I feel like I’m drowning.

Anxiety is taking over my life to the point that I’m not sure how much of myself is left. I’m sick with nerves from the moment I wake up until the moment I fall asleep, and then I’m physically sick during the day, retching out this nervous energy that I can’t properly shake off.

I had therapy today, and we had to agree to stop doing ‘the deep stuff’ because I just can’t handle it right now. I threw up three times before the session; I was so amped up. Now it’s all about creating a mental safe space, and breathing right. It feels like I’m two years old, but at the same time I can’t deny that my body will not handle anything more.

I am so scared that I’m going to lose my job. I can’t attend meetings anymore, so I’m coming up with excuses to avoid them, but there’s only so long you can do that before people start to notice. I think this meeting thing is in danger of turning into a phobia. It’s so easy to be logical about it, tell myself in advance I’ll be fine, I can sit through it, but in the moment the fear is so strong it destroys my willpower and hijacks my body.

While listening to the radio today I heard a song that kind of sums up how I’m feeling – Avalanche by Bring Me The Horizon. The song was written about ADHD, but it clicks for my current anxiety, and back in the day it would have been true about the depression I had too.

It’s like an avalanche

I feel myself go under

Cos the weight of it’s like hands around my neck.



The working day

When I wake up in the morning, I feel so sick with dread that I have to take anti-emetics immediately. I then feel stuck to the loo, and I sit there wondering how the hell I’m going to get to work. After about five or ten minutes, I order myself to get into the shower, and then I order myself through the rest of the getting-ready-for-work routine. If I find myself worrying about the journey in, it means I’m not concentrating hard enough on getting ready, so it’s back to it. It’s a difficult hour, but eventually I get in the car, and not too long after, I’m safe at my desk.

The working day is secretly spent measuring my fluid intake, and calculating an optimal toilet-visit schedule in anticipation of the journey home. I don’t feel hungry, because anxiety has stolen my appetite, but my stomach still rumbles, and I order myself to eat, walk, keep my body ticking over. It’s hard to juggle all of this with actual work I need to do, but the time does pass, and I eventually make it home.

Evenings are free – time spent feeling relieved that my time out of the house is over, and I’m safe for another twelve hours. I can watch TV, play games, drink plenty, and eat properly. Mirtazapine knocks me out pretty effectively at bed time, and then we start again.

What do you do when every day is difficult like this? You celebrate the little things, and take it one day at a time. Yes! I completed another day! Hey, I lasted through that meeting – well done MQ! It sounds phoney, but if you do it relentlessly enough you can absorb some of it – I’ve been in a reasonable mood all day, despite feeling yesterday like I was falling to pieces. That in itself is a bit of a victory.

Going nuclear 

I had a phone call with my GP this afternoon, and I reluctantly had to admit to her that I’m not coping. Things are getting worse, anxiety-wise, and I feel only a step or two away from not functioning at all. The result is that I’m being referred back to the psychiatric hospital. I thought I’d be upset about this, but I’m at the stage where I’ll do anything to try and get back to normal. I guess that tells you just how badly I need help.

I’m now unable to use public transport, so my only option for getting to work is driving – I live too close to my workplace to qualify for a permit, so I have to spend £10 a day to use the car park. Anxiety is costing me big time now, but I either spend the money or spend my day worrying to the point of being sick over how I’m going to get home. I hate it. Hate it, hate it, hate it.

I even sought out a new therapist, who I met with for the first time on Monday. I like her – she’s can help me make connections like Dr T could, and she’s very keen on me having ‘control’ in our sessions which is a novelty, but the hour itself was hard. I had to skip out twice to use the bathroom. To be fair, it’s hard to talk about toilet-based anxiety without making yourself need the loo, but I felt embarrassed. She was lovely about it though, and I’m hopeful we can be productive in future.

There’s not much more I can do at this point with both drugs and therapy in progress, so I guess I have to sit tight and wait for a ‘summons’ to the hospital. 

A hard day

I’ve had a shocker of an afternoon – I had to attend a work meeting which was about an hour long, and I had to pop out twice to use the loo. It was so embarrassing. It didn’t help that the first time I stepped out I couldn’t even find a toilet, so goodness knows what my colleagues thought I was up to. Then when I came back to the meeting room I instantly needed to leave again, and I had to stop myself sighing in frustration every time someone spoke slowly or asked a question.

I think my boss could tell I wasn’t in a good state, because he let me go home straight after this meeting – getting back to the house was so difficult I was almost in tears. I just needed the toilet constantly, even milliseconds after my last visit. No amount of self-reassurance that I was okay could help, nor the knowledge that I was wearing a pad so I couldn’t make a puddle (not that there was enough liquid in me by that point). I just felt horrible, like my bladder couldn’t switch off at all.

Of course, when I did get home, I felt absolutely fine, although I’m not sure my self-respect is intact. I hate this. I hate it so much. Anxiety has twisted all the joy and safety out of my life, and every hour of every day is a struggle. I used to be so confident, so easy-going, compared to now. I feel so crippled. And knowing it’s all in my head makes it worse – like WHY CAN’T I JUST SORT MYSELF OUT ALREADY.

I’m sorry, rant over. It’s just been a really hard day.

Battling mental illness has become a game of Whack-A-Mole

I’ll skip over the bit where I lament how crap I’ve been at posting here, and get straight to business – I beat depression (WAHOO!!!), and found anxiety.

That’s a gross over-simplification; I’ve always had anxiety, even when I was a little kid. I was the worried sibling, the one who needed to know the daily schedule ahead of time, that kind of thing. My brother used to tease me for feeling uncomfortable if there wasn’t an itinerary on holidays. If I did something wrong at school (only ever by mistake), I’d worry so much about getting in trouble that I’d end up being ill. And my phobias were strong enough that I had a reputation with friends and family, cue more teasing.

The earliest anxiety I can remember was when I was four or five years old. It feels silly to write it, but I was anxious about needing the toilet – specifically that I’d get ‘caught short’ in public, and not make it to a toilet in time. For a few days, this anxiety was crippling. Mum took me to see our family GP, and as we walked there we had to stop at every shop and cafe so I could use the toilet. I didn’t think I could last thirty seconds!

I remember the GP feeling my tummy, testing my urine, and then he asked ‘So, what are you worried about?’. I said ‘Wetting myself’. And he nodded and said, ‘Yes, but what are you worried about?’ Like I was wrong, and there was something else. But there wasn’t anything else. That was genuinely all I was worried about. The GP didn’t have a solution, and Mum and I went home, again stopping at each shop that had a toilet.

That phase passed, and it’s come and gone in similar phases throughout my life. Most of the time I’m fine, but then one day it’ll suddenly occur to me that I could be caught short and the anxiety floods back. Every daily activity has to have a toilet break planned into it etc, and then…after a week or two…I get over it. This happens once or twice a year.

In November of 2017 I entered another of these phases, but in no time at all I realised this was turning out to be the worst phase I’ve ever had. If I’m not at home, or at my desk, I need the toilet constantly. I stress about any journey I have to make, even if it’s tiny. Just the prospect of getting the bus to work, a 25min journey tops, is enough to make me need to throw up. I worry about sitting through meetings. I worry about getting to meetings – today my boss asked me to accompany him to a meeting over the road, and I immediately panicked I’d have an accident on the way. I can’t even go round a supermarket without desperately needing the loo.

I know it’s all in my head, and that there’s no real biological need. I never need to get up to use the toilet at night, so my bladder is strong, and there’s no pain or anything like that so I don’t think I have an infection. The real giveaway is that I might be DYING for the toilet on that bus journey to work, but then when I actually arrive at my desk (i.e. I’m safe), I don’t actually need to go anymore. I’ve invested in all sorts of weak-bladder pads etc, but somehow they don’t make me feel any more confident – and I’ve done the ‘pouring water on pads’ etc to prove they would work.

I went to see my GP about this before Christmas, and she pointed out that the timing coincides with me coming off my various psych meds; apparently fluoxetine (Prozac) at the dose I was previously taking it – 60mg – helps with obsessive thoughts. I had no idea. So after three or so months Prozac-free, I’m back on it in the hopes it can help me stabilise. We’ve been in touch with the psych hospital and they’ve suggested things like buspirone if this doesn’t work. Has anyone tried buspirone, or any other anxiety meds?

I’ve also found a new therapist to see from next week in case that helps – Dr T is no longer in the picture. I was hoping to be therapy-free this year; I didn’t think I’d need it post-depression, but trying to get free of mental illness is turning out to be one big game of whack-a-mole.

I just hope I win before I lose my job.

‘Despair to Deliverance’ by Sharon DeVinney & Robin Personette

This post is a special one that’s been a couple of years in the making. It’s time to talk about ‘Despair to Deliverance’, a collaboration between Robin and Dr DeVinney. Up until recently this was a series of blog posts released teasingly slowly on Sharon’s website, and now I’ve discovered the book it has become. Discovered, and devoured.

Hey MQ. You read a lot. What’s the big deal over this one?

It had me at the concept. A collaborative work between patient and therapist, describing Robin’s mental health difficulties and the efforts of her therapist to keep her alive, and keep her healthy. Who doesn’t want to know what their therapist is thinking? What motivates them, what lingers with them beyond a session? And at the same time, to read Robin’s take on her experience and her treatment – to actually find an answer to the question of ‘is this normal?’/’is it just my therapy that’s like this…?’

How often are we invited to see inside the therapeutic relationship, from both angles?

The concept had me hooked, and the content kept me there. I could relate to a lot of what Robin describes. Intense depression, anxiety, but then faking normality in front of everyone to try and maintain the life she has at the time. Been there, failed that too. Bipolar symptoms. Impulsive self-destruction. A stubborn refusal to try groups. More medications than you could shake a stick at. Biological depression and psychological depression. I could go on…

I’ve read a fair few first person accounts of mental illness, but not many that I’ve really connected with. I instinctively feel I understand parts of Robin’s journey so well that I trust her to teach me things about the parts that we don’t share – e.g. she makes me question my refusals of ECT. Robin’s descriptions aren’t anything like the scary stories we’re led to believe. In fact, she makes ECT sound less like torture and more like…treatment! I never trusted those assurances coming from my psychiatrist, but I trust it in Robin’s accounts. Her writing comes across as so honest, so thoughtful but still concise…what more can you ask for? On a side note, I think it asked a lot of Robin, and it’s amazing that she’s been able to share her story like this. In consenting to and participating in writing this book, I think it’s fair to say Robin’s inspirational.

As for Dr DeVinney’s part in this…where do I start? I stumbled across Sharon’s blog in the depths of my biological depression, when my issues with Dr T were at their most intense, and I read and re-read Sharon’s posts, desperate for anything that might better help me understand my own situation. Sharon’s writing has reminded me on more than one occasion that Dr T is a person. A revelation, I know! And at times, I can admit that I’ve been jealous of the level of support Sharon gave Robin. I’m getting by at the moment, which is a lot more than I was a couple of years ago so it’s not like there’s a real problem here – more that Sharon really knew Robin; she could join the dots or hear the words going unsaid, she knew what Robin needed, and if she could, she gave it to her. That’s priceless, and I find it comforting to know that it’s possible.

 “Despair to Deliverance” stands out from almost everything I’ve read in another way too – that Robin’s battle with mental illness is messy. She is hospitalised on multiple occasions, sometimes when you were just thinking she was doing better. Her diagnoses change with time. It takes many, many attempts to find the right medications for Robin – and sometimes the mistakes have a dangerous impact on her health. Driven to keep working (and be ‘normal’), she forces herself to take jobs when she isn’t ready, only to crash and burn after a few weeks. This all stands out to me because in other books I’ve read, there seems to be a formula of person gets (correctly) diagnosed, person is given (correct) treatment, person gets better, and I don’t think that’s the typical pathway for a lot of people. The expectation that is it is normal just amps up the pressure. 

This has turned into a bit of an essay, but I think deservedly so. I thoroughly recommend “Despair to Deliverance” for the following:

  • If you suffer from depression and/or anxiety, and might find comfort in reading about someone else’s journey.
  • If you want to read first person accounts of psychiatric hospitalisation, ECT and medication regimes.
  • If you’re curious about psychotherapy from the therapist’s perspective.
  • If you live in the UK and want to rediscover some gratitude for the NHS – financial worries play a huge part in Robin’s account, and that’s one stress I was much less exposed to.

Links to the blog posts and book are at the top of the post.

(And no, this isn’t a sponsored post or anything like that. I think that when we read something that moves us, we should share it in case it can move others.)



The ghosts of words unsaid

Oh boy, therapy was difficult. I pride myself on being an emotionless robot, but my body betrays me. I took paperclips to fiddle with (I like to untangle them when I’m anxious), but I had to keep putting them down so I wouldn’t throw them. They wouldn’t have done any damage, but I might have died of embarrassment.

It was the first session since Dr T announced he’s leaving at the end of the year, and I could barely look at him. It was awful. All I could do was say that I was fine, when it was obvious I wasn’t. A personal plea more than anything else. There was this massive elephant in the room that his announcement had managed to upset me, but each time Dr T tried to talk about it I had such a strong mentally-allergic reaction that I shut it right down.

I did manage to tell him about the auditory hallucinations though, which was good because he re-assured me that it wasn’t as big a deal as I’d thought. I think I just need to be vigilant – if it happens again it may need a medication adjustment (*groan*).

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go bury my head in the sand.