I seem like a pretty average person I think – average intelligence, average looks and just all around average. Maybe a little rounder and a little shorter than average but still an average sort of person.
Inside though I’m maybe a little different – my brain isn’t always my friend and can change the spirit of my entire day with just a tiny and brief thought.
Take yesterday for an example – I’m very lucky to have met some really kind and lovely parents whose children go to the same school as Miss MIP. Some of them have even seen me a few drinks in without a swear filter but they still talk to me……which is remarkable really!
Yesterday we were laughing while waiting for the bell to ring and one of the mums made a joke about me which I gave her a pretend angry look for. We all laughed, we all joked, we all left the playground to go about our day to day jobs.
Except I was still up at 3am this morning thinking about it and a million other things. Thinking about a potential house move, thinking about my job review next week, thinking about all the things on my to do list and above all that tiny moment in my day. What if someone hadn’t seen me as joking? What if they thought I was genuinely annoyed? What if they didn’t want to speak to me again? What if I’d ruined it all in that moment?
One of the things I was most worried about with Miss MIP starting school were meeting other parents. I don’t make friends easily and I’d been told by so many people that the school run parents at any school were just awful so I was braced for it to be really hard work but they’ve been lovely and kind and welcoming. Working at home is great but that grown up interaction at drop off and pick up is so important to stop from feeling pretty isolated.
What if in that moment and in making that one joke I’d gone back to square one?
One half of my brain was being rational and saying I was being ridiculous – pointing out that everyone laughed and these were my friends who knew me and would know I’d never mean it.
The other half of my brain is my enemy though. The other half of my brain managed to persuade me around 1am that everyone had already had a conversation about me and decided I wasn’t going to be welcome anymore. Between 1am and 3am I was busy making a plan to reconsider moving closer to the school because I clearly couldn’t go back to Miss MIP’s school ever again so we might as well just move school as well.
Sounds crazy doesn’t it?
It’s not crazy but it is utterly irrational. I went to my first PTA meeting a couple of weeks ago and spent the afternoon beforehand with heartburn and feeling nauseous because I was so worried about it. Was there a problem when I was there? No – course not. I was welcomed, I was made to feel part of a team and I was happy to go back but I will still probably struggle again next time.
Anxiety isn’t logical, it isn’t predictable and it while I can manage it I know it’ll never go away. Sometimes it’ll lull me into a false sense of security and I’ll think I’ve got this handled but then a night like last night will creep in and it knocks me back weeks and weeks in my progress.
But all of this happens inside – on the outside everything continues to be pretty average. If I wasn’t so open about my mental health then no one would know any of this – thankfully my friends and my family are very understanding and can recognise when the tornado in my brain is picking up speed. Having support for when these moments strike is one of the most important things you can have – being able to be open and tell your friends, your family and your employer that you are struggling is a key part of coping with anxiety.
You need to be brave. You need to tell at least one person that you are finding things hard. Just one person is a huge step and gives you a starting point for a network.
If you are that person please react with compassion even if you don’t understand. Don’t make it about you – just listen, be kind and be prepared to be that connection. If they choose you then it’s a huge moment of trust and how you can react can decide if they tell anyone else.
Be brave. Be kind. We can handle this together.