You know in films when someone has a good conscience and a bad conscience on their shoulders, I think of anxiety like that, like a horrible little creature living on my shoulder trying to ruin everything for me and she has been there for quite a while.
I’ve always been a worrier, my earliest memories are of worrying. When I was a little girl it is a wonder that I got any sleep, I would pray for practically everyone we knew and every pet we had (we had many). I worried if I didn’t then something bad would happen and it would be my fault.
So it is no surprise that as I have got older, the worry is still there. I am now possibly (definitely, most likely) peri-menopausal, so the chances of the anxiety going away at the moment is a big fat zero!
This is a bugger. Have you ever looked forward to an event or waited for a decision and are not worried about it at all, then you are thrown a massive curveball. The event goes horribly wrong, someone gets ill, the venue is flooded etc or the decision does not go in a pleasing direction? This happens ALL of the time, but for an anxious person like me, this is a disaster. In my mind, I will think that this all went wrong because I did not worry about it!! The horrible anxiety creature on my shoulder will tell me that this happened because I became complacent and did not think about what could go wrong. Had I worried then this would not have happened (silly eh?).
To avoid feeling like this I will make sure that for the next event or decision, I will worry in advance. I will think of all of the things which may go wrong (and probably discuss this with my poor husband over and over) or worry about the decision not going my way (again, poor husband.) And even though this is massively stressful, I will feel like I am much more in control of the situation by doing this.
Worrying about an event or decision is of course totally normal, everyone will get a little bit of anxiety in these situations, but the worry about not worrying isn’t normal or productive, no matter how much I convince myself that it is.
They hate me…
Urgh, this! I worry about this all of the time. I can be in a group chat or go and see friends, have a super time and chat away merrily and then later, Boom! horrible anxiety creature will start whispering, “did you really share that story? what must they think of you” or “you do know that you probably offended them saying that, don’t you?” or her favourite, “they just put up with you, they really wish you would just shut up and stop contributing”. This is so hard to deal with, if I was to listen and believe what the anxiety creature is telling me, I could easily withdraw from any social interaction, after all, it would be easier.
I admit sometimes I will pull back from social situations to give my brain a bit of a rest but the main thing is to get back out there again. If I don’t then the horrible anxiety creature will just get so big that she suffocates me and I stop interacting with people.
I am not perfect
I have actually got a lot better at dealing with this one. I used to have a real issue with wanting to be seen as perfect, so much so that if a picture of me was shared online and I could see one flaw, I would panic, I would feel like I was about to be discovered! People would know that I wasn’t perfect. So, many untagged and deleted photos later, I do wonder if I really looked as terrible as I thought, but more importantly, I doubt anyone would have cared anyway!
I also worried about not being the perfect parent/wife/sister/daughter/employee etc but while I was drinking there was no way I could be. I drank to cope with feeling inadequate and then felt inadequate because I drank.
These days, something has shifted and I do cope with this aspect of my anxiety much better now, I think the saying below has helped immensely. I am not saying I don’t feel like this anymore, but I do manage it better now.
Something bad will happen
I do worry that something bad is going to happen to those I love all of the time. This can result in me seeming to be controlling or overprotective. Again I am trying to get better at this. It isn’t easy but I need to, or I wouldn’t let anyone out or indeed leave the house myself!
I also need to remind myself at times, especially with my children that by bursting in and sorting situations out for them, I am not actually being helpful. If I pay off a debt for my child because it is worrying me, I am teaching my child nothing.They learn that Mum always deals with everything. It teaches them nothing about real life. And in all honesty, I am not being altruistic, I am doing it to make me feel better and take away my anxiety. That is a tough one to admit.
I am embarrassed to say that I am extremely superstitious, I have many a time been embarrassed when I have been caught saluting magpies, I have to pretend to itch my head! I can’t bear it if someone leaves new shoes on the table or passes me on the stairs and you see that ladder, I will not be walking under it! Is this anxiety or am I just a bit silly? I don’t know but I am not taking any risks!
I hate meeting new people if I know you already I can chat for England, but if I don’t I find it so difficult! I remember meeting my Sister’s new boyfriend years ago. He told me he had forgotten my name, I was so shy that I just nodded and didn’t speak, my sister was mortified and had to tell him. I am still the same, I really struggle meeting people for the first time. I know for sure that this is one of the reasons I over drank, I did it for that extra confidence to cope with these situations.
So what do I do?
After reading this you would be forgiven for thinking that I am a jabbering wreck (sometimes I am). I do have coping mechanisms in place. My main one is to check my hormones! I know that sounds silly but when I start to feel ultra anxious, or I am having intrusive thoughts I will check my calendar. It is somewhat comforting to know that these thoughts are being caused by a hormonal imbalance and I will feel better.
I also talk to myself (in my head) I literally talk myself down, I will look at the situation and try and see it as an outsider. If someone else had said that thing I am worried about, how would I feel? normally I know I would feel ok, so I can relax a little, I hope that makes sense! All the while horrible anxiety creature is trying to but in with her point, but I try to talk over her.
I exercise, I know, sorry everyone goes on and on about exercise, but I can’t stress it enough. It really helps, even just going for a walk in nature, it really can give your head a break, even for just a short while. I haven’t been able to exercise much for a little while due to health issues and boy have I felt it.
And while I am at it, just being outside really helps. I have an outside seating area that has a roof so I can sit out there and not get wet (this is the UK!). I will pull on a hat and coat and get under a blanket and sit for hours out there. Being outside just does something for me. I must look crazy to other people, but it gives me peace for a while and that is priceless. With anxiety, it is so important to find what gives you peace because you deserve it.
And the most important thing I do or don’t actually do is I don’t drink alcohol. There is nothing that will give horrible anxiety creature power more than alcohol. When I drink I literally get no break from intrusive thoughts at all, well maybe I do for the hours I am drinking, but the worry will start in the middle of the night and carry on for days. And it’s the worst anxiety, you have no control over alcohol, you don’t know what you might have done and you actually just might have been offensive, you might have made a fool of yourself etc. So I choose to give myself a fighting chance and stay away from the alcohol.
I am sure I have missed other things I do because of anxiety, I’d love to hear your thoughts.