Tread carefully

Here’s a rant. Ignore it, laugh at it, whatever. I just need to get this out.

This evening I was due to meet up with a friend – before I left, I was casually checking my phone, and someone had retweeted this really inspiration story about a girl’s who Mum had taught her that you can always leave. A job. A relationship. A conversation. A party. If it’s making you uncomfortable, or whatever, you’re allowed to leave.

It really hit me, and made me think about identity and boundaries, and about how crucial it has been to my mental health that I know, at the end of the day, I, and only I, own myself. The world can throw whatever at me, people can say whatever, do whatever, but they won’t change this little space that I occupy.

And then I met with this friend, and they asked how I was, and I mentioned I’m slightly ill, and they asked if I’d seen a doctor, to which the answer was no, and it suddenly got all heated. Like:

‘WHY AREN’T YOU LOOKING AFTER YOURSELF?’

‘YOUR MIND AND YOUR BODY ARE NOT SEPARATE ENTITIES.  YOU HAVE TO LOOK AFTER BOTH.’

‘I’M CONCERNED’

‘YOU HAVE TO GO SEE A DOCTOR’

Actually, you know what, no. My body is exactly that – mine. If I don’t give a shit what happens to it physically, that’s my call. If you can say to me ‘WELL WHAT HAPPENS IN TEN YEARS TIME YOU HIT THE REPERCUSSIONS OF THE DAMAGE YOU’RE DOING?’ and I can truthfully say back to you that I can think about that scenario and it doesn’t change my mind, that is the end of the discussion.

You want the truth? There are all sorts of things wrong with me. All sorts. Maybe I have some dreadful condition. Maybe I have many dreadful conditions, and they’re all deteriorating past the point of no return. Perhaps your concern about my health is my wistful thinking for an end. I don’t care. What’s the worst that can happen? Death? Fine!

I’m not suicidal. I don’t obsess about it, or anything like that. No danger here. Chill.

I just don’t care.

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Taking back the power

We learn things all the time, even if we think we’re not. You know what I’ve learnt? Not to sit on things. That gives those things power, power beyond what you’d consciously give them. It leaks into your behaviour. Controls you in ways you can’t notice.

So today I had a very frank discussion with my boss. Cards on the table time. Brave phrases such as ‘you undermine me’, ‘so you can see why I feel like rubbish’, and ‘I’m not stupid’. I’d been putting it off and putting it off, scared that my boss would be really angry, or really disappointed in me, or whatever else.

And the world didn’t end. My boss apologised, which I wasn’t expecting at all. In some ways, work will be better now.

Take that, anxiety.

 

Caught between a rock and a dark place

I’m glad I wrote something positive last time I posted here, because now I’m going to balance the scales.

Things have been hard recently. I broke my proud seven-years-since-last-self-harming status; the details aren’t important, but I reached a point where inflicting pain felt like the only thing left I could actually do.

It may or may not be a coincidence that therapy was been very challenging recently. That’s a good thing, definitely, because every time we hit a nerve it means we’ve found what needs to be worked on, but I think it’s important to acknowledge the toll that can take; it’s stressful, and exhausting, and it triggers every childish impulse to run/hide/deny that you have, in ways that it can be hard to explain to other people. At the moment we’re combing back through the really dark period with the suicide attempts etc, and I’m struggling to keep the old feelings at arm’s length. I should tell my therapist, really. I’m clearly not coping very well. But I don’t want to tell him, because then we switch to risk management, which is a sidestep. I want to do the real work.

A couple of weeks ago, my therapist asked ‘Are you glad you didn’t die?’. No. I’m not. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suicidal. I have no intent whatsoever. Scout’s honour. And I don’t wish I was dead. I just don’t rejoice in being alive either, if that makes sense.

Perhaps my medication needs tweaking. Ugh. I’m avoiding seeing my GP, again I think because I don’t want to admit what’s going on. Life’s easier if you can disappear.

But let’s be positive for a moment. The fight with anxiety goes on, and I think I’m still winning. I wonder sometimes if that’s being helped by my low mood – how can you get really anxious about something if you don’t particularly care any more?

A little positivity for once

Life is definitely getting better. More accurately, I realise now that isn’t going to ‘get better’ by itself. Anxiety isn’t a virus where you basically have to wait it out for the right antibodies to kick in. It isn’t a sprain that you compress and ice and rest it until it doesn’t hurt anymore. Instead it’s a monster that broke my all my self confidence, physically and mentally. So now I have to build it back up. I have to learn to trust my body again. Learn to trust my resolve. And slowly but surely, it’s working.

I don’t rock the boat at work too much, because if I screw it up I still have to be there everyday, but every weekend I do something that pushes my boundaries. Drive a long distance. Go somewhere that makes me nervous. Visit someone I haven’t felt able to see since this mess was made. Last weekend, I finally went to the dentist. I’ve been pushing back the appointment for months, unable to stand the thought of sitting in the dentist’s chair for however many minutes. On Saturday I did it (with a lot of ‘Oh I can’t do this/YES YOU CAN/It’ll be over in no time/Stop obsessing and GO’), and guess what – I didn’t die, or vomit, or wet myself, or run away screaming, or even ask to stop before the guy was finished.

I have to be relentless about it, or I’ll lose my progress. It is so tempting, especially after a long week at work, to say ‘I’ll just take it easy this weekend, stay in my house and go nowhere’, but I mustn’t give into it because I know I’ll struggle to step back up.

Progress is hard fought, but I know now I’m not going to achieve it without some serious blood, sweat, and tears. Whenever I feel like I can’t keep going, I remind myself that I do NOT want to spend the rest of my life suffering with anxiety. This is the only way out.

It’s just a load of fluff

This past week has been hard. It started off with a phase of feeling very down – I was going to bed at 6pm rather than be awake, except I’m not sleeping well so I wake up every hour or so. I’m tired, and everything feels stressful.

In the back of my mind a voice is saying ‘Yeah but you can cope’ – except, for what? What’s the point? I honestly feel like I have nothing to look forward to. Nothing that I can hang on to, like ‘If I can just get to X I’ll be okay’.

The rest of my week has been restless. Restless to the point of bouncing off the walls a little. Suddenly TV and computer games held no appeal (strange for me) – I needed to DO stuff. I baked. A lot. Did gardening. Tidied. Washed the car. I’ve never been so domestically efficient. Really I want to build something. Maybe write an app. But I have no idea how to do it, and the thought of a learning process first puts me off. It’s all go go go.

I realised at work that my brain seems to have turned to marshmallow. I can’t think deeply. Someone asks me to solve a problem, and I try to think about it, and BANG I hit this fuzzy wall and it’s like my brain switches off. I wonder if it’s the medication. I miss being able to think things through. My colleagues probably miss me being able to do that too.

Stuck in the mud

Do you ever get the feeling that times are changing around you, but you’re not? Do you worry about being left behind?

I feel like elements of my life are changing, but my anxiety holds constant. There was some improvement with the Lyrica, but ultimately I still find it really hard to leave the house. It’s just a bit less vomit-inspiring if I do make it out.

Our team is restructuring at work, putting me in more of a managerial position. This is really good for me, and will glow on my CV, but I feel sad to be taking a step away from the day-to-day. There’s something very reassuring about a role where you come in, keep your head down, and get on with your work. Managing is so much more stress inducing, having to deal with other people. If my health was different, I would be a lot more enthusiastic about this change. It’s a step forward, and I can’t let my anxiety and depressive tendencies hold me back.

My team leader emailed out on Friday to say that we should all go on a social sometime soon, listing various options like dinner out or a bowling trip. They’ve been great fun in the past, and I like spending time with these guys, but…I just can’t do it right now. It’s not about the socialising, it’s about having to go somewhere. I’m going to be the ‘bad guy’ for not attending, but I don’t feel like I have a choice. I did talk to my time leader about my anxiety issues a couple of weeks back, but either he’s forgotten or he thinks I’m better now. So now I need to have that chat again, and come up with some excuse for everyone else. Sad times.

In December, when the worst of the anxiety descended, I made plans for January, because of course I’d be better by then. And in January I was making plans for February, that same assumption again. Now it’s April, and I don’t know when the hell I’m going to reach the end of this tunnel. It’s like the depression, that felt like it would never end. I want to say that I know somewhere deep down that it will end, but I have my doubts about that.

I’m not sure which is worse; depression or anxiety. I certainly know which has been more crippling for me.

Hear me rattle

This morning I set out my pills for the week as pictured, and felt a bit depressed looking at them all. I currently take the following:

  • Fluoxetine/Prozac – 60mg nightly
  • Mirtazapine/Remeron – 45mg nightly
  • Propranolol – 160mg slow release
  • Pregablin/Lyrica – 150mg nightly, 150mg in the morning

It adds up to a lot of pills, and I wish I wasn’t on this cocktail of chemicals. It’s also frightening to think about what would happen if I suddenly stopped taking them – I’d bet the withdrawals would be horrific.

I decided that I would get the bus into the nearest village today, which would be the first time I’ve used public transport since December. It didn’t happen. As I was getting ready to go, my anxiety climbed too high and I bailed. I’m trying not to be too disappointed in myself, but it is frustrating. As a compromise, I drove to the village instead, and while driving I was looking wishfully at all the people walking past who probably find life 100x easier than I do. Everyone has their own problems, but I doubt most people struggle to leave the house. I did a quick scoot around a supermarket and hurried back to the safety of home.

I really need to overcome this. When the anxiety started in December, I didn’t for a moment imagine it would last this long – I thought a month at most. It’s nearly April now, and I still can’t travel. Don’t get me wrong, things are easier than they were thanks to the pregablin, but I’m miles off normal.