Living with anxiety
Happy World Mental Health Awareness Week.
I’m here to talk about my daily life with mental illness and I’m sure you know a lot of it already, but this is how it’s going at the moment.
I have always been lucky enough to be quite high-functioning with my mental illnesses: you wouldn’t think to look at me most of the time that there was anything ‘wrong’ with me. Occasionally, people guess, or I disclose if I feel a) comfortable enough or b) it will help a conversation that needs having. (unless it’s in my own family - I seem to struggle with that).
Lately, though, my anxiety has been at the most debilitating I’ve ever known it.
I used to think that mental illness was a boxed room that you didn’t leave. A padded one perhaps – but bedbound either way. This was before I got ill myself, and while the boxed room was literal for a while as citalopram gnawed my edges dull, for the most part I was living my everyday life, albeit as a sad zombie who couldn’t decipher her own thoughts any more than she could decipher hieroglyphs or French. I climbed out of that room eventually. Citalopram was the crutch that I leant on and there is nothing wrong with that. I used to think it was a death sentence for your credibility. How wrong. How young. How dumb.
I’ve lived with on and off anxiety and depression for at least 10 years, although in truth it has probably been lifelong and misdiagnosed as ‘quiet’ and ‘shy’ when I was little and children’s mental health services weren’t any good (I hear SO much has changed….) but in fairness, if you can diagnose as a personality type then most would (especially in previous years) and perhaps the prevalence of mental illness in children was not as recognised unless it was severe enough to cause behavioural problems.
Lately, it’s been a struggle. I have to cajole and tempt and persuade myself to survive some days, I have to write reminders and essays to tell me I’m not useless, or nothing gets done/I don’t believe in myself. I went through CBT in order to work out why I’m like this and how to better deal with myself. I have days where I have to fight myself to make a phone call and others where phone calls are the easiest things in the world. It often depends what is going on in my life as to what I can cope with, and realising that is one thing. Learning to work and live with it is another.
I find eye contact really difficult when I’m at my worst, find it hard to tell people I need help or see the funny side of things. Over time I’ve learnt the best thing to do about that is to try to let myself feel it, but also find something that relaxes me or that willmake me laugh a bit. Taskmaster on Dave is my current favourite remedy.
But the good news? When I arc out of the suffering, the highs are so high. It feels like being able to breathe again. I know and have accepted that my mental health timeline is going to be as long as I live; that a cure is incredibly unlikely anytime soon but I have lived enough life now to know that I have access to the tools I need. (Hopefully). I just have to prioritise putting that work in before life gets in the way.
So let’s carry on living even when our shoulders are heavy, and take these awareness weeks and days to tell the truth if we can. I’m posting this here in the hope that someone who needs to know it, will know they’re not alone. I’m waving from where I am to you - just know you are stronger than your anxiety, you can do this and it is absolutely ok if you are not feeling ok.
Thanks for reading, and look out for more coming on the site about how to cope with anxiety, and if you have any great tips or knowledge, please drop us a line! We would love your contribution in any form: a simple quote, or a longer piece such as an interview or blog.