Toddler brain

My anxiety can often be like a toddler having a tantrum.

I write this in full acknowledgement that I’m not a parent. But I’ve been around enough toddlers to see them melt down over the most random of stuff. And my anxiety does that too.

Unsurprisingly my anxiety is in storm force mode currently. It’s whirling around trying to find something to focus on. It’s amazing what you find when you’re looking for it.

Thinking of my anxiety symptoms like a toddler has helped me develop coping strategies.

1. Logic and reason. I can see parents shaking their heads already. Yes. This rarely works. But it’s always worth trying first. Acknowledge what’s going on and what’s being felt. Make a show of checking for monsters under the bed. Acknowledge not finding any. The reasons why we are safe. Sometimes it works. I can talk myself down. Often it doesn’t and we move on.

2. Love and hugs. Treats. Blankets. Time off. Bubble baths. Wine. Whatever this is for you. Yes it often involves spending money which sometimes means it can’t be done. It involves time which we don’t always have. If you can, give yourself a treat you won’t give yourself a hard time for later. Totally guilt free. Get cuddles from someone who won’t try and fix anything. Talk to yourself to find out what you need and deliver it. Be your own nurturing loving parent. After all we still love our toddlers even when they are throwing a tantrum and sometimes cuddles stop the tantrum. And sometimes they don’t.

3. Distraction. Ooooh shiny! Mindless TV, games, craft projects, books. The trick is something entertaining and engaging enough to keep the attention but not difficult or stressful. Again they his takes time which sometimes we don’t have so…

4. Time out. Sometimes we just have to get stuff done. We’ve tried everything else and it’s just not working and the job has to be done, the bills have to be paid. Sometimes I have to put my anxiety on a virtual naughty step and just let it cry it out. Breathe through it, wipe those sweaty palms and do the job. Later, when there’s time, there will be a prize. And it can be anything you like (that is feasibly within your ability and budget to get) because you’ve had to tough it out.

This are my coping strategies. Yours may vary 🙂 these work for me. They don’t go in order. I don’t go from 1-4. Often I know which one to pick but sometimes I don’t. Sometimes a tried and tested technique fails. Sometimes they all fail. But only sometimes. Like with toddlers, consistency is important, following through is important. Don’t promise yourself a treat and don’t deliver. Don’t have a treat then give yourself a hard time over it!

The toddler in our heads may not grow up. But at least it won’t become a teenager!

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It begins

2016 sucked, 2017 will be much better – was the general hopeful statement over the festive season and each time I swallowed back my reaction with a variable amount of success and thought, no, not for me, not for a while, roll on 2018, can I have a Tardis please, can I just fast forward to the bit where everything is okay again and everything is healed both physically and emotionally. Can I just skip over this bit?

But of course it doesn’t work that way. We walk the slow path, step by step, making what choices we can with each one and hoping each step is moving us in the right direction.

2017 sees me undergoing both marriage separation, something that’s only recently entered the public domain, and major surgery – subtotal abdominal hysterectomy to remove numerous small and one large fibroid.

Both these things clouded my head before I was able to be open and honest about them and that incongruence hurt me almost more than the events themselves. At least I’ve been able to be honest in recent months.

I then had three months of limbo. It gets tiring fixing the smile on your face and answering, no date yet, in answer to well meaning acquaintances. Knowing they can’t see the frustration because they don’t deserve it.

As I need a secure place to rest and recuperate from the surgery, I couldn’t even begin to start sorting out a new life or deal with separation. And so, apart from some vague decluttering and a deed poll to return to my maiden name, not much changed. And the emotions were easy to pop on a mental back shelf for later. There is a frustration about having to plan for everything and nothing, being held in limbo but there’s also a safety because nothing can change.

Then the letter arrives. The date is known. And the reality crashes in.

My first reaction is a bigger declutter. I spend the next day divesting myself of as much stuff as I can. Anything I think can raise pennies is offered for sale. A new life costs money. Money in the savings account is security, options. Anything else is donated to a nearby charity shop or chucked in the bins. I feel clearer. Lighter.

I let people know my date, discuss plans with close friends offering help, work out options and schedules with them – it’s important to me that anyone offering help doesn’t feel used or sidelined. I read as much of the hospital information as I can deal with, I put dates in my diary and I start lists.

What to take with me. Who can be around when.

A post surgery groceries list.

The obligatory crafting list.

How to keep my strength and immune system top notch.

Perhaps not surprisingly I wake today feeling ill. Sore throat, snuffly nose. So it’s a day of rest. And a day to let the emotions speak up.

I’m scared. While I need and want this surgery, while I’ve been waiting for this for months, I’m terrified of it. My anxiety disorder relies on experience to calm it down. I have no experience with which to quiet the whispers in my head. Only practical tasks. And there’s only so many of those I can do.

I’m scared of waking up attached to things. My anxiety can be triggered by a feeling of being trapped, the thought of being connected to medical equipment and not being able to get out of bed (not that I’ll be wanting to anyway, but anxiety isn’t rational) is terrifying.

I don’t like not knowing when I’ll be home. I want to plan for it. I want to plan for everything. It makes me feel safer.

I’m scared of what will happen to my.body after. I can’t carry on the way I am, I am usurped by invaders and they cannot stay. But will things return to normal and my control after? Will my body be mine again or will it be changed? Will it kickstart menopause? That’s the big one. I’ve been told it shouldn’t but bodies are complex things. Will I stop looking like a pregnant egg?

21st April feels both very close and ages away as I face this next step in getting rid of Freddie and whatever comes after.