Anxiety. Back when I was a child I’d never heard of it and I remember my Mum saying things about distant relatives suffering with their nerves and not really understanding what that meant.
I remember feeling nervous when I did anything like start a new school year, go to another class to pass a teacher’s message on but the thing that really made be panic was not having my asthma inhaler with me at all times. An 8 year old lying awake worrying about how to keep it safe while going on a school trip. It sounds ridiculous but this was my reality, while other kids were thinking about puppies, Lego and how many Hula Hoops they could fit on their toes I couldn’t stop the butterflies or the funny feeling in my stomach. Of course, back then I thought this was normal, that everyone felt like this and when we went to swimming gala’s at school or into exams and my friends said they felt nervous and had butterflies this made it seem so.
I didn’t want to stand out or be different but I was, while everyone else was full of confidence I’d be the one not speaking til I was spoken to or hiding in a corner so I wouldn’t be noticed. Things that trigger anxiety are different for everyone, now the majority of posts I write are written with humour and I will do so here too, that’s not to say that I think anxiety is funny but laughter is what gets me through when I think nothing else can.
I want to go out, I’ve planned it for ages but I’m also hoping a random freak accident involving an elephant might happen so I can get out of it. It’s a constant battle between feeling jealous that other people do things and wanting to do those things and be invited but also at the same time feeling safe that I’m at home in my jim jams not out there doing the things, with the people.
I’ve been so nervous I’ve puked on the shoes I painstakingly chose especially for this exact occasion, if I could just stop breathing so fast for a moment, I could catch my breath but for me anxiety causes nausea, nausea causes vomiting, vomiting causes anxiety. Since having Hyperemesis the thought of, talking about or the act of vomiting fills me with dread. You know that cold, cold, creeping feeling that makes the blood run from your face and out the soles of your feet? It starts like that and suddenly I can’t think straight. My heart is pounding like the Jumanji drums and wherever I am, I need to be somewhere else and have to fight that feeling away if it’s just not possible to get up and run because I also don’t want every eye in the room on me while I try to escape. But then I also feel like it’s happening to someone else and I’m a spectator, it’s not really happening to me at all.
Nobody told me anxiety flushes were a thing, do I just let everyone think I’m having an early menopause and laugh it off? Do I let them think I’m just perma boiling and likely to erupt at a moment’s notice? Why for the love of god am I so red when everyone else is whinging they’re cold and wrapping their cardi tighter? It’s because I’m feeling stressed, I can try to hide it all I want but my body will betray me every time. On the plus side I get free blusher, on the down side whenever I’m internally freaking out I look like I’ve been secretly rogering Tom Hardy in the stationery cupboard.
Automatically thinking a blanket email is about me. Even if it says could the guy who keeps leaving dick imprints in the office butter please refrain from doing so. Nobody likes a pube and cheese sandwich. Can’t have been me, cos vagina but you can bet your buttery bollocks I’ll spend all afternoon worrying HR are coming for me.
Noise. Oh the noise. Make it stop. Sometimes if I’ve had a hard day at work I come home and as I walk through the door the noise hits me and I can’t cope with it. The TV’s blasting shitty house music, the kids are screaming at each other and my fella is shouting over the top in his big, booming Daddy Pig voice and I want to hide in the cupboard in the dark and quiet before my head pops off. It can be absolutely exhausting and some days it’s a struggle just to keep your head up and not dribble down your chest because when your body is on high alert something is going to give at some point.
The one thing that really makes me bounce off the ceiling is lateness. Either the possibility of me being late or someone else being late if they are meeting me for something really sends me potty. In this case anxiety makes me angry, I get really ragey, I pace up and down. I scream and shout. The thought of walking into a cinema or theatre late and doing the whole sorry, excuse me, thing in the dark makes me heave like Chunk in The Goonies. It’s far more likely I’ll turn around and go home and spend all evening shouting at myself in my head.
When I had my first child, anxiety meant I couldn’t get on a bus, the thought of having to put down a pram down in front of people – they were hulking pigs of things back 20 odd years ago that needed a masters in engineering to put up and down, what if I naffed it up? What if I bent down and farted? What if I dropped the baby on it’s head? The thought of it was obviously going to be far worse than the reality and sounds absolutely ridiculous writing it but it meant instead of getting the bus I’d walk the several miles to town and back to avoid it, this was the reason that despite being a single parent I somehow scraped the money together to learn to drive. Which dragged up a whole new scenario to be anxious about.
If I have to drive somewhere I haven’t been before I can’t just get in the car and go like some people seem to. I have to plan it all out, I’ll get on Google Maps and look at the route, find out where I can park, do the street view of the car park to see what it looks like because if I don’t I won’t go, that simple. I hate driving, it’s a necessity to me but I haven’t ever enjoyed it.
I’m not saying I accept and welcome my anxiety, I’m saying that I accept that this is part of me and rather than try and hide from or deny it I can accept it for what it is and find my ways of coping. For me, most of my support has come in talking to people who also suffer, who, whilst fighting their own battles will try and shine some light and offer support and ideas that help them in some form. Other things I’ve tried include:
- Medication, there is no shame in asking for help, or taking medication that helps you cope and manage your anxiety. I spent years fighting this thing before realising actually this isn’t right, I shouldn’t be an everyday thing, I shouldn’t feel like this constantly.
- CBD oil I found this and still find it helpful in making me feel calmer and when I feel calmer I cope with my triggers better.
- Mindfulness. Something that really helps is reminding myself what the worst thing that could happen is, challenge it and remind myself how unlikely that is. Stopping for a moment and breathing, in through the nose and out through the mouth, just to take some focus and ground myself. Living in the moment instead of focusing on what was or could be in the future.
There is no magic cure, good god can you imagine how rich you’d be if you could come up with one? But for now I can accept it for what it is and know that it passes.