I had been really unsettled, moody and emotional for quite a few months - and I was still adamant at this point that I wasn’t depressed because I thought that I had way too much to be grateful for to be depressed - so I tried to establish what was bothering me so much.
I realised that I was feeling rushed and nervous a lot of the time, especially in the mornings while I was preparing breakfast and packing our daughter’s lunch box. I found this really odd because I was always ready in plenty of time and cooking breakfast and packing lunch was hardly a stressful event.
I slowly became more aware of that rushed and nervous feeling throughout every day and it was almost always unfounded. Normal day to day tasks and events were making me feel unreasonably stressed.
Then I started paying a bit more attention to my thoughts and noticed that I was almost constantly worried or stressed about things that might go wrong, or about what people were thinking of me, or that I might be letting someone down and that something awful might happen.
I Googled, bought a couple of books and discovered that the levels of worry I was feeling wasn’t even close to normal.
Although I may not come across as an anxious person on the surface, I do know that most people think of me as an over-thinker, meticulous planner and obsessive perfectionist - which might sound positive - but are actually core elements of my Anxiety.
Since I’ve started going to counselling I have to do a Mental Health Assessment before every session in order to track my general mood, and a part of that is a General Anxiety Assessment which looks something like this - on bad weeks:
Over the last 2 weeks how often have you been bothered by the following problems?
Please rate your answer, in the table below, on a scale of 0-3.
0 = not at all, 1 = several days, 2 = more than half the days, 3 = nearly every day.
Feeling nervous, anxious or on edge - 3
Not being able to stop or control worrying - 3
Worrying too much about different things - 3
Trouble relaxing - 3
Being so restless that it is hard to sit still - 3
Becoming easily annoyed or irritable - 3
Feeling afraid as if something awful might happen - 3
Total Score: 21
So while I might not appear to be a neurotic nervous wreck when you meet me in person, I have some deep rooted and irrational worries and concerns churning through my head all day long - and I KNOW that I would score some of those questions even higher on some weeks if there was an Option 4 = Every second, of every day.
I fully understand that these are irrational and unreasonable fears and concerns, but I’ve realised that this is the way my brain and body often feels, even when it makes no sense.
I tried to put some of the anxiety I feel on some days into words - as a way of explaining it to my husband - and this was what I came up with:
On bad days, from the moment I wake up in the morning I feel rushed and like something terrible is going to happen if, for instance….
I don’t follow a certain routine in the shower, or I don’t put on all my face lotions, moisturisers etc.
I get dressed in front of my husband/daughter and they see how fat and wobbly my tummy/bottom got.
I don’t have a specific, cooked from scratch, meal ready at a specific time.
Someone hugs me, or my husband kisses me and I have smelly breath, they feel my fat rolls, they see a spot on my face.
I haven’t completed certain tasks before I leave the house / switch on my computer / start work / have lunch / go to bed etc.
And I can connect those kind of absurd fretting to anything.
I also often feel worried, or have thoughts pop into my head at random times (in the shower, on the loo, while I’m working, sleeping etc):
What if my daughter gets hurt or gets abducted on her way to the bus / gets bullied / abused, or worse at school.
What if my husband has an accident / heart attack when he is out.
What if something happens to my parents.
What if something happens to my sister / her husband / their baby.
What if anyone in my family / our friends gets ill / gets hurt / dies.
Many times, I can imagine these scenarios in graphic detail and I can imagine how I would feel and how life would be afterwards.
It’s not always fully formed thoughts, but images and feelings that randomly flash through my head.
And sometimes when I am tired or stressed I can’t cope with loud noises/music and it makes me feel like I am going to be sick / faint. My chest feels tight. I have needles and pins, and ringing in my ears. It takes all my control to carry on as normal.
And the same sometimes happen when I am around people who are drinking, or are just loud, or who drive too fast, or when I am driving on a dark road, or when I meet new people, or sometimes just when I have to talk to anyone - even my friends, husband or daughter.
I’m sure you get the picture and can imagine how full my head feels on some days.
On really bad days I also sometimes feel that I should do certain things in a very specific way - for example, I can’t just quickly clean the house - it has to be a 5 hour spring clean, or I’m a bad house wife. I can’t just write/work for 2 hours - it has to be for 6 or 7 hours, 5 days per week, or I’m not a real writer. I can’t just let my daughter get her own cereal in the morning - I have to make a cooked and balanced breakfast every morning, or I’m a bad mother, etc.
And things can get very complicated and utterly overwhelming when I get like this, because it’s generally impossible to meet these ridiculous expectations, so then I feel like a failure, feel guilty that I am alive and worry that everyone thinks I'm a waste of space.
And then I sometimes go even further and get angry with people in my head, because I argue to myself that, "nobody is perfect and I’m really not that bad". But, by THAT time I’m feeling pretty crazy and it just takes the smallest, most innocent and unintentional perceived insult to send me into full blown meltdown mode.
I understand completely how insane it must sound to someone who doesn’t suffer from Anxiety, and I think the hardest part is that I know it’s not normal to feel like that, but by the time things are really out of control my body is in such a state of stress that my brain is not capable of thinking in a logical way anymore.
The key for me is to be mindful enough to stop myself before I even get close to this stage, but it is a meticulous and continuous process.