Numbness.

Ill mental health can get very old. And by that I mean tiresome and boring.

The effort to just actually ‘live’ gets exhausting. Waking up in the morning, getting up in the morning, leaving your bedroom, planning your day…minor things like that are mountains to a mental ill individual.

It’s disheartening to either feel like you’re getting nowhere or not getting anywhere quicker. Sometimes no improvement for a while or, 2 steps forward, 1 and a half back. I’m not sure what’s worse to be honest.

How can one maintain good habits and neutral thinking with so little drive, not just from the illness but from seeing very little to no progress? I can be an impatient person, but fighting this illness is the most consistent thing I’ve done. It’s what I’ve been most dedicated to in life, even during bouts of wanting to give up. Yet I think, what do I have to show for it? Not better health.

If I’m not hiding away from the world, I am putting on a front. Acting. Pretending. Making myself look interested in your conversation, displaying an air of enthusiasm at being social, making out I’m happy to help. The reality is that inside I’m dying, but I don’t see the point in telling you. I am deeply sad. I am numb and uninterested. I say all the right things and make all the right comments otherwise id be standing there like a zombie. That will lead to you asking me what’s wrong, which generates an extremely long answer and tears that might never stop. I don’t want you to ask. I feel you can’t help. So I pretend.

I’m sorry.

I sit in my mental hole wishing somebody or something could help…because I can’t help myself. I believe there is an answer somewhere but I haven’t found it. Like some kind of formula for beating this. Or maybe it’s just wishing thinking.

For now I’m returning to my solitude to see if I can find the answer in my stillness.

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And then came panic

Panic attacks feel like your worst fear has come to kill you in an instant.

The thing is whatever you may be afraid of is irrelevant; it’s the fear itself that gets to you. You are scared of something possibly happening not scared of what is actually happening. Of course you can experience panic attacks in relation to a relevent situation but for me, mine were related purely to anxiety and overthinking.

The anxiety I experienced could go from 0 to 100 (panic attack) real quick. The ones that seem to appear out of nowhere are the worst. One minute you are talking to someone. The next you can’t breathe and you are panicking.

Anxiety would rise up from the background until it would engulf my whole being and I would feel myself slip away from my surroundings. I felt like I was detached from everything around me. I couldn’t hear anything or see anything going on. Anxiety quickly turned to panic that started off as breathing quicker then developed into hyperventilating and the need to escape wherever I was. Tears would run down my face and I couldn’t think. I felt in danger. Sweating, shaking, jitters and shaky legs would follow. My stomach would feel uneasy, my head would hurt and thoughts would race through my mind faster than I could stop and analyse them. Absolute hell. Hands down the worse feeling ever.

It doesn’t matter if you’re in a public place or at home in bed or on your own or with people, a panic attack is just awful.

Panic attacks do pass but not as quickly as you may think. Some would take me a whole day to get over. After an attack I felt mentally and physically exhausted. I struggled to stay awake after the more severe ones. It took a while for the negative thoughts to subside and to get my breathing back to normal. The aftermath was nearly as bad as the attack.

There is a big difference between an anxiety attack and a panic attack. Anxiety attacks are high levels of sudden anxiety that subside eventually. Whilst they are unpleasant they are no where near the severity of a panic attack.

Focus is a Casualty of Anxiety.

I always tell people ‘I have the attention span of a fish’.

Sad, but true. I just cannot seem to be able to focus and focus well for a length of time. This is in regards to reading especially but also studying, paying attention in a meeting, listening to a live talk and watching TV shows or movies.

I used to make an effort in the beginning to try and concentrate but it got to a point where my efforts became futile; I was just plain unable to concentrate. That doesn’t mean I didn’t want to do anything. I wanted nothing more than to be able to enjoy a book or sit still to watch something. The lack of motive brought with it the most intense boredom that contributed to the anxiety. It’s almost hard to comprehend… Try to do something to quell boredom, cannot concentrate so become anxious and end up doing nothing because of the anxiety.

The amount of hours I sat doing nothing is more than I can tell you. Just sitting in the anxiety afraid to do anything, overthinking from morning til night. It’s like self torture. Laying in the same space, staring into the abyss overthinking or phone in hand scrolling aimlessly on Instagram, sporadically playing Word Cookies. Probably checking my email every ten minutes then flicking back to Snapchat to see if any new developments had happened in the last few minutes.

I was so enveloped by the anxiety time would go by so slowly but so fast at the same time. I would look at the clock thinking it was ticking by so slowly, but think back over the day and realise how fast the time went and how much of it I had wasted.

Bedtime became the end of the cycle but I didn’t look forward to tomorrow because I knew it would be like groundhog Day. I was existing not living, and definitely not enjoying it.

A life of Anxiety.

I did not recognise anxious me.

I was fearful and afraid of everything. It was the simplest things that I found hard to do. They were the hardest to deal with. My spider phobia seemed small in comparison to something like leaving the house.

My everyday routine became a very difficult challenge. I struggled to leave the house. I wasn’t comfortable around people. Even leaving my room to go to the bathroom across the hall was like a marathon style trek. The anxiety I felt made me want to stay in my room where I felt I could deal with it better. Paying bills and dealing with money filled me with dread. I was unable to stand in queues or go out at peak times in the day. Talking on the phone was awful. Seeing people I knew out and about made me uncomfortable. The thought of seeing people I knew out and about made me anxious. Interacting with others was so overwhelming.

I became convinced people could see the anxiety in my face, that I would say something stupid or have to run off to panic. I felt like I had a never ending to do list that I would never get through. I couldn’t keep up with house chores. I didn’t want to be in the company of anyone else so I isolated myself. I didn’t want to meet new people or go to new places. I struggled to get dressed because finding what to wear made me anxious. Getting in the shower was a mammoth task. It would take me 3 hours to get ready and leave the house.

It was absolutely awful. I was exhausted by all the overthinking. It felt like the anxiety was taking over my mind, but I was becoming too weak to fight it. Going to work and living my life whilst being a mother started to take a toll because the anxiety overshadowed my every move, filtered into my every thought and fuelled every action. I felt like I was drowning. I would cry whenever it got too much or I was frustrated with being anxious. The mental pain was never ending.

I stopped eating well because cooking was scary. Being in any other room in my house was scary to me. Travelling was something that I hated. I wasn’t comfortable on transport nor walking out in the open. I didn’t want to be in anybody else’s house, not even my mums. I even found it hard to be around my family.

The anxiety was draining. To top it off I didn’t sleep much, so it felt like I never got a rest.

If someone tells you they suffer with anxiety please don’t just think that they get anxious about big things once in a while. Consider the small every day things that most people usually do without batting an eyelid.

I am a prime example of how anxiety can control every aspect of your whole life.

Life Before vs. Life After

Life before anxiety was a life without anxiety.

The word anxiety meant absolutely nothing to me. You know when someone says something to you and it registers because you have been through it or experienced it in some way? Well that did not happen to me when I heard the word anxiety. I first remember hearing the word in 2014 when a girl I went to college with told me she suffered with an anxiety disorder. I listened to her talk about suffering with panic attacks and daily anxiety, but I could not relate at all. I couldn’t even empathise because I had no knowledge of anxiety or what it meant.

Ironically, I had my first panic attack during that year as a result of academic stress.  I had a deadline looming and the pressure just got to me.  I don’t remember much about the attack itself, but I recall telling this friend about what happened and she said something to me along the lines of “well that’s it now, you will always get them.”  She proceeded to give me coping tips.  I remember looking at her like she was mad, and being angry that she was being so negative (in my eyes).  Those words are not something you want to hear after having your first panic attack.  What she said has stayed with me all these years later.  If I am honest her words haunted me, and contributed to my belief that I will never get better.  ‘Better’ to me meant never being anxious again and returning to my pre-anxious self.

The following year I started to experience what I would call low level anxiety; a nervousness that would appear before a big event or a change or a looming deadline. It all came to a head a year later when it became a constant feeling. Sometimes it was in the forefront and I couldn’t concentrate, other times it was in the background trying to interrupt my life. From that point I dreamed of my pre-anxiety life. I felt like I was slipping further and further away from who I thought I was and becoming someone I did not wish to be. I cursed the day anxiety stepped into my life and turned my world upside down. I found it hard to cope with the devil on my shoulder.

There was a me before anxiety and a different me after. Anxiety happened to me. I couldn’t control it or run from it. It seemed to be here to stay. It took me years to realise acceptance moves you further down the path of recovery than resistance.