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Posted by dirkgently1066
26th Apr 2017

One of the difficulties with both depression and anxiety is the near constant state of self-judgement. Every action, reaction, thought or utterance is placed under a microscope of analysis. Did I say / do / think the right thing?

This judgement extends to my relationships. I have a relatively small circle of friends but each one is valued. Despite that, I often go months at a time without seeing any of them. Between work, the kids and everything in between, my routine sees me at the office, at home or at a stretch on a visit to turn nanny’s house upside down for a couple of days.

And herein comes the judgement. Why haven’t I seen my friends in over 6 months? Why do I avoid any invitations for events? Why do I not pre-emptively arrange something? Why don’t I call?

I have ready made excuses of course. I am tired from work. I am tired from the kids. I am tired from depression and anxiety. I am tired from the antidepressants. I am tired from the tiredness.

But there is more at play here. The truth is that there is a part of me that, for want of a better adjective, is scared. I become anxious at the thought of stepping outside of my designated comfort zones. Some cases in point – my near breakdown at the thought of reverse parking following a change of office location; my escalated agitation on visits to Lego Land, Peppa Pig World and Chessington; the decline of an invitation to attend a gaming exhibition in London to act as a reporter for VG Almanac.

In the cases of work, Peppa Pig, Lego Land and Chessington, repetition soon eased the anxiety. Chessington in particular has now become a favoured destination. Gone are the anxious thoughts – where do we park, where are the rides, how long are the queues, how much are the drinks, where are the toilets, what if it rains – to be replaced by a sense of comfort at a venue oft-frequented.

Whilst the circumstances are very different – the invite is usually to someone’s house – the anxiety with friends remains the same. What if there’s traffic? What if I get lost? What will we talk about? What if we have drifted apart? What if I get tired? Should I take the kids? What if they get bored? How long should I stay?

Now, here’s an important point. I suspect many people will recognise the above questions from their own heads. They are not unreasonable in and of themselves. The difference comes in the intensity and their persistence. To the untroubled mind, these thoughts are answered and swatted away like flies, trivial details that need not derail plans. To the anxious mind, each is a mighty cliff to be scaled. It becomes overwhelming until only one thought remains; how do I say no?

But saying no brings self-judgement. Why can I not say yes? Am I just being weak?

Battling mental illness can sometimes be like walking a fine line. On the one hand there is a sense that I need to push myself out of my comfort zones. Avoidance is not a long term solution to any problem. On the other hand, I need to be kind to myself and recognise when something is too much for me. Saying no doesn’t mean never, it just means not right now.

So to those of you that have invited me places, to those of you I haven’t seen in months and to those of you who might be wondering, ‘whatever happened to that Scott bloke?’ I’m still here. And my door is always open.

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