I guess that’s essentially what we all are, but I feel like it sums me up quite nicely, as it manages to encapsulate both my damaged nervous system and my propensity for anxiety.
My anxiety, and in fact my mental health in general, is not something I’ve ever blogged, or really spoken about before to be honest, and I can’t say as I feel a great yearning to suddenly change that now, but as those of you who know me “IRL” will be aware- I have started making a nod to it on Facebook now that I’m actually at a stage of acknowledging it and seeking help.
I think it’s really telling that I have written at length about my experience of being diagnosed with and living with CIDP and had a lot of (mainly positive) feedback around that, and yet still not felt willing or able to share my similar experiences of suffering from startlingly common mental health problems.
As it’s 2017 (although you’d be forgiven for some days wondering if we’ve slipped back in time to the 1930’s) I think we all like to think that we’re pretty open-minded, and terms like ‘depression’ and ‘anxiety’ have lost some of the negative connotations or power that they once held, and in a way that’s probably true. After all, this morning I admitted to no less than four separate people in the playground that yes, I did have a good time on Friday night thank you, but I then had a panic attack in the early hours of Saturday morning that kind of took the shine off. Being able to share that information with people and not think they’re going to start slowly backing away and turning down my childrens’ party invites, means that yes- we’ve definitely moved on from the notion that suffering from mental illness makes you inferior, or to be avoided. But on the other hand, here I am still feeling incredibly hesitant about hitting ‘publish’ on this post, because the truth is- there is still that suggestion- whether internal or external, that your mind is something you can FULLY CONTROL. So if it’s not working quite right- it’s within your power to fix it, and your fault if you then can’t.
I’ve been experiencing anxiety attacks for well over a decade and am only just now holding my hands up and saying, “so this is a thing I need some help with.” I live with a mental health professional who has been (supportively) encouraging me to get help for the majority of that time. So if it’s hard for *me*, then how much harder must it be for other people who don’t have someone holding their hand (either literally or metaphorically), rubbing their back and reassuring them that no, they’re not actually going fucking insane, or you know- if they are- then it’ll be alright and no one will hold it against them.
Until recently, my mental health mirrored my circumstances quite accurately, so when things were not going well, my mental health wasn’t great either (makes sense really), and so I told myself that it didn’t really matter how shitty I felt because sooner or later, things would calm down and I’d calm down too. And that kind of philosophy worked ok for a while. But for the last couple of years it hasn’t worked out that way- the sea can be flat, crystal blue without so much as a ripple on the surface and I’m still there in my boat yelling “WE’RE GOING TO DROWN!!!!!!”. This juxtaposition has finally prompted me to actually admit that this is something I can’t just keep ‘riding out until it settles’ and that I need help.
Three little words with so much power. How terrifying that is to type, let alone say. But it’s true- I do need help. I can’t keep waking up feeling like my heart is about to explode out of my chest, struggling for breath and wondering why the hell my body and mind are conspiring to kill me off while I sleep. I can’t keep squashing down all the inconvenient, messy and downright traumatic bullshit that I’ve put off dealing with. I need some help, and although that help might not take the cure of a magic wand wafting all this ridiculousness away, I hope at least it will mean I can steer my ship safely, regardless of the tide or the weather conditions, without constantly feeling like I’m about to be nommed-to-death by sharks.
I’ve also decided to be as transparent as I can be about all of this. Because frankly, if I can blog about my feelings on fostering or that time I collapsed on a bathroom floor, or about pregnancy loss, or my Dad’s death etc etc then I should be able to be open about this kind of thing too.
So…my name is Rebecca and I have anxiety. The level of anxiety that means that the woman who did my assessment a week ago called me up today to tell me I’m not suitable for low-intensity CBT and she’s referring me for high-intensity instead. The level of anxiety that means answering phone calls is terrifying, the level of anxiety that wakes me in the dead of night to go check that my children are breathing, the level of anxiety that means I am constantly expecting SOMETHING TERRIBLE TO HAPPEN without knowing specifically what that might entail, so just worrying about every possibility- as a precaution. The level of anxiety that means my panic attacks have gone from an occasional annoyance to a regular feature that if I wasn’t hyperventilating and crying at the time, I’d probably roll my eyes at.
So- that’s a thing and I’m getting help for it, and because there might be someone out there who is remarkably similar to me at any other point in the last decade, going “oh that’s familiar, but the idea of asking for help is scary”, I’m going to try to keep you all updated on just how scary (or not), this whole ‘getting help’ thing is.
In the meantime- have some helpful links:
(support, services and signposting- this is the link a friend sent me, that finally prompted to action, and I’m now on a waiting list, so if you’re thinking about taking that step, do check it out)
(Mind are a well known mental health charity and there’s loads of useful info on their site)
(nhs choices website, you can type literally any condition in and get some reliable information on, and usually some information and advice about getting help too)
(a user led organisation)