I thought I’d come at you with something a little more… open, than I have done before. I’m pretty frightened to be vulnerable and tell it how it really is sometimes, for the reasons so many of us are frightened to speak about MH as a whole – What if I’m judged, what if people think I’m attention seeking, what if I make an idiot of myself; what if-what if- what if.
After a while, I drain myself just thinking of all the possible scenarios; all the horrible things people might say or think, and I decide it’s better to just scratch the surface and leave it at that. It’s safer that way, I’m less vulnerable that way, people are less likely to say something horrible. The truth is though, ‘scratching the surface’ is all well and good, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. It leaves out all the messy bits to ‘save’ other people having to ‘deal’ with them. It’s not doing yourself justice. At least that’s how I feel about myself. So I wanted to take the time to really sit down and talk through what it’s like to live with anxiety. My personal experience.
Here goes. *dons brave-girl-undercrackers*
Anxiety is not just fear. It’s paranoia, it’s panic, it’s endless negative & intrusive thoughts. It’s not being able to relax, it’s not being able to sleep or enjoy things fully. It’s expecting and bracing for the worst. It’s isolation, it’s alienating yourself, it’s insecurity. It’s not being able to breathe. It’s feeling pathetic and useless and not good enough. & do you know what’s bizarre?! Mostly, you can’t see it. Outsiders have no idea, because I look normal. I still, for the most part, do my hair and makeup, get dressed and look normal. & I really do try to act normal. The last thing I ever want to do is draw attention to myself, that’s pretty much my worst nightmare *shudders*
I’ve often described it as like having someone on your back – or sat on your shoulder. This ‘someone’ constantly tells you how awful you are, how people don’t like you; how you’ll fail or fuck up, how you can’t do something, that you don’t deserve anything. This ‘someone’ makes you frightened to leave the house or go to work. To get on a bus, or make a phone call. To be comfortably yourself with even the very closest people to you. Sometimes this voice drowns out your own and you’re left wondering if this is your voice now. You just start to believe everything it tells you.
It’s worse at night. It’s awful in the morning. It’s worse the day before work, it’s worse at work. It’s worse before an event, it can be even worse during an event – a family do, a meal, a concert. New people are a no-go and groups, let alone crowds, are a massive struggle. I remember coming home in the Summer, knowing that there was going to be a houseful of people and a BBQ going on. I was petrified. I thought of every excuse in the book not to be there, only to come up with nothing, go into a blind panic within ten seconds of being through the door, and hid in my room the entire afternoon/evening. I didn’t eat, I didn’t talk. I was paranoid that I’d come across rude & unsociable, but I didn’t care.
In fact, I spend so much of my time being paranoid about what others might or might not think or say. It’s why I’ve isolated myself so much – if I believe someone doesn’t like me or has judged me or said something horrible, then it’s easier for me to avoid them, to not face them at all. My paranoia isn’t always unfounded – people have been horrible, some people don’t like me, some people do judge me. But I’m pretty sure that’s normal, and it’s not on the scale my brain – or the someone-on-my-shoulder – would have me believe. Truth is, I’m not rude or unsociable – I want nothing more than to be a part of things and function socially like a ‘normal’ human; I just… struggle. A lot.
I can’t always pinpoint exactly what it is that my triggers are. I know that social interactions & people are a huge thing for me, & if places (shops etc) are too busy I tend to panic. I don’t always like to go out for meals or to bars, because I’m too wary of other people. I won’t even go downstairs at home sometimes if I know there are too many people – or new people. I’m sort of nervous for myself for no apparent reason, always on edge. There can be times when I’ll be anxious for days and weeks, or just an hour or so. There are times when I can overcome it, and times when I’m too scared to even try.
I’ll find myself getting into a state over the silliest things – do you ever have those moments where you step out of yourself almost, and you’re like… what the fuck are you doing? What is wrong with you? I’ll burn the dinner and have a meltdown about it. I’ll get in a tizz over answering the phone or the front door, or taking a tram. I’ll convince myself not to go out because something might happen. Other times, all those things will be second nature & I won’t think a jot about them. It’s just bloody exhausting.
It’d be fair to say I don’t always reach out. I get ‘the guilt’. The not wanting to bother anyone or burden them with my shit, because what can they do anyway?! Plus I can’t always explain it and I don’t always want to try. So as you might imagine, it’s mostly been easier to put up and shut up. I got tired pretty quickly of hearing ‘everyone gets nervous/anxious’, ‘we all have our problems’ and ‘man up’. You’re sorta made to feel like you’re self-indulging and being dramatic. I’ve wanted to scream YOU’RE NOT EVEN TRYING TO GET IT YOU RAGING ASS HAT.
My mechanisms for ‘coping’ haven’t always been… the best. Again, this is where I feel vulnerable and not entirely able to share openly, but what I will say is, I haven’t been the kindest to myself. I go into ‘self-destruct’ mode and I’m quite content – in those moments – not to give a shit about myself. That said, mostly I really do try hard to help myself. I’m currently on medication, and I have a new doctor who’s already been 100x more helpful than my last one. I talk and ask for help when I feel like I can, & I blog about it too – which is probably the best thing I could do, and something I 100% should do more of. I’m also surrounded by some of the very best humans – my boyfriend & pals are blinkin’ splendid, and I’d definitely be lost without my Grandad’s bear hugs. Top tip: Ditch the toxic/negative non-do-gooders.
I guess the point of this post is to show a little of the reality of what anxiety is like – rather than just sitting here and saying ‘oh I suffer with anxiety, it’s a bit shit’, I wanted to be real. It’s scares the absolute undercrackers off me and I can tell you that I’m looking at the publish button like it’s the scariest thing I’ve ever seen… but I wanted to do this.
If you suffer with anxiety, I’m gonna pop some links below that might be of help. If you need a friend, I’ll be one. If you want my advice? Talk to someone – ask for a hand when you feel able to; a doctor, a therapist, a friend, a grandparent, a partner. You do not need to suffer in silence. You’ll be ok. We’re in this together.
If you got to the end of this I commend you! You’ve been marvellous and mint. This has been the hardest post to write – and yet the easiest. Not so easy to publish though.
Be kind, chaps!
Huge big snoggingtons,
Elefriends – set up by MIND, “Elefriends is a supportive online community where you can be yourself. We all know what it’s like to struggle sometimes, but now there’s a safe place to listen, share and be heard.” – You can remain anonymous if you wish, make friends and just be honest. Everyone is in the same boat!