I’m struggling today. I’m currently sat on the bedroom floor eating those posh chocolate sea shell things, listening to Mini Milk’s squawking, while I ponder my life plan. It’s not ideal. And as Newton Faulkener’s incredibly insightful songs blast out my phone, I realise I am probably having the lead up to an anxiety attack. Stupid life. Stupid brain. Stupid thoughts.
It’s half past 11. Which according to a wonderful work colleague of mine, is nearly 12pm. Which is nearly lunchtime. Which is a tiny step to 2pm. Which is nearly 3pm. Which is time for a cuppa. Which means it’s nearly 5pm and time to go home. So…unfortunately, that means I’m running out of time. I have, of course, been up since 7am. But achieving anything seems impossible today. Not least because my delightful Little Man Cub appears to be furious with me.
What people who don’t suffer from anxiety cannot understand, is that the all consuming, breathtaking, stomach churning cycle of worry can wash over you anywhere, anytime. It isn’t rational. It isn’t reactive. It isn’t controllable, predictable or preventable. It doesn’t ask for an appointment or consider your circumstances. It can’t come back later or wait a minute while you nip to the shop. Like a toddler’s tantrum, it’s happening right now and without your permission. And it’s horrible.
For me, it starts in the back of my throat. Like a tightness. When I was a smoker I thought of this as craving a cigarette. A need to inhale nicotine. Which was obviously why I was feeling fidgety, on edge and my heart was racing. I was quite convinced that these feelings could be managed with a quick nip out for some fresh air. When I quit smoking I became convinced of it. That must be why I feel so crap…withdrawal. It took a good 6 months smoke free to realise that fags didn’t cure this feeling at all.
And once the warning signs come on it is then down to me how I respond. Once upon a time I would have pretended I was fine. I would keep on keeping on and, inevitably, that would result in a falling out or other such disaster. Burying feelings of anxiety makes me snappy and unpleasant. And almost always makes me feel even more anxious as a result. These days I tell Daddio how I feel. He may not be able to stop it, but the acknowledgement of the feelings and a supportive hug go along way towards keeping things to a low simmer.
But the trouble is, in this house, it’s not just the anxiety that strikes. Waves of depression and sadness also take over from time to time. Again, there doesn’t have to be any outside influences, sometimes it’s just there. It’s like a creepy cold shiver that comes from nowhere. Or like when the lights suddenly dim when there is some sort of power surge elsewhere. But when the mood lights dim, it can take a good while for them to come back up to brightness.
For me, it’s like I’m drowning. Like everything is heavy. And it weighs down on me. I feel like a Christmas Tree that really isn’t up for the job, but is having more and more and more things hung on it, without its permission. And then, just when it feels like it has had everything it can possibly handle draped on it, some twat comes along with a bloody star and plonks it down right on the top.
It’s exhausting. And when I’m adorned with all of the words baubles, and I’m ready to fall over at the first swipe of a cat’s paw, I realise how ridiculous I look. Green doesn’t suit me. I’m far too spikey. My branches are too fat. I cannot possibly face anyone looking like this. I’m disgusting.
So I take to my bed (which is where I have to end the Christmas tree analogy or I’m going to get confused) and I think back to all the other times I felt like this. And all the mistakes I’ve made. And all the things I could have done better. And all the times I should have kept my stupid mouth shut. And all the people who don’t think I’m good enough. And all the money I’ve spent. And all the cupboards I haven’t cleaned. And all the blogs I haven’t written. And all the calls I haven’t made. And all the friends I haven’t seen.
And the anxiety bubbles up again…and so it goes on.
Anxiety and depression are sodding awful illnesses. And chances are, because life is a bit shit like that, those who have one or both of them will also have some other illness to deal with too. Or children to run around after. Or a job, or something equally as tricky. And having to function when you feel like you’re drowning under the weight of the world is nearly impossible.
Now, the biggest shitter of mental health issues, is that talking about them when you’re suffering from them is like trying to take glass out of a cut. It’s painful, raw and whenever you try it seems to make things worse. But when, for example, you need to call in sick, if you have diarrhea you say you have “a tummy bug”. When you are under a cloud of depression and can’t even fathom how to get out of bed, you don’t say you have a “dodgy head” or “dented soul”. Chances are you go in anyway and struggle all day to keep on keeping on. Or you lie. And say you have a migraine. Or some other physical complaint that means you don’t have to admit to the hideous embarrassment that is, being completely human.
I can’t do it anymore. I can’t pretend to be a robot. I’m broken. Physically and mentally. I hurt. I worry. I lie awake and wonder. I shout. I am snappy. I do things wrong. I feel drained. I struggle. I panic. I sulk. I bury my head under the duvet. And sometimes…I cry.
But, now that I admit to the broken-ness. Now that I ask for a cuddle, or allow myself a moment to wallow. Now that I look at my boys and think how much they make me complete. Now, even though I’m still broken and probably always will be…now the pieces are just a little bit closer together.
And just in case any of you are feeling broken, or like you’re drowning, or have a dodgy head or dented soul…just know you’re not alone.