pick me up for my appointment, these guys have been picking me up for nearly a year now so they really know who I am, but I wouldn’t know them if I fell over them in the street. This is also the case with some friends too. It isn’t that I don’t know you it is just that sometimes especially if you have changed your hair or you know had botox since the point in time I remember you I can just be a little taken aback. Plus home is my safe place! I can control things here I know where my loo is, I am not going to run into anyone that I don’t remember or that perhaps you don’t know so can’t place for me. I can be me at home because I feel safe. Even though it is ridiculously hard I try to do it with the least amount of fuss for everyone else, just be patient with me if I seem to be dragging the chain on occasion.
3. Sometimes I can look completely together when in fact I am falling apart on the inside.
I will do everything I absolutely can to hold it together when I am out in the real world. You may not even notice. I will be chatty, I will make small talk, I try not to talk too much but I know I do this especially when I am getting nervous or anxious. I try to sit and absorb things so that I can work out who is who and who belongs to whom! Remember I forget how grown up my kids are so for me seeing your kids can sometimes be really overwhelming. So there can be a huge cost for me doing all of this and that is all those physical things I described earlier they are going on inside and when I get home I can really fall apart. The challenge for me is balancing the desire to watch my kids do their things; hang out with friends and the cost that this might mean for me later. Usually I will go because you know FOMO but sometimes I will decide to stay at home. That is not at all personal it is just that I know me being there could be a drag for everyone.
4. It isn’t always there.
While I live with anxiety every day, sometimes it goes on a little holiday. The thing is I never really know when it will return. I can’t say that I really know my triggers from day-to-day (memory and all that!) so what may be absolutely fine today could send me into a full-blown panic attack tomorrow. I try to make the most of it when I do have a reprieve.
5. It can make me over think everything, question every decision, and make me feel very needy.
This kind of goes hand in had with my depression. I think it is really fairly self-explanatory, what I want you to know is that I HATE feeling like this more than anything. I don’t want to feel anymore useless than I already do and I really hate having to rely on everyone to get me through. This can make me feel incredibly awkward person ever. I am certain I am talking too much or dominating the conversation, or doing the wrong thing or saying the wrong thing you get the picture!
6. Big groups can overwhelm me like you wouldn’t believe.
In fact they really are my worst nightmare. I would probably guess that most of you wouldn’t even know this because often I can walk into a room and own it, and my family would say I love being the centre of attention but honestly I am dying inside. I carry on like that because I AM DYING INSIDE and I do stupidly awkward things! Once I was in NZ we were out to dinner with people we had met maybe 24hrs earlier on a Contiki Ski Trip in Queenstown. I have worn a white cotton knit jumper out (you know the ones that were in fashion mid 90’s oversized off the shoulder etc!) We had just had our red wine poured out and I insisted on sitting in the middle of the table “so that I could be the centre of attention!” a friend proclaimed waving her arms about and proceeded to knock over a glass (more like half a bottle) of red wine in my direction I sat there stunned covered from my hairline to my knees, it was dripping off my eyelashes. I honestly didn’t know what to do but clearly I got my wish (kind of not really!) The best part about that is that today there would be photographic evidence of this, but then we just had to hope we remembered (or forgot as I desperately hoped!) Walking into a room where there are a lot of people and by a lot I can mean anything more than maybe 10 sends me into a bit of a spin. I look around and start to get into a panic. Especially when I walk in and can’t find anyone I know or I walk in with no purpose. The big group doesn’t even need to be people I don’t know a group of family of more than 10 can set my heart racing. Again if I make a beeline for the loo it isn’t personal it is simply self-preservation!
7. I really do like hanging out with people.
You might think that from all of this that I don’t want to see anyone and would be quite content in a cave on a mountaintop as long as I had my Internet never seeing anyone ever again. I just want you to know I really do like hanging out with you and really do love to see you. Sometimes I am up to going out, sometimes I will change plans at the last minute but I will still want to hang out with you. I hope that you can understand that I am not trying to be a pest if I talk too much, or I insist that I need to go home right then, or cancel on you at the last minute. Hopefully most of the time you won’t even notice how awkward I am or am feeling. If you do or I do start to freak out all I really need you to do is listen or just be there for me nothing else. What’s that saying “this too shall pass” at least I hope so!