I have been absent from blogland for a good long while, since July 21st to be precise, and it is high time I started getting back into the groove. Now, I have my reasons, some of which I plan on divulging in this/possible upcoming posts, and while some may not be very good, the big one is just straight up dreadful.
Disclaimer right now, this is NOT going to be my usual stuff. This isn't going to particularly cheerful, or witty, or full of hilarious Gifs or memes that I laugh about waaay longer than I should. This is going to be the scariest thing I put out there about myself ever. Something I have been hemming and hauing about writing down at all.
For the past several months, I have been attempting to deal with a newly diagnosed Anxiety disorder, and let me be the first to say that I'm not sure if I've made much headway in the matter. Before figuring this out, I just assumed I was more susceptible to worrying or panicking about little details, but as the anxiety grew and started taking on a personality of its own, it became much harder to ignore or push away. I started realizing that what I thought was 'normal', wasn't, in fact, normal at all- a scary realization when I pride myself on being in control of myself at all times.
For years, I have been on the sidelines as several of my closest friends and family went through the absolutely terrifying steps of dealing with anxiety, depression, panic, the works. I always marveled at them- they had this way of putting on a brave face, even when they were going through something I couldn't quite relate to, but wished I could help with. I never fully understood how hard day to day life was, and I didn't want to be insensitive or foolish enough to say, 'I understand', or, 'It's not so bad'. You never know what someone is going through, so don't be the one to say how much you 'get it'. You don't. Their battle is their own. Just be there for them.
I came to understand this a little better once I figured out some things about myself, which were ugly and awful to learn, but had been living on a timer for years.
It started by me e-mailing a friend after one of the worst 'lows' I can remember. It was the first time I openly admitted to needing help and feeling lost, like I was no longer in control of how I felt. I've had some doozies the last while, but this one was the worst one to date at the time. My anxiety stems from a whole mish-mash of things, but my biggest, most terrifying fear is death and disease. Now, a lot of people reading this (if there are any of you) will say, 'Hey! Don't be too hard on yourself- that's the most natural thing in the world to be afraid of!' to which I will reply, 'Yes, but not to this extent'.
Let me break down a few of my thoughts for you- paint a picture, if I may.
My brain works like this:
I hear a story about how someone got cancer/rare disease/common cold. I hear what symptoms they experienced. My IMMEDIATE reaction is to imagine what it would be like to have that happen to me. And not just a, 'Oh, that would suck' thought, I mean visualize the whole process. Finding out from a doctor. Telling my family. Telling my husband. What would happen to him. What our life would be like.
Then the real fun starts.
Then I worry about what would happen to him if I died (escalated rather quickly, no?). The fear of what it would do to my loved ones. What would they have to suffer? What would I miss out on? This is followed by pain in my chest/ arms so brutal that for the first while I thought I was having a heart attack. Or that I actually had one of those rare diseases and this was a warning sign. Or that I was having an aneurysm. Or that I was having a stroke. And not just a fleeting thought- those ideas ignite into fully-fledged mental wars between the rational side of me and the irrational. When I'm in the middle of an 'attack', I can't get myself out. My brain has me completely convinced that one of those scenarios is playing out in reality- that I really am dying/having a heart attack/ whatever else my brain thinks would be horrible. It's impossible to get out of those spirals. It's like a war being fought against yourself by yourself.
Imagine if that happened, say, once a week. Stole your sleep, your peace of mind, made your heart beat so hard in your chest that after a trip to the doctors, you find out that your chest is bruised from it beating so hard from fear? That's what it's like. Only it happens for days. All the while, convincing you more and more that you are on borrowed time. Even saying it/ writing it makes you feel like you a merely confirming it.
To say it's exhausting is a gross understatement. I used to love being alone. I relished my 'me' time. Now it feels like a punishment. Because it's always worse when I'm alone. What if something happens when no one is around? What would happen then? That's the kind of thinking being alone brings on. The constant What If game that I never seem to be able to win.
I've been trying to get past it, but the more I read up on Anxiety, the farther away from an answer I feel.
Perhaps this is too dark for the internet, too serious a topic for a blog that discusses knitting addiction, puppies, baking, bad interviews with poop on your shoe, and sound through colour, but this is also a place I write about what's important to me.
I never fully fathomed how real these diseases were, not until it was knocking on my front door with a sledge hammer. And part of me is ashamed for that. For not trying harder to understand what people suffering from these things go through. Day to day life is a struggle. Every day. Every hour. I don't know how many times a day I tell myself, 'That's just your anxiety. You are fine.' My heart races, or my head hurts, or my muscles twinge, or my chest aches, or my breathing spikes out of the blue, convincing me that something is very wrong with me, and I have to say a mantra in my head just to stay grounded. All the things I classified as 'normal' don't quite apply.
So for anyone out there dealing with a mental illness, or struggling to keep themselves whole, I feel ya, Holmes. The one thing that sort of helped me in the beginning was reading up about other peoples experiences. It was reassuring in a morbid sort of way- reading that perhaps I wasn't actually dying, perhaps what I felt was a legitimate issue that I needed to address. That I wasn't having a heart attack. It was actually anxiety.
Sorry for the gloom-and-doom post, I promise I'll be back to my sunny disposition soon enough, but I finally felt brave enough to talk about this. I explain things better in writing than I EVER could in a conversation with a real live human being. Baby steps. And hey! Maybe this will help someone else realize that they aren't alone. Maybe it will help another soul understand that there are others who are fighting along with them. And maybe that's too much to hope for, but here goes!
Finding happiness in the things around you does help, even if makes you more afraid of losing them, because they exist. You have those things now. Enjoy them. Tell the people you love just how much they mean to you every chance you get.
Don't be afraid to say, 'I need help'. You might be surprised who stands next to you.