I’ve written before on how I suffer from anxiety and how that affects my life and the response I’ve had to these posts has been amazing. It’s something that’s not talked about, much like depression, but learning that someone else can’t answer the phone, make that call or wants to run away home because the situation is too much actually helps. Just knowing that you’re not the only one who has these problems can help and even make you feel more normal especially on those really awful days when just getting out of the house is an achievement. I’ve been asked to write a blog on how I deal with my anxiety and to share any tips I have to help me live day to day. Some of them you may identify with (some you may not!) but it’s always good to swap ideas and even if just one strategy can help another person then that makes my day better.
So, here goes…
It’s 5am in the morning and I have been awake for some time partly because Hubbie has started snoring again and also partly because I woke to find myself on the edge of our bed as Henry had snuck in during the night but the main reason I am awake is I have organised a Halloween party for Henry’s 2 reception classes in our local village hall and there are 43 children coming. I have planned the party, organised the games, organised an online poll so parents can reply and volunteer to do the jobs I have divvied up. Today is the day of the party and I am very anxious about it all. Will the parents bring what they said they would? Will the children enjoy it? Will my organisation stand up to 43 very excited little children? Only time will tell and it is roughly a few hours before the party that I will really start to doubt myself and wonder why on earth I did this! I will want to run away but I know now that I can calm myself by thinking around the issue. I did a course of CBT therapy along with a weekly session with a psychologist and this has been the main therapy that has really helped me. Learning to think around the problem and see it from all angles does really change how I’m feeling so here’s what’s in my head battling away with the nagging doubts that are giving me the shakes at the moment:
- It could all be a disaster; people could run screaming from the hall thinking I am very rubbish. -I have organised 4 previous Halloween parties and each one was a success. I know this because people told me so and asked if we were doing another one.
- People won’t know what to do and it will be chaos. -I was a teacher and whilst I am very disorganised at home when planning for other people’s children I am good and I can think of times during observations of my lessons when I have been told this.
- Parents won’t like it and think I’m an idiot. -I have already had emails from parents coming who are very much looking forward to the party.
- I don’t know what I’m doing. -My plan of the party and lists for what to take will save me.
I am a ‘class rep’ for reception at my sons’ school. This means that along with 3 other Mums I help to coordinate coffee mornings, Christmas parties, dad’s nights out and other social events. It’s a volunteer job and one that I actually wanted to do knowing it would scare the heck out of me. I knew I would have to make phone calls about things I’m not confident with to people I’ve never met but I know that with my anxiety avoiding anything makes it so much worse so to combat this I look for things that I know will worry me a bit to make sure I am still dealing with my anxiety and not just arranging my life so I avoid and stress and worry. This may sound daft but I think it works. Little bite-sized chunks of worry mean I still use the strategies I’ve been given to deal with my thoughts and feelings. This ‘anxiety workout’ every so often means that when I am faced with unexpected stress I am much better at coping now than I’ve ever been.
Tonight I will sit down after the party is all cleared away and think ‘that was okay!’ Bits will have gone wrong, not worked and someone might have even been sick but most of the children will have had a great time and I will be pleased to have done it again and that is great therapy in my eyes. This will give me the confidence for the next challenge whatever that is and whilst I’m waiting for it I may pop into an estate agent to get the details of houses I’ll never buy just so I am put in an unfamiliar situation and I have to deal with it. For me running away and hiding doesn’t help me so being a little bit scared every so often really does.
I now tell people I suffer with anxiety. This may sound very easy but you’d be surprised to hear the amount of people who do but don’t ever tell anyone. When things aren’t great I do cancel things I’ve planned, I don’t turn up if I can’t use the phone and this all results in my behaviour looking a bit odd and I know I’ve upset people in the past. Now, if I’m off out for the evening, I tell people that I get a bit anxious and I see if there’s a way I can help myself. The other day I picked up a friend who invited me to join her and 2 other mums to go to the cinema. They were meeting in a pub and there was no way I would have met them on my own so I explained this to her and she was great. I had a fab evening and would definitely do it again. Last year when we moved here I explained to a new friend that I’m not great with the phone (I don’t respond to texts that often or check messages – it’s a slight hang up I have from the past) so she emails me and this really works. Talking to people has reduced my anxiety as they really helped me to find solutions and I felt didn’t judge me in the way I thought they would.
Hubbie has started to travel more with work and here’s a real problem for me. Once he’s left the house and I’m on my own with the 3 boys that’s when my thoughts completely run away from me and I have to work my hardest to keep things together. I will have catastrophised his death (I’m a fab catastophiser!) how I would cope with finances, where we would move, what I would do for work all before he’s even got on the plane. This is where the deep breaths, pep talks to myself (yes really) and a steely determination to carry on despite being afraid of everything helps. This week was an awful week. Hubbie was away for 5 days, Henry’s behaviour was off the scale and just being in an old cottage in the middle of nowhere when it’s pitch dark outside at 6.30pm really adds to how I feel when I’m alone. On Monday night I was very nearly in tears as I was at a point where I was really not coping. I went out for coffee with a lovely friend and that got some of the thoughts out of my head. (Thank you Mrs N-S!) Tuesday was a better day but Wednesday was great. I got through it rather than enjoyed it but it’s getting better every time.
When things are tough I write. I use my blog to share my thoughts and this means that all the doubts, thoughts and feelings are no longer in my head but on the paper for me to read and re-read. This helps me to make sense of them, look at them objectively in the cold light of day and it also makes it easy to share how I feel with others even when I can’t actually say it. Writing has really saved me and it’s one of the things that I always recommend to anyone who is struggling that they should get a blank exercise book and fill it with all the bad things that are in their head. You don’t have to share it with anyone if you don’t want to as it can also just be your little place to put your thoughts if you need one and we all do sometimes…
There are many little things I do to help myself but these are the main strategies I use to get me through those tough times when I struggle. This isn’t by any means everyday now as I believe by doing what I have detailed above I can just about keep it all under control but there are those days still when I have to ask Hubbie to make a phone call, speak to someone or I don’t go to something I’d planned – though I do ring to let them know! I don’t expect myself to be perfect now (I am a perfectionist and this really doesn’t help) as I know that I really am doing the best I can with the time and resources available to me and that’s all that anyone can really ask.
Anxiety has been debilitating for me and I’ve realised this has been for years and I do have a certain sense of regret at the things I’ve missed out on, the conversations I never had and the people that I’ve annoyed in the past but I now have a sense of perspective that I didn’t really ever have and I can now control the urge to run away and hide.
I’ve described depression and anxiety as being in a long dark tunnel and although you know you are travelling forward and you will see the light at the end of it you don’t know when that will happen so every day is a day filled with dread and hope and this is what makes the adrenalin rush through your body. I am still in the tunnel that I’ve been in for years but I can see a glimmer of the light in the distance…