“It’s not me, it’s my anxiety”

I am not unreliable – I am not lazy – I am not doing this on purpose – I don’t want to be like this – I am trying – I am hurting – I am in pain – I am fed up – I am ruminating – I am unhappy – I am anxious – This does not define me.

If only people could see beyond Mental Health…

This thought is something that has plagued me for some time, the fact that mental health, although we have come such a long way in making it less of a taboo, is still a taboo.  More people are talking, and opening those doors that were once closed, but there is still a certain percentage of the population that define you because of your mental health, because of your difficulties, they see you as unreliable, flakey, hit and miss, the let down.

I recently had a post as an Assistant Psychologist, a 3 month fixed term contract, so I was in it for three months at least.  The job was great, I enjoyed what I was doing, enjoyed that I was now working in a professional environment, using the degree I’d worked so incredibly hard for in a work setting.  The only difficulty I faced was the gruelling commute, from South East to South West London during rush hour.  At first it seemed like the least of my worries, but as time went on the thought of getting on those sardine packed trains filled me with dread and panic. There are no trains that go directly from the South East to West, so you inevitably have to go into Central London to come back out again making the journey ever more hellish.  In theory it should have taken 1 hour 30 minutes, but it very rarely ever did; I think the worst being 3 hours just one way.

Most days, by the time I arrived at work, I felt as though I’d already completed half a days work, and that was before I’d sat down at my desk and considered what that day had to offer.  Some might argue I should have taken a post closer to home, but with the population of London, and the small amount of jobs there are, you have to take what you can get.  Arriving at work, already exhausted from over thinking every thought that passed through me, I would already begin to panic over the journey home, and what delights that would bring, would I be anxious? Would I panic? Would I pass out? Would I come across a sick passenger? Would I be delayed? Will the train stop between stations? Would I feel the walls caving in?  Needless to say, I wasn’t always the most productive individual in the office.

I don’t like being stuck inside a hot, human filled, steel tube-shaped train, going through a tube-shaped tunnel beneath a busy city feeling like you’re going to pass out; then again I’m not sure anyone really loves it. I love London, but not that aspect of it.  If I could bypass rush hour … I would.  Again, some would argue, don’t live in the city if you can’t handle the hustle and bustle  … if only it was that simple.  You don’t move to London to enjoy someone’s armpit under your nose, and morning breath in your face during your commute, that’s rarely considered when you’re moving for opportunity, to kick-start your career. That unfortunately, is just the reality you’re faced with when you arrive.

Being anxious isn’t feeling a little bit nervous before entering a train, it is that, plus over thinking, over feeling, panicking and trying to keep it together; anxiety is irrational, illogical and there is nothing you can do about it, once you start, it is very difficult to stop the cycle. You’re already passed the point of no return.  You’re hot, clammy, breathing fast, you’re heart wants to fall out of your chest, your mind won’t stop thinking, round and round and round we go over the same thought processes that bothered you this time yesterday, and will bother you this time tomorrow.  Wouldn’t it be be great if you could open an imaginary door in your mind and escape the intrusiveness that invites itself into your consciousness? Maybe some can in a hypothetical fashion, but unfortunately, I cannot do that, I cannot escape the ruminating, I cannot escape my own mind, because without that, I wouldn’t be me, but with it, I am also a jittery, anxious, emotional, mess. I tried to explain my frustration once, it went something like this “If I could take this brain out, and replace it with a new one, a different one, a less anxious one, one that doesn’t feel these things … I would, but unfortunately for me, I’m stuck with this one, it just follows me everywhere I go, there’s no escape” I feel this the most on the days where I haven’t stopped ruminating, from the moment I woke, it was there, and will be there until the moment I drop off to sleep.

I’m very open and honest about my difficulties, where once I was not, my best friends know, my family know, my boyfriend and his family know, my colleagues know, and I do this because I want a level of understanding to my behaviour. The level of understanding that some days, I will be erratic, my behaviour may not make sense, I may be quiet, I may be loud, I may wear more makeup to cover the insecurity that is probably written all over my frown filled forehead. The problem is, is that employers as understanding as they are, and can be, care for profit, care for the service they provide, care about continuity, and you are the weak link within that, you are the one person that lets the team down.  You try so very hard to make it work one day, but no matter what you try, you cannot face the outdoors. To have to phone your employer and say “I cannot come to work today, I’m sick” is fine one day, but they start to notice that you have more time off than anyone else, but the fact is you cannot say to your employer “I’m sorry I cannot come in today because I opened the curtains, panicked and ended up back in bed. The thought of leaving the house feels so scary it makes me want to vomit, it makes me want to scream and cry, it gives me a feeling I cannot explain” Employers don’t want to hear that… and that fact, is incredibly unfortunate for the anxiety filled individuals that have worked so hard to get degrees, who are high achievers, who really want to succeed, who are incredibly conscientious, who will work extra hours when asked because they feel up to it, and because they care for what they do… It is unfortunate for those people, because those people are seen as unreliable due to those occasions when their anxiety overflows and they feel they cannot cope…

We’ve come a long way from where we were … but we’re just not quite there yet …

Lost, lonely and longing for life to begin…

Sitting at home, alone, the life suddenly sucked out of you, the darkness of being alone consumes you.  One thought turns to another, then another and before you know it you’re in a storm of thoughts, forgetting where you first began.

There are plenty of things on my mind today. Career mainly.  I finished my Masters over two months ago now and I am yet to find a job that enables me to use my knowledge and experience.  I dream of being a Dr, a Neurosurgeon but the struggle I am having as a 25-year-old woman is the thought of a family.  The thought that I’ll start a degree in medicine and regret not making time to have a family or worse, not having time for a family churning me up inside.  My life as it is, is full of what ifs? I have no certainty. Do I know where I’ll be in 10 years time? 5 even? Its unlikely that where I think I will be, I will actually end up.  Therein lies the problem… I do not do well with uncertainty.  I am one of those unfortunate people that needs to be in control of everything at all times otherwise I conjure up every possible circumstance that may arise and completely panic over the hypothetical situation I have built and blown up – silly really.  I have no idea where the intense desire to plan my every move to the next breath comes from but it is something I find a lot of individuals do, especially academics.  I find myself wondering; if this desire was not so strong, would these individuals be so successful? Is this what drives our wants, needs, dreams and ambition? Becoming an accomplished human being in a particular field can only be the byproduct of planning and executing a task to the best of your ability, can it not?

Here is where I tell myself it’s ok to feel lost, to feel disconnected, to feel like I have two degrees that I will do nothing with, because this is what drives me to plan my next move; how to move from this part of my life to the next.  I guess the one thing I could reduce is the catastrophic thinking, the what ifs can be pretty insane sometimes.  Years of battling anxiety and depression taught me to recognise such a thought and tell myself, tomorrow is another day, its ok to feel this way today, but tomorrow lets start again.

So as I sit here tonight, alone, and feeling lonely.  I ask myself… are you lonely? The answer … always no.  Just lost, trying to find my way through this maze we call life.