Once upon a time a long long time ago there was a young lady of an impressionable age. She had a knack for getting into relationships with unsuitable men who had a hobby of making her feel bad. Then one day she realised her best friend was the man she was going to spend the rest of her life with because she loved him, he loved her and they were meant to be together. They got together, got married, had a baby and lived happily after. The end.
Except it’s not.
For those of you not equipped with advanced detective skills I can reveal the impressionable young lady was in fact me. Shocking eh?
My wonderful husband tells me every day he loves me. He tells me I’m beautiful, intelligent, kind and funny. It’s always nice to hear but I don’t believe him because I can’t. I left that impressionable young lady behind around 12 years ago but the impression those not so nice chaps remain imprinted on me.
They would tell me that I was overweight, that I was dumb and that I wasn’t the kind of person someone fell in love with. I’m not saying this as part of a sob story – I don’t want anyone to feel sorry for me as that’s not the point of this. For me to explain what it’s like to be anxious you have to know where the thoughts come from.
Being this kind of anxious makes no sense at all and the thought’s I have are totally irrational. For example – I was recently invited to a friends house and these were just some of the thoughts that went through my head
– what if when I park my car I hit her car
– what if I get lost on the way to her house and she thinks I’m stupid
– what if I’m too fat to fit through the door
– what if she suggests going for a walk and I’m too unfit to keep up
– what if she wants to talk about something in the news and I haven’t seen it so can’t talk about it so she thinks I’m stupid
– what if she offers me a biscuit and if I take it that shows her how greedy I am
– what if Emma has a tantrum and it doesn’t look like I’m handling it properly so she thinks I’m a bad parent
– what if I say something wrong and offend her
You can see how this list is going right? All of this went through my head in a few a seconds and I was utterly frozen in fear at the very idea of it. I should point out that the friend who invited me has known me for over 10 years so it’s not even like this was a new person whose house I’d never been to before. In the end I said I couldn’t go but thanks for the invite.
I was furious with myself for saying no but going there just wasn’t an option. I was sweating, shaking and felt sick at the thought of it. At that moment and time I couldn’t even understand why someone would want to see me and started to wonder if it was a cruel joke just to invite me over as they’d go out anyway and leave me on the doorstep. What fun that would be.
Around an hour later I’d calmed down to realise it was just an anxiety attack and I needed to chill out. I called my friend back and said I’d love to meet up but could we go to the park and then maybe back to hers after the smalls had run around for a bit. We all had a lovely time but that hour between her inviting me, me having a melt down and then trying to rationalise all my fears wasn’t a fun time.
Being bullied leaves scars and sometimes those scars are bigger than you expect. I’ve come to accept now that my anxiety will lead me into awkward situations but in order to cope with them I need to develop coping mechanisms that enable me to deal with those situations. I’ll never leave those cruel words from school, college and early relationships behind – those scars are just too deep and won’t ever heal but I can take each day as it comes and celebrate the wins when they come. Having a supportive husband who understands and can see the signs of brain overload is helpful too – sometimes he can head it off at the pass so I don’t descend into the chaos of my brain.
If you know someone who is anxious – and it’s likely you do – try to have patience with them. This isn’t something you can get over. It will take blood, sweat, tears and a whole lot of talking to themselves to even get out the door some days. Sometimes that person can hide it so not even their closest friends will know that meeting up for a simple coffee will cause you to panic. It’s hard to be around someone who panics like this I’m sure as they are likely to be a bit flakey or cancel plans at the last second. The only thing I can guarantee you is that your anxious friend is feeling worse about cancelling.
The only choice is to take each day as it comes. Some days will be winners and some days will be days in the house watching movies, playing with lego and playing with my gift of a daughter who can always make me smile. She can make me cry too but that’s because she’s 2…. I try not to take it personally!
All of this really has no point in being written down but I think it’s important people talk about the mental heath issues they have. It’s such a taboo subject in some places and the only way to develop an understand it is to talk about it. It’s also a challenge for an anxious person to talk about being anxious.
Just being able to write this down and publish it makes it a winning day.
Today I’m winning. Tomorrow? Well we’ll just have to see won’t we?