After I was diagnosed with “severe anxiety” I resigned myself to a lifetime of panic attacks and mood swings. Once I did that, I stopped having them.
Okay, it’s only been about three weeks since I last broke down in hyperventilating hysterics for no real reason at all, so I hardly think I’m “cured”. But it turns out that things get much easier once you stop beating yourself up about something and start showing yourself compassion.
I stopped telling myself I needed to stop being so ridiculous, and let myself relax. I stopped panicking that I was about to start panicking, and accepted that I probably would at some point, but it would be okay and that I didn’t need to worry about it before it happened. I accepted that I was ill, and I started treating myself more like somebody who needed a bit of help. I went to bed early, I stopped insisting that all my time be productive, I stopped making myself do things I didn’t want to do.
Once I noticed how good this felt I started doing it in other areas of my life.
I’ve had a couple of panic attacks this week and both (at least partly) took place at the gym. I learnt a valuable lesson here about the answers always being more complicated than I pretend they are (I have to re-learn this on a regular basis). I had been counting down to the gym re-opening as though it would solve all my mental health problems. True, I always do feel better when I exercise, and the gym can often give me some much needed structure, but obviously it’s never that easy.
The gym I go to used to be an LA Fitness Gym, but has re-opened following a refurbishment as a Pure Gym. It’s taking me a little while to adjust to the changes, and some of the things that they’ve changed have made using the gym a pretty anxious experience for me.
[Trigger warnings for mental health]
Yesterday, I spent 40 minutes answering questions about my life, my habits, my thoughts, and my feelings. I was more honest than I am with most of my family and friends. At the end of the appointment I was told that I am displaying “moderately severe” symptoms of depression and “severe” symptoms of anxiety. Hey, at least I aced the PTSD test! With a score of just 24/88 I’m barely displaying any symptoms at all.
Now, I am struggling with the identity shift that has come with a mental health diagnosis. I’m not just grumpy and neurotic. This isn’t just a slightly charming personality trait. I am formally, clinically, depressed and anxious.
I was surprised at my reaction. Even though I have offered support to friends with mental health problems without (or so I thought) judging them in the slightest, I guess I felt that I was somehow above them. I was the person who had their shit together, and who other people (the kind of people who didn’t have their shit together) came to me with their problems. In short, I have been a bit of an arsehole. And I might have carried on being an arsehole, had I not married someone who has their shit together even more than me.
I’ve been thinking a bit about life choices and procrastination this week.
For me, saving “enough” money to do something is a form of procrastination. Of delaying making a decision, and ultimately delaying doing anything. I’m using quotations around the word “enough” because I’m not talking about literally enough money to do it. By “enough”, I mean having enough in savings for it not to matter if I spend some of it. But this never happens.
I (and I don’t think I’m alone in this) always think I should be saving money. And, in some cases, I use this as an excuse not to do something that I’m a bit afraid of doing.
I’ve not been feeling up for writing this week, and as hard as I try I can’t craft a proper post with any kind of lesson. I know that writing can help me come unstuck, and that getting words on a page can start to fuel my creativity. But I’m stuck in a catch 22, where I need to write for inspiration but I need inspiration before I start to write.
Does anyone else get this?
Thinking that anything would be better than staring at a blinking cursor on a screen, I started to just write out how I feel. Aha, a blog post. It’s not the best thing I’ve ever written, but it’s where I am right now. And I’m going to be kind to myself, and let that be enough.
So here’s a list of what’s in my head this week; my frustrations and my dreams.
This image from unsplash.com makes me really miss coffee.
It was the weekend before Christmas, and I was celebrating having a couple of weeks off work by burrowing deeper into my duvet and entering into full on relaxation mode. It was quiet, it was cosy, it was peaceful… My husband jumped out of the bed.
“Come on, it’s time to go to the gym.”
“Come on, doesn’t the class you normally go to start at 10?”
“Well yes, but…”
The truth was, I was planning to give myself the day off. But being stubborn and competitive, I wasn’t going to let him go by himself. So I dragged myself out of bed and left for the gym.
Without having a cup of tea.
I’ve been looking forward to some time off because I keep thinking I need to “sort things out”. What I need to sort out, I’m not so sure.
I feel itchy, dissatisfied… my mind keeps casting itself to the corners and storage places. The boxes under our bed, the clothes in the corner, the disorganised scraps of paper where I keep ideas for things I want to write or make. I crave focus, clarity. But I know from experience that taking bags to the charity shop won’t bring me that. Or at least, it will bring peace but only for a day or two. Then I will want to move on to the next thing: which area of my life shall I organise now? I will go through my archived mail, labelling and colour coding emails that I might one day need, deleting those that I won’t. And again, I will feel peace. Until I won’t.
Yesterday I was listening to Nicole Antoinette’s Real Talk Radio interview with Jamie Greenwood. I would recommend listening to the whole thing, but one thing that had me reaching for my notebook was when Jamie said:
It’s an exciting way to live when we can begin to back off from the rules that we hold so tight.
It made me thing about the rules that I used to hold so tight, but found peace and freedom in letting go.
Here are some of my rules and beliefs that I’ve rejected. What are some of yours?
When Jo asked if I would be a guest on her new podcast Introspectology, I agreed right away. I really enjoyed chatting to her about my story, my wedding and how I see the world.
But when it came out I found myself feeling anxious about listening to it. When my husband put it on, I became so self conscious at hearing my own voice I had to leave the room and would only come back if he turned it off. I know, sometimes I act as though I am four years old.
Lately, I feel as though I’m going slightly mad.
I read everything that catches my attention.
It all adds to the noise in my brain.