I live with anxiety, and no, that isn’t a nickname for my husband, the kids or the fur balls,. No, anxiety is the annoying squatter I have living inside my head who is never short of reasons why I shouldn’t do some stuff and can’t do others. Sometimes anxiety needs a good bitch slap right down.
She doesn’t always have the upper hand, I do fight and rail against this pest, but sometimes I run out of energy; and when that happens, just like any opportunistic predator, she’ll come stalking and prey on my weakness.
I first became aware of it about three months after I was assaulted many, many years ago now. For a while I just closed up completely, didn’t go out, didn’t do anything, and had no desire to alter this. Then after a time, I found that I wanted to reconnect with people and go out, but I couldn’t, the idea of venturing beyond my front door was terrifying. There wasn’t any logical thought to it, I didn’t consciously think “I’m going to be attacked again” but the emotion was all there; racing heart, iron bars round my chest, chains round my ankles. It was more than debilitating, but eventually we came to a compromise of sorts, which was enough at the time.
Luckily I am nothing if not stubborn and utterly pig headed. I am not putting myself down here, I am proud as punch of this, and wear my Saturnine stubbornness like a badge of honour, because being pig headed is what gets me through, its why anxiety won’t permanently get the upper hand. She’s come close though.
Close but no cigar. The worst was after my first son was born, I am loath to call it PND because I had depression during the pregnancy – it was completely due to juggling other massive external stresses, nothing to do with the pregnancy, if anything the pregnancy was a little internal lifeline.
After he was born though, with those other stresses still in place, plus a newborn to look after, plus hormones, I was vulnerable, and anxiety and depression really set their claws in. At it’s very worst I could have been talking to you whilst simultaneously planning family funerals and writing obituaries inside my head. I had a video loop running 24/7 of one disaster after another playing inside my mind.
My son would be snatched; his pram would be crushed by a car, he would fall out of his pram and be carried away by a torrential river, he would fall down the stairs, get sick, die. It always ended with death, first him, then everyone I loved, one at a time, one after another. So I planned funerals; and I could have been talking to you about getting groceries while all this went on inside my head because there was just no escape, at any time it was constant
This is why it’s important that I am pig headed, because the best way of dealing with anxiety isn’t actually a bitch slap, no matter how damn well satisfying the image is. For me, the best way of dealing with it is stealth, and persistence, point blank, stonewall refusal to give in, ever, no matter how hard it gets.
I started small, getting out of bed was sometimes the most difficult thing I did all day. Difficult to go out the front door? I fought this by merely going into the garden, I’d make sure I fed the birds every day, as it gave my going outside a purpose beyond dealing with my own internal issues. From there, it wasn’t much of a stretch to bringing a cup of coffee outside with me before racing back indoors, and so the fight back began.
I don’t think it will ever get as bad as that again. The perfect storm of big major events that all happened at the same time was unlikely to happen once, never mind twice, and if that didn’t break me, nothing will.
It doesn’t stop anxiety trying though, she always will. Every now and again there are bad spells, where I close down a little. The idea of going out with more than one friend at a time makes my chest tighten, setting up (not delivering) a powerpoint presentation at work has beads of sweat trickling down my back every time, and I feel like shying away from big events, even if it’s something I’m interested in because of the anxiety during the build up.
The build up really sucks, I know I’m never really going to “look forward to things,” at least not in the usual sense, but if I can keep faith with myself, I know I will at best cope and maybe even enjoy myself I won’t regret trying, not will I stop
It’s a big deal admitting that this is as much a part of me as anything else, it feels like weaknesss, but that is a lie. You have to be so strong to live with this interloper.
The thing is not to stop, never give in, never give up. Go on the weekend away, go to the concert, have the party, apply for the job, send your manuscript to a publisher.
I am strong. I’ve got this. 🙂