I’m pretty open with most things. Though I do go through phases – sometimes I tell people everything, sometimes I’m a little more cagey. I would imagine it somewhat depends on who I’m talking to, but mainly it’s my state of mind at the time.
We’ll just dive straight in there, why not. If you want to give it a name, that’s what you should call it. That was the name the therapist at university, back when I was 19 or 20 or thereabouts, gave it and that was what I learned to deal with over the next two years.
I’ve been warned to be backwards in coming forwards about it – by family, by friends, by colleagues. But, as has rightfully become a popular topic in the past few years, being backwards about coming forwards about mental health problems isn’t exactly helpful.
I’m not looking for answers or reassurance or sympathy when I talk about it – I’m just looking to talk about it. That helps me more than anything else. I’ve dealt with it for a long time and the past five, six years have been mercifully quiet on the bad head front.
I’ve been the worst I’ve been in a long time. Talking about it helps me get through it. I’m careful who I talk to — I have friends with similar conditions who I’m not clear on if talking about it is a positive for them or not, so I only tell them what I have to tell them — but I talk about it a lot. My parents get to hear about my thought processes way more than they want, I’m sure; hopefully not to the point where I’m deserving a punch, but enough to get it clear in my head that, really, I’m okay.
That’s where my anxiety comes into play and when that thinking goes unchecked, that’s when I lose it. That’s when I spend Christmas Day afternoon crying uncontrollably for no other reason than I’m physically ill, utterly exhausted by my ridiculous job that I hate and I just feel a crushing sadness with no real anchoring point.
Talking about it gives me other people’s opinions on it and on my perspective. Saying things out loud helps me hear when my thoughts are stupid, warped, faulty, untenable; even if I don’t hear the flaws out loud, I can often hear the empty space in-between the thoughts where the key to Not Feeling Like That Anymore always lies.
I’m prone to prostatitis. It’s a lengthy, inexplicable infection that recurs when you’re particularly not wanting it to and makes you feel like shit at the best of times. It’s an inescapable discomfort and, when it’s bad, it’s properly, wearyingly painful.
Mine recurred in September/October after several surprisingly considerate years of keeping away. I had the full force of 1000mg of Ciprofloxacin a day for a month, was fine for four weeks, then it decided to come back again for December.
That’s two four week periods of really heavy antibiotics laying my immune system right on the floor in conjunction with a mysterious cold that never quite came out during a short-staffed, ridiculous working environment at the busiest time of year and I’m surprised that the crash barrier in my brain broke?
On the other side, from December 24th to December 30th, I couldn’t really see it. I was genuinely terrified more was wrong with me. I had symptoms that persisted despite being on antibiotics – but I had a terrible, flooring cold waiting to erupt the day after Boxing Day, having waited patiently since about December 12th for me to get through my working rota, and that is to account for a lot of the symptoms. Physical exhaustion. That pretty much gave me everything I’ve had the past week.
Combined with a struggling immune system and, yes, antibiotics with the proven side effect of making symptoms of depression much worse, it wasn’t all adding up to the merriest Christmas break on record.
But you can’t shut it off. At that point, at that lowest point, you can’t place yourself in control of that anxiety. For the first time in about twelve years, I considered medication because I genuinely felt I could not control this, that I could not do this myself.
I live with my parents and my depression, when it hits that lowest ebb, frightens them. I know it does. Not because they don’t understand — they’ve known about it the whole time, they’ve had to deal with it several times this year and in the past decade — but because, the same as me from the inside of it, they stand on the outside of it wanting to help but not knowing what the answer is that will make it stop.
I couldn’t ask for better and I couldn’t get through these times without them. The prospect of going back to square one with all this frightens me…but sat here with the last vestiges of a nasty cold bug, a stuffy head and a cough that feels like it’s trying to cave in my ribcage (because, exhaustion aside, there genuinely was some significant illness waiting in there for me), alongside slowly improving physical symptoms of prostatitis, I can see that I was never going to have to go back to square one.
I had no chance to grab a raincoat and it came out of nowhere so there was nothing nearby to shelter under, so I just had to let the storm beat me into submission. But then it started to pass and I could see better – I could see across the horizon, I could make out the shapes of things that had just become blurs in the frenzy of the maelstrom.
I don’t mean anti-depressants, though if I need them I know they’re there; I don’t mean counselling sessions, though I’ve started a CBT course and it’s certainly helping.
I don’t even mean carrying on and assuming the physical symptoms are all getting better because, despite how fucking hard the GP makes it to get an appointment to address any concerns you have (seriously, feeling you can’t see a doctor when you need to? Brilliant for people with anxiety, just brilliant) I fully intend talking to An Actual Living Doctor about my continuing symptoms and the urine sample they sent off last week.
My friend pointed out that, because of all the health problems, I’ve not been able to be myself as much as I like to – I haven’t been to the cinema for ages, because I’ve not been able to sit through a film without several pee breaks; I’ve not been able to do my weights or aerobic exercise for the same reason; I’ve not been able to appreciate my main vice, coffee, because the tablets and any kind of urinary problem really dictate that you avoid caffeine; I’ve not had the time or energy to write because I’ve been laid low, physically and emotionally, and work gave me little free time.
And that’s what I need to be. 2017 needs to be all about everyone being the very best versions of themselves for us to get through it and to improve on the shit stain that was 2016 for many, many people. It needs to involve a concerted effort from me to make the very best of who I can be so that I’m not unhappy, so that I’m not frightened, so that I’m not anxious or worried or lost inside myself.
With feeling better.
Like, when I’m on the right side of the anxiety, staying on the right side by asking myself the right questions – if I’m worried about myself, what are my symptoms actually saying? Are they improving? Is there really cause for worry?
Doing what I can to improve that situation – taking the right kind of supplements; going back to the exercises my consultant gave me a couple of years ago; going back to my own fitness regime to keep mind and body happy.
Writing something every day, even if it’s just notes; reading something every day, even if it’s just half a chapter of a book; going to the cinema regularly; updating my blogs. Doing the little things that make me who I am.
A new job which, whilst something that has always been a hope, has now become a necessity. I went back for the first time since December 23rd yesterday, New Year’s Day, and it needs to represent so much more to me than it does. I feel like I need so much more than another year of The Same Old Thing can ever hope to give me.
As my job hunting of the past three years has shown, just wanting or even needing something doesn’t actually mean it will happen. But I feel it has to; I feel like I’ve crossed a line I can’t step back over; more to the point I’ve been pushed over that line.
And I can’t step back over.
And change, as we all know from cutesy motivational posters and all the self-help books ever written, starts with you. With a mindset. I spent a lot of 2016 having my motivation and enthusiasm and hope squashed by constantly meeting with disappointment and failure; I needed something more to switch me back onto the right track.
It’s been a tough few days. A really, really tough few days. And yet–
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