Oops, Missed!

Hello Anxiety, my old friend,
Has come to mess with me again,
Because anxiety softly creeping,
Got it hooks in now I feel like weeping,
And the visions that it plants into my brain
Still remain
Within the sound of silence.

Apologies to Simon and Garfunkel for rewriting their lovely lyrics! The song pretty much fits as it is, but I felt like messing with it.

Yesterday, anxiety hit me full force. I guess I just ran out of the energy needed for keeping it at bay, and managed to completely engineer an afternoon designed to give me a panic attack!
I managed to misunderstand texts from my Mum, leading me to believe that we were going to meet in town midafternoon. Hanging about in town is not on my list of Fun Things to Do, so although I got some photo inspiration for our new home and bought a couple of things I needed, I also failed to buy my favourite Empress Grey Tea (out of stock) and failed to buy the dinner I’m cooking tonight, plus town is busy and full of people who don’t know where anything is and keep getting in my way and then when they weren’t in my way I was in someone elses…. so I fought the rising panic attack and got the hell out of dodge, feeling guilty for bailing on Mum – then of course I find out later when Mum rang me wondering what the hell all my messages were about, that I was completely mistaken and could have just gone straight home and had a lovely afternoon!

The adrenalin echoed around my system for the rest of the evening and today I feel the “hangover” that comes the day after a high hit of anxiety. It’s only quite recently that this has become a symptom for me. I honestly don’t recall this adrenalin hangover before a couple of years ago. Whether my adrenal glands are just a bit more vicious these days or my system more sensitised to it or I’m just more sensitive to the signs of it and take notice of it? I don’t know. But my cope levels are low today, a hug from my dear friend C reduced me to tears, although I noticed I shook my head violently when she encouraged me to just let go.

I know what’s going on, it’s just the mortgage and housemove. We’ve been within spitting distance of a completion date all week and being in limbo has always been worse than being in hell… I hate the not knowing… you have to try and prepare for every eventuality when in Limbo… when the shit has hit the fan then you just have to deal with a shitty fan… much easier!

I’m coming up against the part of me that doesn’t trust the world. The part of me that remembers the world being tugged out from underneath me and turning upside down on me and I just have to cope and adapt best I can… the first time that happened to me, I was 11 and learnt my Mum was never coming home again.
Over the next decade, it happened several times. Homes and relationships (of parental figures, not mine) were given and taken without a seconds warning, I sometimes started the day in one bedroom and ended it in another. Not often. But often enough that I learnt not to trust the world. Not to trust the feeling of being safe. The place that should be safe, the place you live with a parental figure (I use that term because it was my stepfather who was my sole guardian since I was 11, although he was a father to me as he’d been in my life since I was 2.5) that home had been invaded and destroyed by a bad relationship he had. I fled that place in terror after she tried to attack me and went to live with Mum where there was no place for me as she was housesitting at the time (plus, I turned up with no warning and a bag of random crap late at night when she was with her boyfriend… you can guess how welcome I felt!)

So… yeah… with this big life change and responsibility comes up some big old stuff to be felt and examined. I’m about to take a step up in life, this is how it feels. I have a (for me) well paid job that I enjoy and get a lot of satisfaction from and that I feel enriches my CV and improves future job prospects. I have a marriage that is stronger than ever having come through some rough waters. My self confidence and belief (current anxiety aside!) is at an all time high and finally having a home of our own… even if it’s a part ownership and only 40% is really “ours”… feels like we’ve finally climbed a rung on this imaginary social ladder and we are higher than we used to be.

Looking at the paragraph about the world kicking me in the teeth, it’s no wonder that I fear this happening again. That paragraph is a very rough light account of a few things from that time… it’s by no means an exhaustive list and life didn’t stop kicking me in the teeth at 21… indeed the 12 month period during which my marriage imploded and I was made redundant felt pretty toothkicky and that was within the last 5 years!

Having written this, I feel better about feeling so overcome with anxiety. I am dealing with it, there’s pretty much a constant running commentary in my head at the moment, talking me down, reminding me that ultimately everything is still okay, I’m okay, we’re okay, this will pass and I just need to keep moving through the seconds. Every second brings me closer to the answer that I want, so comfort and distract as needed. Keep doing the things that make me feel proud of myself and keep checking in, keep catching myself, keep asking these questions and keep taking note of the answers.

Everything does have a logic to it, it may not be a logic that makes rational sense to a rational brain, but it will make an emotional sense if you sit with it and note it honestly and without judgement.

And hopefully in 48 hours, I’ll have the date I need to start planning and moving forward.

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Catching myself

So this morning I catch myself.

Within two seconds of waking up, I’d had a sinking feeling and thought ‘oh no’

That feeling and thought started dragging me down immediately, before pushing back the duvet even, started up feelings of resentment and frustration, resistance and stubbornness. A sense that I want to push back against whatever I have to do today – in this case, go to work and run some staff training – but with no real foundation under it.
Not really.
My job is fine, I enjoy it and there’s nothing going on there currently that would cause anxiety or cause myself to not want to be there. There has been some work stuff in recent months and there may be some kind of emotional hangover from that, but here, today, there is no reason that going to work should make me feel like this.

Catching myself, I questioned the feeling, looked at the day ahead and decided the feeling had no place in the reality of today.
That doesn’t make it go away, but it makes it a bit easier to ignore it, in order to get through a staff training session for example. There are times when the best thing to do is to bracket away your feelings in order to get on with a task.
Plus, for me, this gives me a sense of pride as for most of my life, my feelings have run roughshod over me, screaming too loudly and flashing too brightly for me to be able to focus on anything else, I treated myself harshly over what I perceived as my weakness and failure and lack of self-control, so to be able to bracket them away for periods of time now in order to focus on being at work or other stuff reinforces my (still new, but gaining strength all the time) image of myself as a Strong Coper of Life’s Stuff.
There’s got to be a better phrase/acronym than SCoLS for that…

The feeling is there though and so it deserves respect and space and gentle investigation… Bracketing away feelings only works when the feelings know you’ll come back later when you have time and a safe space to attend to them.
Like making a promise to a child.
If you’ve broken promises in the past (no matter how insignificant they seemed to you at the time), then you won’t be trusted in the future. So if you’ve promised youself that you’ll reward yourself, get back to this weird feeling, look at why you dislike small dogs, whatever it may be, and you haven’t… well, that part of yourself that you made the promise to will trust you less than before, and each time this happens it has an effect.
You need to build up trust with yourself, so start small, promise yourself things that you know you can deliver on and do it! No matter how silly or small, it’s the concept here that’s the important thing.

Make yourself a promise right now and keep it. Doesn’t matter what the promise is, just matters that you’ll keep it.

Your feelings are like a small child. They have logic and consistency, just not one that’s always apparent to us without a fair amount of searching.
I often think of the insides of my head as a toddler. It helps. It’s the same part of my brain pretty much that I label as anxiety brain, it’s just anxiety is an amorphous thing to try and open up a dialogue with, so when I’m looking to actually understand and talk with that part of myself, it helps to label it as a toddler.

In writing this I’ve just realised that when I’m labelling it Anxiety Brain, then I’ve decided it has no right to exist at all (hopefully I decide this after some investigation!) and I’m just ignoring it until it goes away! Perhaps there’s some link to having to just wait out a toddler tantrum? I’m not a mother, so only going off on a metaphor here!

Anyway, when I see that part of myself as a Toddler, then I don’t expect too much from that part of myself, I treat it with love and respect and understand that I’m the Adult here and need to look after the toddler regardless of how the toddler might say otherwise! It’s easier to be gentle with myself when I think this way, and one thing I’ve learned from twenty years of anxiety issues is that anything other than gentle doesn’t work! Certainly not coming from your own self.

“Hello feeling, what’s this all about then? Where have you come from and why are you here and what do you want?”

And if you ask yourself things like that too, don’t think you know the answers! Be ready to be surprised, be open to finding out it connects back to years ago, or that conversation yesterday or that slow buildup of stuff where one thing is petty but now there’s many things and a heavy weight. If you’re new to this, it gets easier to tell where your truth is and when you’re kidding yourself, but the key is to be gentle with yourself. Treat yourself as you’d treat your bestest most beloved person who’s going through stuff and needs an understanding friend.
Be your own understanding friend.

For me today, I’ve learnt this feeling, below its stubbornness and resentment and ‘fuck off I can’t be arsed’ness, is loneliness. Fairly pure and simple. I miss my husband who’s away working and has been very busy now for a few months. But not just alone in the flat loneliness, a connection loneliness, even when we have been together we’ve rarely connected like I now know I needed to. Not a blame thing, just a thing, both of us wrapped up in our worlds of work and stuff, both of us busy with things that felt more important at the time.

Now I realise I need that and he’s technically not even in England, but just beyond in Cowes on the Isle of Wight.
And of course this adds to the general weight of frustration and helplessness that built up in me since the end of may. Today I miss him so much it almost feels like I’m grieving.

It’s also a symptom of the mindset that makes me push everyone away and not open up when I’m slipping like this. I don’t like the inside of my head at these times, so that makes it even more difficult to open up and share it.

“Here, come share this thing I really dislike!” When is that ever an appealing invitation either to receive or to offer?

Being a hardcore introvert, my first instinct is very rarely to reach out and meet up with someone. When I’m struggling and slipping, that hermit tendancy is even more pronounced. Even when I’ve been telling myself for the past couple of weeks that I need to see more people while Hubby is away, I’ve done the bare minimum with people who understand my concept of “Anti-social socialising”
Even with Hubby and I promising each other to keep up the contact during the dreaded month of August when he’s always away working the entire month, it easily slips from both of us.

I tell myself I’m fine, I like my own company, I find it restful not having to think about others, being able to do whatever I want, watch my own rubbish on the telly, eat cheesecake for dinner if I wish, and all that is true… but even if it goes against my first instinct, I need to remember to reach out to people more often than I think I want to.
I suspect this won’t be an easy lesson to learn.
But as I want to tell everyone else who lives with anxiety, be gentle, keep aware, and listen to yourself. There are always more onion layers to peel back, more petals to unfold and more connections to discover. It’s a lifelong journey into how we work and why we are what we are and editing our operating manual 🙂

What’s the point of this post?
I guess that we are able to catch ourselves. If you are prone to immediate thoughts that colour your whole day, that you can catch them and that may alter how your day goes.
I’ve still been feeling fairly crap as I go through today, but finding moments to reflect and write this on my phone has helped me through without embarrasing myself in the work place. Has allowed me to text my Hubby and make sure we skype chat later. Has got me to the place where I’m okay that I’m not okay.
And that’s better than nothing…