After every bout of depression that I overcome, I end up with anxiety issues. At times they’ve been crippling and become serious problems of their own as they lead to panic attacks and social phobia. This bout of depression has been no different and I’ve been lumbered with trying to get past the anxiety and ‘habits’ that have developed during this period. And just like this bout of depression that has manifested itself differently in the physical sense, so too has the anxiety.
I’ve not had the racing heart that leads to a panic attack, nor have I really had the social phobia. Instead I’ve developed some sort of anticipatory anxiety. I think it’s something I’ve always got (I’m a worrier by nature), but can usually control it without too much effort.
Every single day I wake up and I’m worried about how I will manage the day. I worry that I didn’t get enough sleep or the quality of my sleep was poor so I’ll find it difficult to function and stay awake. I worry that the slight pressure I feel behind my eyes or stiffness in my neck is going to become a full blown, crippling headache that will spiral out of control and lead to days of endless headaches followed by a headache hangover that will last several more days. I worry about aches and pains, and are they going to lead to other serious bouts of physical incapacity like I experienced three years ago.
And so I take it easy. I play it safe. I don’t want to rock the boat so I rest, and I rearrange meetings and readjust my working hours. I forgo social invitations and even basic self care like eating well and bathing. Of course this leads back to those feelings of guilt and that I’m lazy, which means I don’t actually rest because I’m too busy listing all the things I should be doing but I’m not.
I feel trapped and paralysed by this anxiety. I can’t break it’s spell. I tell myself that if I just get up and get going everything will be OK. Getting bathed and dressed and fed will make me feel human and like nothing is wrong (and this is quite true). But some voice bubbles up from underneath all of this and tells me no, lie in, go to work later, take the strong painkillers and rest of the aches and pains. And I give into this voice because it is effortless to do so and I feel like everything takes more effort than it really should. It means that every night when I turn out the light and tell myself that tomorrow will be different, that tomorrow I’ll get up without any fuss and bathe and eat, I’m inevitably lying to myself as nine times out of ten, the voice tells me to take the easy road.
When it comes to feeling guilty, I can say that I have well and truly mastered it. I think I probably mastered it early on in life. There are pictures of me as a child where I look solemn when the situation didn’t call for looking that way — I think it’s just how I physically express my feelings of guilt.
And my feelings of guilt aren’t ‘Oh I ate entire box of chocolates’ (OK, sometimes they are), but guilt for things which I often have no control over. This past week I had an email exchange with my mother who is recently retired. She discovered that many of her contemporaries have giant nest eggs while she has the smallest nest egg as she had to restart her savings/retirement planning several times in life for various reasons. She survives on her feeble savings, and a very small stipend from the state. Her friends are shocked that she can manage to live on so little. I ended up feeling incredibly guilty about her state of affairs. It also makes me extremely anxious about my own affairs.
She’s not struggling to the point where she’s going hungry or avoiding using the heating/gas, but when things come up — a new boiler, unexpected repairs to the house, etc. — it does hit her hard. I didn’t have anything to do with her state of affairs yet I feel somehow responsible. I was able to quickly get myself out of that funk by reminding myself that she’s had some very tough times in life, and had to make some hard choices, but I wasn’t responsible for those things. Unfortunately, it just led me down the slippery slope of self loathing and finding other reasons why I should feel guilty.
Frankly, it ruined my already shitty weekend. I was already having a mentally unstable Saturday, and this occupied my Sunday.
I felt guilty and inadequate for where I am in life. I’m unmarried, no children, I rent, I have a smallish pot of savings, I have a 10 year old car and a 15 year old television, and a wardrobe full of clothes that don’t fit because I keep gaining weight. My pantry and fridge are bursting with food yet there’s nothing to eat so I resort to toast, ice cream, and endless cups of tea/coffee. I felt guilty because all the things I said I’d do this weekend — bake, cook a real meal, finally go swimming, vacuum/mop the floors, not sit in front of the TV watching TV just because it’s there, no excessive napping — didn’t happen. I failed on all counts. I also didn’t bathe. I did manage to do three days worth of dishes so that’s something I guess.
It started off well on Saturday morning, getting up on time as I had an appointment first thing (don’t think for a minute I didn’t try to think of ways of getting out of this appointment without penalty). But by lunchtime, all my plans had gone out the window. I was firmly back in bed having the first nap of the day. I awoke feeling more tired than when I laid down, yet I had managed to fall asleep with little effort. I began to panic as I had another appointment that afternoon. It required me to drive quite a distance, but I wasn’t really feeling up for it. I started feeling guilty. I was going to have to cancel at the last minute. There was no way I could actually safely drive. I dislike driving at the best of times, and find it tiring, so this situation was definitely beginning to feel like it was totally out of the question. I got in touch and said I wasn’t feeling well. Luckily the person was extremely understanding and said if roles were reversed, they’d be feeling the same way (they suffer from Crohns). Relieved, I went for nap* number two.
I felt slightly better, but still guilty. People had made special arrangements to accommodate me and I wasn’t even going to turn up. Worry not as I beat myself up about it all night. I watched TV that didn’t need watching. I eventually went to bed, taking one of the sleeping tablets my GP prescribed me, and went to sleep. Sunday morning I woke up determined things would be different.
Things weren’t different. In fact, they were possibly worse. I wanted nothing more than to escape. I felt like I’d let everyone down, even people not involved! I was thinking about talking to my boyfriend and telling him he’d be better off without me, and to find someone who wasn’t so bloody lazy and such a downer. I spent Sunday having my very own pity party.
Despite feeling like I’d let so many people down in such a short time, it really boils down to the fact that I’d let myself down, again. I, once again, took the easy route. I keep telling myself that I need to push myself a bit more, that I can’t just take the easy route all the time. Nothing will change if I continue to do that. I must find ways to take charge of my life, and motivate myself. I know that there would be positive changes in me if I got up and exercised. I would feel better about my physical appearance, and I’d have energy that I know I don’t have due to weight gain (it’s incredible what an extra 10lbs** can do to you physically). It would help me set a routine which I desperately need right now.
So that’s how my weekend went, how was yours?
* When does it stop being termed a nap? I mean, nap two lasted nearly 2.5 hours! That’s a sleep really, right?