Today my anxiety levels are high. When I’m not feeling anxious it’s harder to talk about because I tend to forget the feelings, probably because I don’t want to remember. Most of my anxiety triggers are related to social interactions. Today I have a presentation to give on a website I created (something I volunteered for); followed by MG’s birthday party on Friday and the house is in a mess; followed by going to London on Saturday to the Red House Children’s Book Awards ceremony.
Any one of these things would cause me some anxiety; three within five days means I’m practically incapacitated. I’m on antidepressants which do take the edge off a little, but not enough. I’ve taken beta blockers in the past (for driving tests – I still failed ten and passed none) and of course there’s alcohol for social events where that’s acceptable, but I don’t like to do that for various reasons either. Given how prescription drugs do very little for me, I’ve never been tempted to try recreational ones. Therefore generally in life, I’ve taken to avoiding any stress triggers. I don’t have a ‘proper’ job anymore; I rarely go out; and I try to leave long periods of time between unavoidable trigger events. Or just avoid them.
I have been diagnosed with Social Anxiety and Avoidant Personality Disorder (both by a GP, not a specialist) because I get anxious about social events and tend to avoid things. I think it’s slightly more complex than that but regardless of why, here’s the how.
My stomach is full of butterflies. This is constant. I say butterflies because I’m not sure how to explain the feeling but it’s a near-sick nervousness that doesn’t go away. Apologies for the extra info, but this also gives me diarrhoea. My heart is beating faster or more strongly, this makes my head thud. Concentration is hard. I have to concentrate to concentrate. When I speak, my voice may crack easily and I sound like I’m about to burst into tears at any moment. I may burst into tears at any moment.
My hands and arms shake with fear and worry. My brain locks into a pattern of inactivity. I can’t do anything to help the anxiety go away (like plan for a presentation, or tidy the house ready for a party) because I can’t do anything. Sleep is my only escape from these overwhelming feelings. The unconscious nothingness of sleep is all I want, plus the trigger to go away so the feelings will go away. Maybe if I sleep through, I don’t have to face what’s making me so anxious. Maybe I can say I’m ill, because I certainly feel it.
My tinnitus is louder today, but I’m used to that and can generally ignore it. My breathing is deeper and slower. I don’t tend to hyperventillate these days because I concentrate on breathing more. My head thuds and pounds, my stomach churns, my limbs feel cold and numb or prickle with a pins and needles feeling. I need to close my eyes, I need for it all to go away.
At the grand age of thirty-seven, I’m a lot better at dealing with my anxieties. I can usually have a word with myself and bring up a host of examples of where I was worried about something and it turned out okay. I won’t bring up the examples of where I didn’t worry and it turned bad, I don’t need reminding. I wish I didn’t remember so much sometimes.
I’m going to have a word with myself now. I’ve created the website, it does look pretty good. It’s a first draft, not a fait accompli and I’m going to the meeting to talk about it and for things to be approved and changed. There will be changes, it will not be a personal attack against me.
Both my daughters are at school. I have done most of the work I need for today, and I have a clear four hours to tidy the house for Friday. Sitting here will not help. Picking up that box in front of me and tidying up the pens and pencils (again) will. I’ve already done lots of tidying and decluttering, I’ve worked hard, I should be proud of myself. Ignore the tinnitus. Ignore the churning stomach. Drink water, it will stop the pounding head.
To those who suffer from anxiety: I hope you’re getting the help you need. Please see a GP if you haven’t, it can help. To those who don’t: Please don’t tell us “we all get anxious”, it really isn’t just a bit of nerves and can seriously affect every part of our lives. I now know how to cope (most of the time) but being told “it’s normal, we all have it sometimes” when it really wasn’t made me feel even more incapable and useless. Thank-you for reading.