I have lived with irrational thoughts my whole life. A lot of people are able to look back on something they didn’t excel in and think “I know what to do next time.” For me, weeks of over-analysing and sweating over the minutiae of every word and interaction will ensue: that nano-second of what I thought was a look (it was definitely a look that said they hated my entire being) or that moment of perceived awkwardness where in fact they may have paused to think, or to…you know…breathe.
I have a constant noise in my head that is so loud recently I can barely process anything. What if I left the iron on? I should probably check again in case last time I wasn’t really looking, I was thinking I was looking. And actually, maybe I thought about it so much that I actually turned the iron on because it was so prominent in my mind. I need to see that the switch is off again and then this time it’ll be OK.
It’s crept up on me this time.
The first time I really struggled with anxiety was after my father became ill, 13 years ago. Over time I learned to manage it quite well. Since that day though, I have never turned my phone off. Just in case. You never know when someone might need to contact you to tell you something awful. It is imperative that I do not miss the opportunity to hear something awful.
Great logic, that.
I thought I had it under control. It started off with low mood after my husband’s MS diagnosis, which frankly is quite understandable when you realise the person you love is fading away from you and there is absolutely fuck all you can do about it. Did you know MS actually shrinks your brain? Atrophy, they call it. That made the list of “Top 10 joyous fucking facts I have learned about MS.”
It’s normal to be sad about that. It would probably be messed up if I sailed along going “hey, so he has a shrinking brain, probable wheelchair and earlier death to look forward to – it’s all good.” If I was unaffected by the deterioration of my spouse and the vicious curtailing of many of our hopes and dreams as a family, that might mean I was a little dead inside.
But the anxiety? I thought I had this one nailed.
I’ve done CBT – I’m a great advocate of it – but the noise in my head is so relentless this time that it seems almost impossible to slow my thinking enough for it to be any use at all. I’ve started getting dizzy spells and palpitations and I know it’s sheer panic. That fundamental, entrenched belief that I am not strong enough, good enough, capable enough to help him through this.
He needs a rock. I am fucking sand.
Someone has again suggested medication. I know this might help. I know it might quieten the noise, the constant pounding, deafening noise of questions and fear and hopelessness. But it won’t make it go away. It’s like building a moat with a bucket and spade while the tide comes in.
I can’t help but think: I am like this because of my psychology. I was raised by two anxious people. I have learned to be dysfunctional. I have learned to constantly question myself. One of my parents wrote “Not Good Enough” in permanent marker on my forehead (probably more of a tattoo, actually). It should follow that the way to tackle it, for me, is through psychology.
I don’t want you to think that this is a judgement of other people’s choice to take medication for anxiety and I fully appreciate that for some people this is the safest (or the only) way to get through.
For me, it is the acknowledgement that taking a pill won’t make that “Not Good Enough” label go away. But many, many hours of working with a therapist might fade it…even if you can still make out the scar if you squint a bit.
So instead: I am doing yoga every day (except today because I pulled a calf muscle and the dizziness was bad and I figured I might pass out or die and my husband is away and there would be nobody here for the baby – which when I write this down is hilarious but is a genuine thought I had). I also went for a walk in the sun yesterday. It helped a bit.
And I am writing it down. Writing my ridiculous thoughts down really does help. I saw earlier what I did with the iron and I’m going to go to bed tonight without checking it because I know for a fact that as I turned it off I disconnected it fully from the socket in case some electrodes jumped across the airspace. So it’s fine.
I might check the door again. But you know: baby steps…