Easy to forget

It’s easy to forget how powerful the grip of anxiety is.

How despite all the measured deep breathing and rational calm talking, it refuses to lessen it’s grip on both mind and body.

How it feels like a spear through my chest. A physical weight and pressure in the centre of my chest both external and internal, through to my spine. Or maybe it doesn’t. Maybe it feels like a balloon slowly expanding and taking up the space where my heart and lungs should be, making it hard to breathe.

It’s easy to forget how laboured my heartbeat can get at times, feeling like a knackered horse struggling to get up a hill, it’s erratic beats doing nothing to soothe and reassure.

It’s easy to forget that the words in my mind at this time aren’t real. Aren’t based in fact, but are my own fears and insecurities reflected back to me. They swell in my throat making casual socialising almost impossible to navigate.

It’s easy to forget that we can find evidence to anything if we look hard enough. Easier to accept the words spoken so passionately and evocatively. Best protect yourself against what is to come… it’s hard to keep fighting against the words when the physicality accompanying them doesn’t fade…. surely if your rationality and logic was correct you’d feel better by now….? And so it goes on.

Times like this, the dark and scary part of the ride we are all on, just hold on, remember to breathe and wait. Just breathe, that’s all that’s required today. It doesn’t last forever.

But it’s easy to forget.

Advertisements

Mental Vs Physical

Two recent events got me thinking.

Event 1 – I gave up the driving lessons due to the anxiety attacks they were causing.

Event 2 – I twisted my ankle.

Why is it so much easier to look after ourselves, and to let it be known that we are in need of looking after, when it comes to physical pain? Why is it so much harder with mental or emotional pain?

Admittedly sometimes and for some people it still isn’t easy and I know many who will push themselves past what is sensible and not let themselves rest and recover (not to be confused with those that push and find themselves more capable than previously expected, that’s different, I’m talking about those that don’t stop then fall over seriously broken).

With my ankle, there was a clear visible sign of hurt, for a while I simply couldn’t put enough weight on it to walk and I felt grateful rather than guilty that a friend travelled over to lend me a crutch so I could get about easier. I had to cancel some plans, and although I didn’t like having to do so (the timing sucked!), I didn’t feel guilty about it.

When it came to giving up the driving lessons, I gave myself a hard time. I’m not someone who gives up easily (any more), and having experienced the pride that comes with achieving something once thought out of reach, I am happy to work hard to feel that pride again. I know now that my anxiety is not an indicator of my ability. Having taken a long time to get to that realisation, it’s one I cling to. Nowadays, I intensely dislike my anxiety getting in the way of what I want and I’ve been known to pursue something simply because the thought of it causes anxiety (the tandem skydive I once did being a prime example of this, technically it was to raise money, really it was because the thought of it caused a panic attack so I decided to do one just to show my anxiety who was boss).

However, although I knew that technically I could continue with the lessons and eventually pass, I realised that I simply wasn’t willing to allow that much anxiety into my life. It wasn’t that I couldn’t do it, it was that I didn’t want to.

At the moment I have other things that I wish to give my attention and time to, not to mention a job I care about that I need to be on top form for, and the level of anxiety I was experiencing for 24 hours before the lessons was getting in the way of that.

I came to that realisation after I gave up the lessons however and spent a fair few days feeling like a failure and being grateful for my ever loving and supportive circle of friends understanding me and telling me what I needed to hear.

Now that I pride myself on overcoming my anxiety, my self-image took a knock when it felt like anxiety had won. It took a few days of mulling it through, talking it over with some friends to realise why it was absolutely the right decision for me and to be okay with having made it.

Look at the difference in those two paragraphs! There is a need to explain, to justify perhaps, with giving up driving. The paragraph about the ankle is essentially saying – yeah, hurt ankle, got some help, couldn’t walk for a bit, didn’t push it.

I can’t seem to say the same for a hurt nervous system. It’s not treated the same by people around us. We’re expected to push through, carry on, just be stronger. Yet few would advise someone to keep running that marathon on a twisted ankle we can’t put weight on. Is it just that there is no visible sign to point to?

Maybe one day we will get there, in the meantime, see if thinking of your mental and emotional issues as physical ones helps. Maybe it will, maybe it won’t. It helps me at times.

Of phobias and panic attacks

This week I have been pushed face first into the deep end of my personal phobic pool (because it’s different for each of us). It’s been so long since I’ve had to face this issue that I’d actually forgotten just how phobic I am of Crane Flies/Daddy Long Legs. I’ve been more used to my anxiety being the Generalised kind that is amorphic and nebulous.

Having such a sharp focus to my anxiety is different. It means as soon as I’m away from the trigger I can start to recuperate and recover – although the anxiety has rippling after effects evidenced by my difficulty in getting to sleep all week (as soon as my eyes shut my brain decides to regale me with how the next day could be so much worse!).

However my trigger is ALL over work… I’m having to walk past a van windscreen that is blacked out with them, having to walk past them clinging to the walls of narrow corridors – or worse, they are flying chaotically in a corridor that is too narrow to get past safely, I’m trying not to look out of floor to ceiling windows spattered with them, their corpses litter the stairwells I have to climb sometimes disguising the ones that still live – and this just reinforces the phobic belief that they can come back to life if I get too close to them.

Even leaving work is hard, they pepper the glass doors, get inside the sections of the revolving door and line the underpass I have to go through. Monday that triggered an attack, Tuesday I cupped my hands over my eye so I could only see the ground right below me and barrelled through whispering “it’s okay” over and over to myself, the panic still rose as I stepped on a dead one and I had to firmly tell myself “now it’s REALLY okay” a few times once I was out the other side. Luckily today there was no lady to stare at my strange behaviour as today’s behaviour was much weirder than yesterday’s! On Wednesday I had asked a friend of mine to draw me a picture of an armour wearing flamethrower weilding bear to protect me. He duly did and I printed out that picture and held it inches from my face, staring fixedly at the bear whispering “the bear will protect me” as my mantra as I walked through. That day I didn’t have a panic attack on the other side.

Even just last week I felt I’d got to the point where I could tell myself “I don’t get panic attacks anymore” – When I could feel one building up, it was usually possible to breathe/talk my way back out of it (I don’t mean to suggest this is easy for anyone who struggles with panic but that it is possible to some degree and everything is individual and relative to your life – no beating yourself up if you get panic attacks and can’t talk yourself out of it you hear?).

I was proud of how I dealt with my anxieties and proud of how I’d changed from a bullying attitude toward my fears to one of supporting and understanding myself.

None of that seemed to apply this week!

Since Sunday lunchtime I’ve had 6 panic attacks of varying intensity and length. One of which hit me as I was seconds away from meeting the group I support and I had to turn to my colleague, beg forgiveness and run to a toilet cubicle to give into the fears and tears for a bit then try and get myself back under control to meet my group and start the day.

Another caught me as I was about to walk into work… the number of flying bastards plastered to the outside and on the ground meant I panicked and couldn’t walk into my workplace! I wasn’t at all sure what to do and just stood helplessly in tears (feeling like a prize twat of course) until someone came out to help and I walked in blindfolded (ironic given I work in vision impairments) with him being my guide. Took me half an hour to get over that one and my colleagues had to help me out by bringing my group up to my room so I could stay there in a blissfully flying fuckers free zone.

They’ve been lovely, actually, as the week has gone on it must be clear to them that this can’t be something I’m exagerating or making up and it’s getting worse as the week continues, the same colleague escorted me along the corridor so I could get to the canteen for lunch!

I’ve had to try and explain my weird behaviour to colleagues, painfully aware to my own ears of sounding childlike and pathetic. I can’t imagine anyone else thinking kindly to me over this as I can’t think that way about myself. I hate that something as insignificant and harmless as a flying insect has rendered me thus. I hate that I can’t seem to talk myself out of this one.

I’m aware of course that this attitude just adds to the anxiety and stress, but I can’t seem to help it. I can hear the words I’m using – condemning and judgemental words, rationalising and downplaying my reaction – but I have to admit I feel I deserve them… It makes asking for the help and support I need to cope with work difficult to ask for as I transfer all of my feelings onto them. I feel so pathetic and stupid, how could they think any differently of me?

This of course isn’t helped by the few that presumably have no form of phobia or anxiety in their lives or the lives of loved ones close to them, that’s the only explanation I can think of for their careless dismissal of my struggle. I’ve been told stories of when there were more flying fuckers than now, of one being in their car and they just had to get on with it, that they can’t do me any harm, comments along the lines of “what are you like you crazy thing?” and an illjudged joke of “watch out for that crane fly behind you” when there wasn’t anything there (that “joke” triggered a panic attack…) – I’ve tried to calmly answer that they aren’t helping or aren’t funny. For the lady with the crane fly in her car who “just got on with it”, I politely and quietly answered that I was really pleased she was able to do that. She got the message and actually walked along the corridor to my office in front of me to clear the insects away. She was forgiven!

Fortunately most of them do think differently and have continually offered their help or just their understanding and slowly as the week moves on, it seems I’m able to become more accepting. I guess I just have to… I mean there’s sod all else I can do apart from work on accepting this state, I can’t control or stop it and I can’t not come into work. I’ve noticed a gradual thawing of attitude toward myself as this week progresses (this post has been written over the course of this week as a form of therapy for me) and I’m not quite as loathing of myself as I was on Monday.

I do wonder if I’ve been through a version of Flooding this week. Sleep has been less than ideal so I am so very tired today and today I’ve not had a panic attack… I honestly think I just don’t have the energy for one and that’s so absolutely fine with me right now! The flies are slightly less in number and I’ve managed to squeeze myself down corridors on the opposite side to a wall clinging flappy. I’ve also been able to ask my colleagues to do a few things meaning my exposure to certain corridors, windows and stairwells has been limited.

I feel very humbled as I reach the end of this week. I bow my head and admit maybe I’m not as far along my path as I perhaps thought, that some issues remain just as strong, I just haven’t faced them in a while. It’s a reminder to me not to assume about myself and that there’s always room for improvement when it comes to Acceptance of things we wish weren’t so as without that acceptance I wasn’t able to make the adjustments I needed to perform at the best of my current ability.