I have arrived somewhere back in the anxiety hole. I am not sure how long I have been here, really, but I think maybe it’s been a while. When I start to feel like this, I take on more tasks and busy myself so that I can be distracted, but it’s all fallen apart, and I’m drowning again. There have been a few big things going on in my life over the past months, but I thought I had my mental health under control, turns out I didn’t.
Recognising Anxiety is back
Firstly, I’ve noticed a decline in my sleep quality. I have been awake at night, usually until midnight, with worsening anxiety; last night, I had what I can only describe as a panic attack and had to take myself away from family movie night and go and sit alone in my room for a while to calm down.
Any touch at all feels like razor blades on my skin. Only my dog can get close.
I have been drinking alcohol most evenings for many weeks, a vain attempt at numbing. Of course, this makes my anxiety and depression worsen. It has a positive effect for about one hour, and then I slide into full anxiety before bedtime, during the night and in the morning. Not fun. It invokes guilt, shame, and the “why are you doing this” narrative from myself.
I can also tell when things are getting bad because I start obsessively cleaning and managing. Managing people, tasks and cleanliness. Originally I was a once a week vacuumer, recently it went to twice a week, then 3 times, then 4 and now I am doing it most days and a full kitchen clean down. This might be OK if I had nothing else to do, but it’s not, and until I get these things done, I can’t focus and move on to something else; it is so frustrating when I have urgent work and instead find myself vacuuming for the 5th time this week.
My productivity has gone through the roof; I have launched a podcast, redesigned my whole website, obviously cleaning like a lunatic, running a business, parenting, reading books, listening to podcasts, upskilling my marketing game etc. I am left at the end of the day with a stiff neck and shoulders because I can’t relax, and I am not enjoying these tasks. I am powering through them to tick them off the list, all the while adding more things. Distraction. Good one, brain.
Social media has become somewhat of an addiction, especially Instagram, I am not sure when that even happened, but it was sometime over the past couple of months. Last night I recognised the anxiety Instagram was giving me, and I went and switched off notifications on my phone for all socials. I will no longer get the red dot or the notification and will only look at my phone when I choose to, rather than grab that next little dopamine high of a “like” or a “follow”.
This is super annoying because I just gave my daughter a lecture the other week on how addictive social could be, and I hadn’t even recognised this in myself and my own behaviour. I am also not going to look at my phone in bed anymore; I might not even take my phone into my room at night, undecided about this. What do you do with your phone at night?
My motivation is low. One of the two main reasons I kicked anti-depressants last time, which were extremely effective in managing my anxiety and extreme mood swings, was that I had no motivation. I had become a couch potato, and I hated it. I felt like getting off the medication would give my energy levels back. It may have done for a little while, but not for long; I think I might have less energy now than when I was taking Fluoxetine (Prozac); I seem to be running on some kind of adrenalin.
The second reason I quit the medication was the weight gain, which was probably an effect of the low energy and not wanting to move. I really struggled with the weight gain, it just kept coming, and I haven’t been able to shift that weight to this day. To be fair, lately, I haven’t tried very hard, but this SSRI side-effect can be depressing in itself when you are trying to stabilize your mind but are put off because your metabolism will grind to a halt… what to do.
Fleeting feelings of despair, not wanting to be here anymore because I am a pain in the ass and a burden to the people I love are thoughts that momentarily pop through my brain. Logically, I know this isn’t true, but the monkey mind says it is.
Social anxiety is also alive and kicking. I met with a lady last week, the first time I have met her, a lovely person, but I went into that meeting almost shaking. I was so anxious. I could not calm myself down. It felt like I was getting on stage to talk to a room full of 9000 people about brain surgery (a subject I know nothing about). Since then, I have locked myself away at home and feel a bit shit about what’s happening.
As you might have seen in my social feed, I took myself away for a “self-care” night to a beautiful local motel; I spent most of the time there on social media and then when it was bedtime, my anxiety ramped up to 300%, and I was left wondering if I should pack up and go home because I was concerned some strange intruder might bust through my door in the night. No one did, and I ended up sleeping superbly, but alas, another attempt at chill was tarnished by my own mind.
Another example of how anxiety tries to trip me up is feeling afraid of everyday experiences, like going for a walk. Yesterday I went for a walk with my daughter and dog, just around our neighbourhood. A ute started skidding on the road near me, on purpose, a ute full of a few young men, which immediately made my heart race, and I could feel the anxiety cranking it up to 12/10. I turned us all around and started speed walking home, my daughter thought I was going mad, but I couldn’t even communicate what was happening inside me; I just had to get away.
The ute then turned, went past us, and parked up ahead in the direction we were now headed. I almost broke down and cried; if lightning hit me at that moment and sent me to a crisp, I wouldn’t have been mad about it. What was I concerned about?
Welcome to a front-row seat in my mind. Firstly, I was panicked that they would take my dog and try to make him fight with another dog. Secondly, they would confront us somehow, they had displayed erratic driving behaviour, and now I didn’t know what was going to happen. We made it past them, no problem; just as I started to calm down, a dog came racing out of a property and was aggressively barking at us through the fence. I had to immediately cross the road and then just got home as fast as I possibly could.
This walk was supposed to be an attempt to keep good mental health, burn off some anxiety, and get some exercise. Now I am nervous about going out again. I feel like I will go by myself because then I won’t have to worry about getting us all to safety; I can just run. Chris says I should do a self-defence class or something to gain confidence and not worry; I think my mind will create another situation to worry about.
This feeling is exhausting. Sometimes, when I have dark thoughts, I want to make it all stop and go away. I’ve stopped honestly answering when people ask how I am and instead give a positive “great thanks, and you?” because I get sick of hearing my own sadness; I can’t imagine how others must be sick of hearing it.
The very worst thing that gets said when you do bring it up is a “practice gratitude” or “meditate” or “exercise” it’s all well-intentioned but just not helpful. I am very aware of all I need to do, but something is pulling me in a different direction, and it’s hard to manage. Hence why it seems easy to say I’m fine and change the subject.
Be gone, anxiety
I have reached out to my doctor and will probably look at some relief from medication again as it seemingly has become out of hand. I have anxiety about this too, naturally, because I stopped taking it for reasons like weight gain and low energy, which I have already mentioned, but maybe they aren’t as important as getting through the day. Maybe there are alternatives.
On a semi-positive note, I have finally recognised what is going on, which is good. Not as quickly as I should have, given my experience with this prior, but alas, I have recognised it.
I have reached out to my dr and am taking steps to reduce my triggers while I wait to make a plan.
This is a pretty sucky time, but I will be OK and luckily, I have support options available to me.
I wanted to share what this pain looks like in real-time. Everything isn’t always Instagram filters, happy radio chats, chocolate and pinot noir; this is just another messy part of life. Maybe you can relate.