Lockdown

I had so many plans for 2020. After a horrible 2019, this year was meant to be a lot better. The end of 2019 was promising and so this year looked positive…

Now we are on our second lockdown due to the Corona virus pandemic. The first one was hard to adapt. The level of anxiety was through the roof. I felt like my whole world was collapsing. It’s one thing to stay indoors when you want to or when you find it hard to leave the house, but to have to stay indoors because you’re forced to is different. I missed having that choice. I felt claustrophobic.

It was puzzles surprisingly that got me through that time – puzzles and creativity. I learned to adapt to having to stay 2m away from people and only going out alone for fresh air.

This time around – lockdown part 2- I’m finding harder than the first time. The boredom is endless. Yes I have things I have to do but those things don’t bring me joy. I’m forced to find things in the house to do that I have little or no interest in because I just want my life back.

Pre Corona, my mental health was in an even keel. This year it’s fluctuated so much I don’t always know where I am with it. I thought I was ready for another lockdown but it quickly became clear that I feel trapped again. I’m finding it hard to fill my time with activities. I’m feeling more tired. My mind is racing. I’m having trouble keeping still and relaxing.

I’m taking one day at a time. In these trying times who knows what will happen tomorrow?!

Medication Withdrawal

As I mentioned in my last post, most medications have side effects. You will not know how you will be affected until you take the medication. Similar to side effects are withdrawal symptoms.

Medication withdrawal cannot be avoided but there are a few small things you can do to bring yourself comfort whilst you go through it. I will share a few things that have helped me when I have been through medication withdrawal.

Medication time

Take your medication at the same time. The routine will help your body regulate the reduction in your dosage and deal with the symptoms better. It will also give you piece of mind knowing how long you have left until you are medication free.

Eat and drink well

Your body will need to be supported physically as you withdraw from the medication. Eat well and drink regularly to keep your strength up. A weak body will have you feeling worse.

Exercise

Get your body moving. Not only will this help prevent distress as cortisol runs through your body but it will give you something to focus on other than your thoughts.

Keep yourself occupied

Sitting around waiting for withdrawal to wear off is only going to make your feel worse. Try to get on with your daily schedule. If you have nothing planned, plan something!

Remind yourself

Remember why you are feeling the way you are feeling. Try not to let your thoughts get you worked up onto thinking something is wrong or there is something to fear. Remind yourself the decreasing your medication is having an affect on you and it won’t last forever.

Keep a diary

Log your moods and physical symptoms as you come off the medication. This will help you out things in perspective and give you a better aspect of the withdrawal to focus on.

Remember, the effects don’t last forever. They will soon pass.

The medication debate.

Every medication has side effects. Not just meds associated with ill mental health.

Taking medication for your ill mental health is totally up to the individual. Some refuse to take meds because they have heard negative things about them, some fear it and some believe you can be addicted to it.

Some people take medication because nothing else has worked, because they are not coping and want to get on with their life or because their mental health is so poor they cannot access therapy or live a good quality of life.

I’m an advocate for choice; it is your decision to accept or decline medication. It is your body and your mind therefore your choice (unless that is taken away from you in extreme circumstances).

Taking medication for mental health issue can be quite complex. It is not always as simple as taking one and feeling better. You may need to try more than one to find something that works for you. Side effects do not affect all and do not affect all in the same way.

There is no one answer for how to deal with side effects. In essence you just have to remember the effects will pass.

What are your experiences with medication?

I can feel the cloud descend.

When you settle into a familiarity with your mental health you can identify the lows and highs more easily.

I can feel the cloud descend upon me and the dark, black tinted glasses coming down over my eyes. Compared to the early days of my depression these days it feels like it happens in slow mo. Time to act on it and try to reverse it maybe? Im not sure it can be reversed….

It feels like my mood is dipping to a lower level and a dark sheath is beginning to envelop me in negativity. I start to lose interest in what would usually make me happy, and lose the enthusiasm for my usual activities. I slow down therefore end up doing less and find myself scrolling through my social media accounts more and more. Sadness appears and tells me im no longer happy though I can’t fathom a reason for the unhappiness.

Its a horrible feeling to suddenly find your zest for life gone. It takes you to a very dark place. It feels like nobody can help and you can’t help yourself.

Sometimes I just wait for it to pass. It feels like freedom from prison when I feel the veil lifting to allow me to see daylight. Every time I fall into an episode I hope the veil lifts quicker and quicker.

In the graveyard hours

Everything seems to be heightened at night. I’m not sure if its because we know everyone else is asleep and feel alone or because the dark makes everything seem scarier. Maybe its a bit of both….

I hate the feeling of laying awake at night whilst everyone else is sleeping and experiencing anxiety. Its awful. You feel alone because there’s nobody to talk to and suddenly you feel like you cannot cope with it. Its made worse by the fact you’re beating yourself up for not sleeping, thinking about what you’ve got to get up for the next day.

I lay awake stuck in terror worrying about how ill feel the next day due to lack of sleep, plus everything else I am worrying about, including whatever it was that made me anxious AND worrying about being anxious! Its no wonder I wake up tired in the morning.

I think the nighttime reminds me of the darkness of ill mental health. The negative thoughts, the struggle, the low moments. Hence why we tend to feel they are heightened during these hours. The fear of feeling this way in the nighttime has developed a fear in me of going to sleep.

I know it’s down to overthinking about sleep. I also know it wont last forever. Mainly because I wont let it.

The Depressive Hole

It feels like you’re stuck…like you’ve fallen into something you see no way out of and you’re trapped.

I spend depression in a hole. In a hole doing nothing. For hours. For days. I have no motivation to do anything and find no joy in trying to find something to occupy me.

All the usual activities I find fun, hold no interest for me. My friends can say nothing that will inspire or touch me. I feel nothing but deep sadness. A sadness like no other that’s so devastating I don’t even have the energy to cry. I lay with a kind of numbness.

I wait for the emptiness and sadness to lift. Just wait. What else can I do? I deal with the guilt that I am not living life as I should and I’m wasting time (there’s always a time pressure present for me).

Just as I feel the depression descend upon me, I feel it elevate slowly as its ready to leave. These episodes used to last for days at a time…weeks. These days they are shorter and I recognise I have to just ride them out whilst trying to eat well.

I ride the wave as best I can.

A setback can set me back

Anxiety breeds sensitivity. Heightened sensitivity.

A situational setback or undesired situation can make you feel like the whole world is against you and nothing ever goes right. Like you never get what you want in life. Its difficult to rise above that mindset when you have been hurt. That makes it two things you have to deal with including the situation itself.

I find myself having to deal with anxiety first, then the situation. Its hard. I feel like I have to control my feelings to prevent them spiralling out of control and causing a relapse. I do not want to be in a hole again.

Frequent thoughts such as –

‘how will I cope now?’,

‘my anxiety level is rising’,

‘what can I do to fix this?’,

‘how can I get rid of this anxiety?’,

‘I cant deal with this!’

And about 23345753 more thoughts.

The feeling of being out of control is what sparks this off for me. In that moment I’d probably sell my soul to the devil if it took away the anxiety and reverted everything back to the way it was. But of course that’s not an option.

As always you’ve got to ride the wave.

The Enthusiasm just Dissipates.

It’s hard to make plans in advance when you live with anxiety because the enthusiastic mood that encourages you to agree to things, can leave extremely quickly.

If I agree to plans with others, I am excited about whatever it, but anxiety is sure to rear it’s ugly head and shine a negative light on my proposed fun; sometimes as soon as I’ve said yes! Other times it will gradually creep up to stay with me until the event date when it will explode into intense fear. Sometimes it only bursts on to scene on the day of the event.

The hardest thing is making excuses about why I can’t follow through with plans. It can be so hard to explain to someone else what is going on. I find making an excuse easier than confessions to mental illness. Even a valid reason for me not being able to attend (unrelated to anxiety) still makes me anxious. Especially if it’s something like low funds or unforseen events.

For all the events or meetups I’ve missed, the guilt has been immense. The guilt comes from me believing that I should have been there because I’ve let people down or I’m missing out. Guilt is such a prevelant emotion in an anxious mind.

I have learned to be honest about anxiety if it hinders me going somewhere, but only recently. I trust that those who care will accept it and those who don’t….well…there’s nothing I can do about that.

So understand that, if you do not see me it’s not because I don’t want to see you, it’s because anxiety has played a part.

The panicked mind

**TRIGGER WARNING**

My panicked mind is not my true self. My panicked mind is under pressure…from my anxious self. That is not my true self.

There is no feeling quite like the apprehension of a panic attack. Whether it creeps up slowly or seems to come out the blue, there is a small pause before – when you are right on the precipice- where you get that ‘Oh my god I’m going to panic’. Severe dread. The point of no return.

The first thing that comes into my head is ‘why am I panicking?’. I struggle to retrace my thought steps looking for the trigger. Identifying the trigger can help me. Knowing why, means I can fix it, because it just requires me righting a wrong or undoing something. Problem solved.

The more I go over my prior thoughts the more I sink into panic. The harder I look for a reason the more my thoughts spiral out of control. The result is just continuous panic. Blind panic cuts me off from reality until I come to the ultimate thought that tells me I will not survive. It’s either the panic attack will kill me or anxiety will because I won’t ever not feel anxious.

The only other alternative is to end my life because this is no life to live. This is hell. I know people who have done bad things who don’t suffer a torture like this. Why me? What did I do to deserve this? I’m a good person, I’m generous, loving and understanding but I’m suffering the worst kind of pain. Pain you can’t see. Pain you can’t even imagine. Mental pain.

The panicked mind tells me this is it. This is my fate. I can’t stop it so I just have to endure. It’s suffocating. That’s why I’m hyperventilating. I’m physically suffocating due to my mental suffocation. My unordered, erratic thoughts have caused this.

Nobody can help.
Nobody knows what to do.
I don’t know what to do.

I need help. I call someone/WhatsApp someone/tell the person next to me. Their only answer is to breathe. In through the nose, out through the mouth. In through the nose, out through the mouth. I’m screaming internally that this is rubbish and it won’t help. I don’t want to breathe! I just want to feel better. I want the fear to go. I’m prettified. I’ve never been so scared in my life. Something bad is going to happen I know it. The ‘something’ is just the worse thing you could ever imagine. Ever. I don’t want to die but I feel I am going to.

Breathe! In through the nose, out through the mouth. In through the nose, out through the mouth. Slowly. Slowly. Ignore all the thoughts. Just breathe….

Sometimes the breathing helped… sometimes it didn’t and I just became so exhausted from panic I fell asleep.

Those are the worse type of panic attacks.

Agoraphobia

Agoraphobia is the fear of places that you feel you cannot escape from or leave freely.
Also, the fear of places you have previously had a panic attack. The fear of open spaces.

It would take me minimum 3 hours to leave the house. I found it hard to step outside my front door. I would stress about what to wear, my make up, what I looked like, whether I looked tired…so many minor things.

I didn’t want to face people. I thought everyone was looking at me. Cars driving by might be judging me. People on the bus were just too close to me. My local area consisted of people who were staring at me whispering, talking about my clothes and the way I looked and walked. Part of me didn’t know if these things were actually happening but part of me did actually believe them. Odd isn’t it?

Being in places where I couldn’t leave quickly or was restricted frighted the hell out of me. Post office queues, packed shops, people’s houses, trains. I felt trapped.

I started to only go to places I thought I could leave quickly if I needed to. I wouldn’t go out with people I’d have to explain myself to if I panicked. I just wanted to be able to bolt out when I needed to, and in my head I believed I would need to. No doubt about it.

Eventually I stopped going out with friends. Clubs were a no-go because inevitably the loud music and crowds of people would overwhelm me and I’d have to find a way to get home at stupid o clock at night – alone. Not to mention I’d have to explain why I was jetting off. If I was invited out I came up with excuses about why I couldn’t go. Sometimes I would say yes (I actually meant it), but it would get nearer the time and anxiety would appear telling me about all the awful things that would most likely happen, so I would bail last minute.

I felt so bad about what I told people, but it was easier than telling the full truth. “Yeah I can’t go out because I think I’m gonna have a panic attack, as I suffer with anxiety.” The answer would obviously be “don’t be silly, you’ll be fine!”. I didn’t want to get into that so it was easier to think of an excuse.

With no social life and the distance growing between me and other people I became isolated, which obviously lead to loneliness.

And loneliness is never a good thing for anxiety…