Anxiety & Me: I think it’s time we took a break

This post on Instagram popped up at exactly the right time. Deaths offer opportunities for rebirth.

From May till around mid-September of 2019, I’d been in a sort of trance-like stupor. My objective during this period was to reacquaint myself with basic human functions like eating, taking care of my body and generally getting through a day without multiple panic attacks. This was not the vision I had in mind as I wrapped up my master’s thesis, yet as soon as the deadline was met, my body and mind seemed to pack-in entirely. Gone were the ambitions of moving into a metropolitan apartment, working a stimulating job and re-calibrating my brain to adulthood, as opposed to student life. This was not what my destiny had mapped out for me.

Instead, the impact of social isolation, crippling self-doubt and depression floored me. I ended up back at home with my parents- unemployed, agoraphobic and anxious. I was completely and utterly burnt out. It took a long time to surrender to the fact that things were not going to fall into place- it was evident that this was not simply a phase to ‘snap out of’. I made the informed decision, after much contemplation, to take medication. I also started a course of mixed talking therapies. With the guidance of friends and family, I undertook the baby steps.

First I had to overcome the constant stress-driven nausea in order to eat substantial meals again; my weight had dropped and my body had changed beyond recognition. Following this, I tried to channel my anxious energy into the house, to give myself some sense of routine. I cleaned meticulously every day, juggling all the domestic chores in a bid to keep myself distracted and active. Then I had to force myself to endure leaving the house, challenging myself to accompany my parents to supermarkets and appointments. I often burst into spontaneous tears due to the distress this caused me but I persisted as much as possible.

I felt absolutely horrendous around 98% of the time and could not imagine ever feeling differently. I was unable to articulate exactly the ‘source’ of my pain, but knew that I was absolutely unable to try and picture any idea of the future. I existed simply because of the love I was given by my family and friends, they were essentially the life-support machine for the most vulnerable version of myself that has ever existed.

I am crying as I write this, on a Friday in the early afternoon. I am glad. These are tears of gratitude and acknowledgement. Things have come a long way. I am writing this to remind myself of that, as I forget and focus on what I’ve yet to achieve, far too often.

I mark the milestone in my recovery journey as being the Sylvester Stallone event I attended in September. From that point, it was a matter of reminding myself that, despite all of the anxiety I experienced prior to the experience, I had overcome the irrational and managed to attend a super busy public event with my hero. In the time since, I’ve taken it upon myself to keep as busy as possible. I signed up for Universal Credit (to force myself to leave the house at least once a week), I registered for an online distance-learning course in Mental Health Awareness AND I resurrected my blog with the aim to generate weekly content.

I look back at 2019 as the year that part of me died. I also look at 2019 as the year that part of me was allowed to be reborn.

In late November 2019, I started a full-time job in an obscure Yorkshire village. I’d had a complete physical transformation and things had changed beyond comprehension. Despite this, I was nervous and wondering whether I was capable of moving forward successfully, whether I was ready for this next step of employment. I’d been mulling over this for the better part of the week preceding the start date as I was no longer able to avoid the fact that Monday was creeping up. I didn’t want to box myself in, feeling like this.

That’s why it’s important that I remember that in the time since September, I’ve managed to:

  • Go to all of my Jobcentre appointments and apply for lots of different employment opportunities,
  • Attend Durga Puja, interacting with hundreds of guests over the duration of the festivities,
  • Meet up with my precious friends after months of not seeing them,
  • Squeeze in various adventures (including a roast dinner in Leeds and cheeky visit to see the Huddersfield boys) with Tom when I stayed at his for my birthday weekend,
  • Host a fantastical fancy dress birthday bonanza with my family all clad in the most intense outfits EVER,
  • Attend an interview for a job, having had no practice in over a year, and bag this role with confirmation less than 24 hours later,
  • Officially graduate from my MA(Res) course,
  • Boost my blog’s readership and earn accolade/constructive criticism from readers,
  • Almost finish my distance-learning course (equivalent to a GCSE),
  • Travel on buses/trains by myself to visit family or attend appointments,
  • Reunite with the Hoamin folk at a wonderful gig,
  • Do a successful (and solo) trial run of a commute to my new job,
  • Read (and enjoy) 10+ books for recreational pleasure, for the first time since curriculum brainwashed me into unpicking everything far too criticially.

So, there. It’s crystal clear.

This post highlights, in black-and-white, all of the things I felt were impossible to achieve, YET THEY HAVE BEEN ACHIEVED. Not only this, but they’ve been achieved during a period of my life that I considered once to be fruitless. There was a point where I felt horrendous 98% of the time and now that figure is more like 40%. THAT IS A VICTORY. I wake up and make the most of my day, every day. THAT IS A VICTORY.

When I look back over 2019, the list of things that I’ve accomplished will be substantially longer than this. I need to pay attention to the empirical evidence and not the emotional, nonsensical drivel of the anxiety monster in my brain!

I have worked so hard my whole life to manage the anxiety that seems to be inherently a part of my identity. It’s exhausting and it seems that no matter how much I accomplish, I am always feeling that it’s not quite enough. I am so done with rolling over and letting anxiety win, especially on days like today where I’ve managed to spell out all of the reasons I’m brave and all of the reasons that anxiety really isn’t as powerful as I often imagine it to be. So I’m going to part from my laptop now and do a little victory dance, maybe some nice yoga stretches and then read a new book in the bath. I deserve it. As Idles have stated, ‘I love myself and I want to try’. Therefore, try I will ❤

Graduation in November 2019!
My journey with Huddersfield Uni has come to an end but I’m so grateful for my supervisor Dr Sarah Falcus and all of the memories that were made there.
Durga Puja was a major test but I think I passed! I spoke to more people this year than I would have on a normal occasion, so that’s definitely a victory.

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