Monday, 21 November 2016

Anxiety - the social stigma ...

So I got to thinking about why it is so difficult for those non-anxious folk to accept that we, the anxious, generally only turn down social events because of our mental illness. Why is that such a stretch for you guys to grasp, it’s nothing personal, yet it seems to get treated with contempt and hostility.

If someone said they couldn’t attend a gathering because they’d broken a bone or had the flu there would be gushing compassion and sincere wishes to get well soon. However mention mental illness or anxiety and firstly it gets glossed over and ignored, but long term it seems to be taken as an indication that you are an untrustworthy, useless friend who should be excluded from future social functions as a punishment. Perhaps I just have dodgy friends!

Or perhaps is it my paranoia kicking in again?

If what I am talking about is a mystery to you then you’re either lucky or a non-anx person. There was a time when I lied about why I couldn’t make social functions. There was always that distant relative who needed attention, or a friend who needed my help or I had some mystery illness that was sweeping the town. However since my last really bad bout of depression, when I was off work for five months I feel compelled to be true to myself. That period of time was the first time in my life that I actually admitted to myself that I have a real illness, I finally gave myself some credit for not being that selfish stand-offish bitch that allegedly hated people, but instead I was someone who had tried to be strong for far too long.

It took me twenty years of looking in the mirror to accept that depression and anxiety are going to be a lifelong issue for me and it’ll never just be a case of getting better. There are good days and bad days, but admitting it to myself was and is a big deal.  As such if I’m asked why I am not going somewhere these days I am honest whether that makes people feel uncomfortable or not and I think it does make some people feel squirmy.

In the Victorian era in the UK, us, the mentally ill, or the insane, as we were once referred to, were locked away from society, placed in mental institutions or work houses, segregated and scorned. I do wonder whether that stigma still resonates in people’s minds, because there is a stigma to mental illness. I make a habit of saying it out loud these days, especially at work, although you do feel a bit like the elephant in the room when you do. Not because I am the size of an elephant, well not quite, but you immediately sense the discomfort of those around you. People almost want to physically shift away from you, to put some distance between themselves and you. Perhaps there is an automatic assumption you’re an axe murderer, or is it just an inherent discomfort that someone would admit that sort of shameful secret out loud? Or is it more likely to be the fact that many people face similar battles but have yet to see the light in their own mirror, to accept their own truths?

I have deviated from my point. I do not want to be ashamed of my mental illness.  I want to be proud of myself for working through the anxiety, for getting up on those mornings when all I want to do is cry and hide under the dining room table, for continuing to drive in to work when there are tears of panic and stress rolling down my cheeks, for getting back up every time life’s bowling ball knocks me down.

So, you non-anx folks out there if people like me shouting about my anxiety from the rooftops helps me cope and move forwards then you’ll just have to go out and buy yourself some ear plugs. Deal with it!
The next time a friend or colleague confides in you that they’re struggling or don’t feel able to do something because of their anxiety or depression then just say ‘okay that’s fine I understand.’ Give them the space they need, do invite them out again and again. Do not take it personally; it’s about them not you. They’re not trying to insult you; in fact, if they confide the truth in you, they’re paying you the compliment of trusting in you, making the assumption that you’re cool enough to understand them and the struggles they’re living with. Just know that they’re putting their heart into your hands

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Mental Health & Debt

I saw something on the television this morning that struck a chord with me. They were talking about the connection between mental health problems and debt.

In recent times since I got more of a handle on my depression and anxiety spending.

Today though I have thought back to the days when getting myself into terrible debt was a regular occurrence and come to my own conclusions as to why I ran up those debts. I have considered and not for the first time, whether it was because of my mental health.

If Mental Health was a player,  I think it would  have been because I was trying to buy myself self esteem by getting nice clothes, flattering hair cuts, posh things that I thought people would be jealous of thinking they may think better of me for having flash things. Of course it has never worked; I am no more of a person now for all those purchases than I would have been without them.

Initially as I reflected I wanted to blame my Mother for the debts and my spending habits. She would never let me control my own money as a child therefore I never understood the value of money and I was thinking that, that’s maybe why I have always spent and spent and spent. But although I think my Mother and her lack of caring, and loving do contribute to a lot of my my mental health issues I think my actual spending problems were actually rooted in something far deeper and more sinister than even she should take credit for in their entirety.

I first started working straight out of school at sixteen years old, joining the police service at nineteen. I think upon reflection it started then, the anxiety, the lack of confidence and the depression. Of course there are several key life events along the way that have now magnified and enhanced the problems to where they are now. The last 28 years of my life have certainly had there ups and downs, whose life hasn’t, but no matter how much money I have spent I never seemed to be happy, or to be able to purchase that anxiety free world that I think I am ultimately after.

Is that it then, the route of the spending problems, is that me trying to buy happiness?

By no means was my depression and anxiety ever as bad as it is now back in the early days although my body has always had a habit of getting physically ill when I am up to my neck in something psychologically taxing or stressful. But gradually over the years if I was feeling down or empty I would head to the shops and indulge myself. Sometimes I bought ridiculous things that never ever saw the light of day again and often I would stand in shops considering the validity of spending the money but invariably my heart would overrule the logic of my brain the purchase would be made. Even when I knew there was no money and it got placed onto credit cards and even when the credit card ran out of credit I would just get another one. When the credit card repayments got too much I’d then take out a loan to pay them off and start all over again. Catalogues, store cards on and on and on until the debt around my neck then exacerbated my anxiety one hundred per cent. I have created a vicious circle of debt, anxiety, more debt, and then more anxiety. Being in debt is soul destroying and you think people look at you as if you are a brainless idiot, well you are, but brainless because it is incapacitated by illness and by your own feelings of inadequacy. The inadequacy that you were trying to erase with nice things, the happiness and love you were trying to buy they all then just end up even further away than when you started your whole sorry journey of spending.

So that’s what I have been thinking about today. I think the debts that I have run up and paid off over the years all stem from emptiness, from the void I feel in my life. I have tried to buy happiness, buy my way to positivity and fulfilment. I have been on the a merry-go-round of anxiety, spend,  debt, equals more anxiety, so spend more and get into more debt!  On and on and on. And even though I know what these issues are, I am still fighting them, I still fight the spending urge. Like an addict it is a habit that is hard to break. I guess it is an addiction because that small emotional pay off I get, that warm feeling of satisfaction for buying something glorious does for a few hours make me happy and less anxious.

Ultimately though peace of mind is something that cannot be bought, and anxiety is something that refuses to be paid off.


Monday, 7 November 2016

Paranoia & Anxiety


If someone with anxiety was trying to impart to you that they also suffered with paranoia would you understand what they were describing, what their perspective was? Would you get what is was they were trying to explain to you? Shall I help you grasp the nettle?

Let’s play a little game. What was the most nerve wracking thing you have ever done? Was it perhaps your wedding, maybe school or job exams or even that all important job interview when so much rested on getting a good result? Maybe even a sky jump from a great height?
Select your event and put yourself back there, back into those moments, in the hours preceding this nerve wracking event. Close your eyes; feel the agitation, can you remember how you felt? Was your stomach churning, butterflies in clogs dancing around dipping and flipping. Had the rest of you insides joined the protest, a dirty protest maybe, with nervous diarrhoea and wind? Did you feel like your heart is missing the odd beat before speeding up and slowing down at will leaving you breathless and probably sweating? Were you having trouble concentrating or recalling the important things that you needed to remember?
I bet it was exhausting for you, burning through all that adrenaline, your neck was probably aching from the tension of the situation and your head was enduring a chronic banging headache.
When you tried to speak did you find that you had a dry mouth, maybe you even muddled your words or messed up what you wanted to say?
Now consider on top of all those feelings how it would feel to think that everyone around you had a downer on you? That you have no support, you feel isolated. You suspect that even your family and close friends look upon you in exasperation for being a complete loser.
You sense people are looking at you oddly aren’t they? You start to analyse every last thing that is said to you. People clearly hate you; I expect they think you’re really ugly too. If you look in the mirror and see such a lump of uselessness why wouldn’t they? You suspect colleagues cannot understand why on earth you’ve got the job that you have, let alone ever think you would be deserving of another more well paid position.
You can sense peoples disdain; you can feel their hatred prickling at your skin. When someone who you’re utterly convinced has been hating on you, someone who you are certain really does hate your guts speaks to you, you’re likely to have worked yourself up into such a frenzy imagining all the vile putrid things they have been saying about you that your attitude in response to their question or query is frankly down right rude. You’re cross; you’re wearing your heart on your sleeve and you snap something at them. Short and sharp immediately regretting it but unable to retract it you sit in stony silence. Now you know they hate you because you were such a bitch to them.
Maybe they invite you out for a drink. You should go they’re your friends right? But they don’t really want you there you know that, they hate you right? Ignore that and go out and have fun your inner voice shouts over the doubters. But you know you don’t deserve any fun, you’re a bitch. You’re a crap friend; you suspect they’d rather you didn’t go out anyways, at the end of the day you have nothing to offer the group and of course you were rude earlier.
No you decide it is for the best if you give it a miss.
Trouble is they now know you are a standoffish bitch don’t they? The next day they really are hating on you aren’t they? And so the cycle of doubt and paranoia goes on.
Anxiety and paranoia go hand in hand in my world. I consistently feel as if the most nerve wracking experience in my life is likely to happen imminently. I take drugs to dampen the feelings but even with them it is palpable.
It is exhausting physically and emotionally. The feelings of isolation you create for yourself are harsh, leaving you feeling desperate and lonely. But you still cannot break out of the cycle. People just make it worse. The more people there are in any given place or situation the more people there are to judge you. Keeping people at arms length is survival. If they are not close they won’t be repulsed by you, they won’t know enough about you to start hating you. You will not offend their senses.
It is a never ending conveyor belt of doom, a long dark road of uncertainty and sadness. The path undulates this way and that but the net result is unwavering in its conclusion.

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Epiphany Day - Anxiety = Creatvity

Well today has been somewhat of a rollercoaster.

Around midnight I was holding my daughters hair back whilst she threw up in the bathroom sink her bottom fixed firmly to the toilet seat expelling waste that end too! I held my nose so I couldn't smell anything, however as I nursed and comforted her my mind was totally fixated on the fact that  I knew she would have to be off school sick today. In fact for two days with the 48 hour exclusion rule in the UK. I had appointments booked at work that had been in the diary some three weeks, one in particular with a very difficult person who I knew would be utterly incensed by my inability to keep the appointment, then there was breaking the news to my colleagues without small children who I knew full well would chunter and discuss my shameful, inexcusable lack of commitment to my work behind my back.
That was all before I even contemplated breaking it to my boss who I knew already had a very low opinion of me. So as the vomit persisted and the weariness started to engulf me,  my head was full of anxiety and stress as I anticipated the conversation content I needed to have with various people come daylight. As per normal for you then I hear you shout!

Worse than normal though as having to bail out of days at work at the last minute I knew would add fuel to their fire about my mental health. They'd think I was swinging the lead. Hell even the child's father had a pop at me today about how 'sickly' a child she was today! So colleagues have no hope do they of seeing the wood from the trees.

One thing did come to me today, my anxiety, my heightened sensitivity, my constant concern about other peoples tone with me and what that means if you read between the lines. My perception of the world at a seemingly different level to others and my yearning to commit everything to paper by capturing moments in time as word pictures. It came to me that if I wasn't a depressive, anxiety ridden creature would I still have the same burning insatiable need to be creative? Does the anxiety feed my creativity? Am I creative because of my depression? I came to the conclusion that for me the anxiety feeds my creativity. The enhanced feelings, guilt, sorrow, stress whatever they may be at any given time I seem to suffer them 100% more than most folks. I'm like a bug under a magnifying glass burning with stress when others around me are barely breaking a sweat!

So my epiphany for today... my positive thought for the day?! Me and positivity, wonders will never cease!

My anxiety and depression help me to write, whereas all along I have seen my writing as a therapy to help me recover and cope with my mental health.

That's my thought for today anyways!