Through The Eyes Of The Anxious…
Welcome to my third (and most difficult) blog post! I’ve considered posting something like this for a while now, but I always seem to talk myself out of it.
What if people think I’m attention seeking? What if it comes across like I’m sort of ‘capitalising’ on my mental health battles? What if I’m laughed at? What if people don’t understand? But, that final “what if” was the one that made me want to do this. Because, really, why can’t I help people to understand? Why would I sit around, waiting and hoping and wishing that the general public will someday just “get it”, when I could be helping to achieve that?
Then, yesterday, something happened to me, and I thought I best do this now, while it’s still very raw in my mind. So, here goes…
A few years ago, I was at rock bottom. Mentally, I mean. The ‘lowest point’ is different for everybody, and it probably changes with life experience too. I remember, in an episode of Friends, Rachel says “it’s like there’s rock bottom, fifty feet of crap, then me.” As bizarre as it may be to use a Friends quote in a mental health post, it’s pretty relevant here. Sometime in life, you might reach a point where ‘lower’ doesn’t exist. You’re at the lowest you can be. That’s where “the only way is up” saying comes into play. The problem is, what if ‘the only way’ is stuck there? What if you remain stagnant, right at the bottom, watching other people live their lives as you become more and more riddled with fear and intense sadness, wishing you could be anyone other than you? Not fun.
It took a l o n g time, and a lot of nagging from the people who love me, but I finally accepted that I needed some help. I went to see my doctor, and was diagnosed with clinical depression and chronic anxiety. He also referred me to a therapist. Now, the depression side, I’ll go into some other time, but today, it has to be anxiety!
You see, despite the progress I have made (and will continue to make), and despite the multiple methods of help I have received over the years, I am still very much in this battle. And it is a HARD fight. That’s not to say I wake up every day feeling terrified to open my curtains (bearing in mind, I have been in that place before). There are times when I feel fine – pretty level-headed – and as ready as I can be to face what is ahead.
Now, since I have a unique set of medical circumstances, which make every day unpredictable, it’s ‘normal’ that I will always carry a bit of anxiety with me. But I’ve learnt that there is a huge difference between fearing a seizure, and fearing everything. That brings me to the events of yesterday.
I haven’t been very well, which is uncommon for me. I have seizures, and I experience side effects from my medications, but I don’t really get sick. I’m lucky in that way! So, I’m still not 100% and yesterday, I guess you could say I woke up on the wrong side of the bed! I still didn’t feel right. The cut on my tongue was still hurting from my most recent seizure. My hair was greasy. My face looked awful (redness, hormonal spots, acne scarring… if you are a teenager, DO NOT PICK YOUR SPOTS). Ran out of my favourite perfume. Hadn’t slept very well. Couldn’t find the top I wanted to wear. Irritable. Unintentionally snappy. I was basically hating on life a bit! I called a taxi because I was going, with my younger sister, to meet our Mum and older sister at the salon. Then, I lost some time…
The first thing I noticed was the unfamiliar surroundings. A man I didn’t know driving me to a place I didn’t know I was going to. I had no idea what was going on. Who is he? I need to get out of this car. I don’t know him. Where am I going? What am I doing? What is happening? By the time I’d realised that my sister, who can deal with these attacks like an expert at this point, was there and already trying to talk me around, it was too late. Had she not been holding onto me, I would have tried to get out of the car while it was moving.
Hysterical, I jumped out of the car as soon as it came to a stop, and she guided my jelly-legged self into the building. Still not able to comprehend anything, my older sister took me into a disabled toilet, where she talked calmly to me, and reiterated the breathing exercises I’ve been taught to use as a coping mechanism. Physically, during a panic/anxiety attack, I usually shake, pull at my hands and fingers, rock back and forth, my heart races and I feel like I can’t take a deep breath in. My speech can slur, and I repeat myself. Sometimes, I don’t make much sense at all. Most times, I do end up crying, during and/or afterwards. (Whilst it is possible to forget things, the absent seizure I experienced before yesterday’s attack was probably the reason for my temporary loss of memory).
Anyway, once I’d stopped sobbing, my sister helped me into a room with our Mum and younger sister, and our hairdresser and beautician – both of whom I know very well. (They have become real friends of ours, as well as making us look better!) I had a drink and sat on the sofa until I was felt calm enough to continue on with the day. We went to a supermarket, but I stayed in the car with Mum and we had a nice chat. Back home, I had a hot shower, ate one of my favourite meals and watched my all-time favourite movie with my family. Before bed, I wrote down everything that was on my mind (a simple yet effective way to clear your head!) and then, I slept.
This morning, I woke up and felt refreshed. I wanted so much to write this blog post, but I talked myself out of it AGAIN, primarily due to anxiety itself. But, one of my glorious friends talked me back into it. She reinforced all the positives, and made me see, as she always does, that there are people who want to listen. Thank you Layla, my loveliest! I’ve spent a lot of time wondering why I’m not brave enough to stand up and say “I’m not ashamed.” But, that’s the thing: I CAN be brave enough… and so can you!