Today I had a conversation the likes of which I have never had before. I openly discussed my Anxiety. Yes, Hello dear readers, My name is Rebelle and I have Anxiety.
During this conversation I mentioned that the very first person I had seen speak frankly and openly about Anxiety was the blogger Dorkface, who coincidentally inspired me to write my post about Anxiety and Sex. Throughout the conversation I felt like a huge weight had been lifted and I could discuss this aspect of my existence without fear or judgement. It’s funny, I could discuss intimate details of sexual acts and organs to a room full of people but if I have to even allude to my Anxiety I get hives. So here goes, this is my Anxiety story.
How it all began….
I was never a social butterfly. I was a dorky, nervous, fat kid with glasses who would rather read books than make friends. People made me nervous and playgrounds were full of people which made me even more nervous. If I forgot parts of my homework I would remember late at night and ultimately feel completely sick until I did it. This was my existence a constant stream of worrying. I never saw anything wrong with it because I had always been like this. My mother was a “natural worrier” too so really it’s all I knew.
I’m sure it sounds strange to hear this but my Anxiety worked to my advantage too. Because of my unique ability to imagine the very worst situations possible I became fantastically organised and had a brilliant ability to plan events with no detail unattended to. I had spent months worrying about the details.
Where it all started to go a bit wrong….
I am happy to say I did grow out of my introverted stage about 3 years ago. I started to experiment with my hair and clothing and make decisions that made me happy. All efforts to make me feel better and distract from the constant worrying and paranoia. To the outside world I was happy, bright bubbly and confident… and inside I was worrying about what people thought of me, did they think I was too fat, did they like me, did they think I was stupid and so on. I frequently worried that I was going to lose my job, the people I loved were going to die and that something awful would happen to me or the people I care about. All perfectly rational fleeting thoughts, however these thoughts eventually started to keep me up at night. An unanswered text from a friend would send me into a paranoid spin wondering what I had said or what I had done to upset them. Consequentially I became a people-pleaser, I was so obsessed with what people thought of me that I wanted to make sure their opinion of me was a good one.
I was so exhausted from the running around making people happy, exhausted from worrying, exhausted about worrying about what I wasn’t worried about and yet when I went to bed I could’t sleep because I had fresh things to worry about. As a result I was constantly tired and so I had an excuse not to go out with my friends. Once or twice not going out was a pleasant experience. I mean I didn’t feel bad because I had a valid excuse. The thing is with the not going out is that when it comes to the next time you do go out (for me anyway) the panic set in. All the people, the crowds, it would be unpleasant, people might look at me and the worry before I even went anywhere. What would I wear, I have no clothes that “flatter” me, if my makeup went wrong I would become hot and sweaty and nothing would go right from then on. I would have had a full on freak out before I even stepped outside the front door. When I did get to where I was going it would begin, I would get incredibly hot, my heart would race, my chest would tighten and I couldn’t breathe. I started to get incredibly upset that I couldn’t be a normal person. When I was stressed I would starve myself for hours on end which would give me incredible headaches and put me in foul humour and then I would get home and eat myself into oblivion to feel better. I’d wrap myself in a furry blanket, drink tea, stuff my face and hide. The thing with hiding is you do it for so long that people eventually get tired of inviting out the friend that never comes out anyway. They get tired of making plans with the person who consistently cancels last minute and it becomes easier and easier to hide away.
My light bulb moment, my rock bottom, whatever you would like to call it happened when everyday tasks were starting to cause the same level of panic that social outings would. I could no longer go shopping in certain shops at certain times because the noise and the amount of people were all too much. I could no longer go on dates because I would physically be sick at the idea of it all. The what ifs flooded my brain and I could no longer function. So I spent my days going to work and then hiding in my home where everything was safe and everything was familiar and yet I became incredibly good at hiding it all away so that nobody would ever know my secret. I was ever confident, colourful Rebelle.
What I did….
I had taken steps to improve my diet and exercise in a bid to feel better, I began to take reflective time out, I learned more about neuro linguistic programming and cognitive behavioural therapy. All contributing factors which assisted in upping my feel good feelings but I was still a shaking mess anytime I went to get the groceries. So I decided to go to the doctor, I figured he would give me happy pills, I’d be happy and life would be wonderful. The night before my appointment I wrote down all my symptoms, the things I had been feeling, the physical reactions, things that had gotten progressively worse. I wanted him to take me seriously, I was genuinely concerned that he would just tell me to cop on. I kid you not folks I had convinced myself that the Doctor was going to say “Ah now Rebelle, you’re getting a bit excited about feck all really, you’d just want to calm down a bit” The funny thing is as I sat in the waiting room that morning with what I deemed the “actual sick people”, people with coughs, colds, visible injuries the panic set in. The gremlins in my head started up and made me question why I was there. After all I wasn’t legitimately sick like the rest of these people.
Then the doctor called my name and I wanted to vomit. As I sat in front of him clutching my piece of paper and shaking I didn’t even know where to begin and that’s what I said to him. “I don’t know how to say this but I’ve written some stuff down, can I read it out….” and so I did. He didn’t laugh, he didn’t tell me calm down, he listened. We went through what I had done to alleviate the negative feelings I had. He established I had made an effort to treat myself in a holistic manner and asked how I felt about medication. I expressed my very real concern that I would resemble a lobotomized zombie, that I would lose all sparks of creativity and personality – all the wonderful things that made me, me. He assured me that, that type of medication had gone the way of the asylum on the hill and instead would recommend something that would just help me feel balanced.
I can’t believe I waited so long to do something! If I had known that one little tablet with minor changes would help me feel like a normal person I wouldn’t have tortured myself for so long. I’m happy to say my creativity hasn’t been hampered, the opposite in fact is true. It’s surprising the amount of hours there are in the day when you no longer have to spend the majority of your time contemplating and worrying about everything. Bottom line, I wish I had gotten the finger out and done it sooner!!
Which brings me to why I decided to write this post….
In the conversation today I was discussing how brave I thought Dorkface was for discussing her Anxiety so frankly and how I had never heard of anyone doing that before. If so many people have this and it is so common then where are all these people with their stories. Then it dawned on me, I was one of those people who hadn’t held their hand up and told their story because I was so afraid of what people would think.
Instead of sitting back and waiting I decided to put on my big girl boots and join the ever brave Dorkface in telling my story. I also felt it was important to put my picture out there too, it would be very easy for me to hide behind my laptop and tell my story but for it to really hit home for me I needed to put my face to my Anxiety. I’m not a case study, I’m not mental, I am not going to be ashamed will I wear a banner saying “Ask me about my Anxiety” probably not but I will start conversing about it more, you betcha.
Won’t you join me?
(PS this isn’t an Anxiety exclusive task share your face and whatever “issue/ concern/ subject you want to share)