On waking this morning my mind did it usual thing of racing through all the situations that are going on in my life right now, scanning for problems, for something to worry about. The difference this morning is that I observed it doing so. When finding no reason to send my body the signal to tense up, it looked harder, surely there must be something wrong?
I always thought that I was ‘just a worrier’ till I opened up and starting talking to other people about my fears. Didn’t everyone have a constant dialogue running through their minds? Non stop thoughts about their health, their children’s well-being, how content their dog was, whether they could have said something differently to that person that they don’t actually know in the supermarket queue yesterday or acted more maturely in a situation that happened 25 years ago. Apparently they don’t.
Of course everyone worries about something at some point. But the thing with anxiety is that you will worry about everything, all the time and in those rare moments that you realise you are not worrying, you worry about that. As if somehow the universe will catch you not caring and punish you for it, by making the thing that you should have been worried about, happen. Of course, somewhere in my head I know this is as ridiculous as it sounds, but knowing it doesn’t stop it.
It gets tiring over analysing everything. Going through a conversation you had for hours after it happened and even when you can’t pin point what you may have said wrong being sure that you made yourself look like a fool somehow. It gets to a point where it become easier to avoid people than to risk the inevitable agony afterwards as you convince yourself that they will have gone away thinking badly of you for one reason or another.
Staying at home is safer, although there is always the chance that the phone will ring or someone will knock at the door. Answering the phone may not seem like a huge task to most. I’ve witnessed people do it without even thinking about it first. Just strolling on over, picking it up and saying hello as if it’s the easiest thing in the world. For me it starts with a jolt as the demanding tone interrupts my thoughts. Sometimes I will just shut the door until it rings off. Whilst that avoids having to talk to someone it brings its own cycle of anxious thoughts worrying about what it might have been. So generally I will psyche myself up to answer it. Take a deep breath, rub the sweat off my palms, light a cigarette, tentatively pick up the receiver and, over the sound of my heavily beating heart, croak hello in a voice that sounds nothing like my own because apparently I have also forgotten how to talk.
Answering the door can be even worse. You know you are not expecting anyone because any visits are arranged days in advance so you have time to mentally prepare, which means it’s either the postman, meter reader, or someone who doesn’t know you well enough to understand that unannounced visits are something you don’t do. A while back I got into the habit of having a nasty cough before opening the door, therefore laying a firm foundation on which to layer the ‘I’m quite clearly indoors because I’m not well, therefore cannot possibly entertain guests’ act. I’d like to point out that I value honesty very highly, but saying ‘I’m not well’ is far easier than saying ‘Please go away, you are scaring me’.
I count myself as being fortunate that my episodes of anxiety come and go. I can have weeks of feeling pretty much okay in between attacks. This has been improved greatly by a diagnosis of and therefore medication to treat hyopthyrodism, which seems to be tied in with my mental health. I know when my dosage needs altering as my anxiety gets worse.
It’s also been helped by CBT sessions and mindfulness, both of which I’d recommend looking into. The biggest change for me came about because of my dog, but he deserves a whole new page..or more, to himself 🙂