Agitation

One of the tell-tale signs that I’m heading for an anxiety attack is an intense feeling of agitation.  Everything is heightened and everything is irritating.

Sounds are amplified to an unbearable level.  People breathing, chewing, speaking. Children crying, all of them claw at me as the noise swells and swells until I can hear my own heart beating and the blood rushing past my ears. I can’t concentrate as the noises swim around in my head. Voices competing to be heard and are lost in the din. I’m stood in the middle of a motorway surrounded by swarms of traffic, trying to find a safe way to cross but never quite finding a gap.

I can’t walk quickly enough. I’m desperate to escape but unsure where to go or what exactly it is I’m trying to flee from. I want to run but I’ve nowhere to go because wherever I went, this would surely follow.

Everything feels more intense.  The heat is too hot, the cold is too cold, my skin feels sore and flush and electric and painful.

My eyes struggle to focus, not really knowing where to look. Everything is unbearably loud and yet, muffled and unintelligible. I can’t pick out the sound I am supposed to be hearing from the ones that are imposing and chaotic.

My brain rattles in my head and I want to lash out or run and hide. Fight or flight is kicking in and it’s only a matter of time before a full blown panic attack invades my entire being, knocks me out of the way and takes over without me being able to do a thing to stop it.

But sometimes I see the signs and the patterns and I can step in and intervene on my own behalf. I’m getting better at this, feeling it coming like a wave and stepping out of it’s path before it knocks me over.

It happened yesterday while I was in town and I managed to stop it. This was a huge victory for me, but more amazingly than this, nobody else seemed to notice.  I could have told them and perhaps I should have, but I didn’t and instead of focusing on all the things and feelings that were driving me to distraction, I breathed.  I breathed deeply and I sipped water and took a bit of time to be silent and to focus on something other than where I was and I came through it unscathed.

Next time I might not manage it and that’s okay because this time I did and that’s something for me to feel happy about.

Anxiety is a war, not a battle.  Sometimes we win, sometimes we don’t.  It’s all okay as long as we keep trying.  Trying to win back the terrain that is our true self.  That is the real victory.

Never give up.

 

Now, Not Later

When someone dies, there is always the inevitiable outpouring of grief and wonderful things are said about the person who has passed away.  This is beautiful and heartfelt and painful and cathartic but also, I think, a missed opportuntiy to say these things to a person while they are still alive to hear them. What if instead of waiting we tell our loved ones and friends now, exactly how we feel and how they are special while they are still alive to hear it.

I get that not everyone is comfortable with praise, some of us aren’t, but maybe it’s simply because it isn’t the social norm and they aren’t used to hearing it.

Maybe all we need is a little bit more practice?

Wouldn’t it be better to celebrate our loved ones while we have them, to let them know how much they mean to us and what a difference they make to the world around them. Show them how their smile lights up a room. The time for beautiful tributes is now, not later, because the sadest thing in the world is to lose someone and wonder if they really knew how incredible they were and how much they were loved.

It can be as simple as “I love you” or as in depth as you care to go.  List all the wonderful atributes they have.  Let them know they are appreciated and that they matter and make a huge difference to your life and the world around them.

So I invite you all to take a moment to send a message to a friend, or tell them face to face all the wonderful ways they are loved in this moment. Perhaps a friend you’ve not connected with for a long time or maybe someone  you see every day.

None of us know how long we have on this merry-go-round that we call life, but it would be a much better and more joyous experience if we learned to express our feelings to those that matter while they are still here to receive them.

Suzanne

My lungs feel as if they are full of sand and my heart is heavy today but I’ve come outside regardless. I’ve come to spend some time in nature, alone with my thoughts, a note book and a pen because life is fleeting and tomorrow is never promised.

A few days ago a lady lost her life.  She passed away, totally unexpectedly, in a car accident. She was young with her entire future ahead of her and in an instant that future was taken away without warning.  Her light went out and now we are left in a world that will shine a little less brightly without her warm smile and kind heart. I didn’t know her well, we weren’t close, but I did consider her a friend.  She was one of those people you just loved. Her heart was huge, her personality serene.

We met when I was learning British Sign Language at college.  The tutor had recommended we attend the local Deaf Club to practice our conversational skills.  Suzanne didn’t know me but made me feel so welcome. From that moment on we would always say hello and I’d struggle to come up with something interesting to sign with my limited sign vocabulary. We’d muddle through and have conversations.  A few weeks ago she told me about a holiday she was planning.

Now she’ll never get to go. It’s so hard to make sense of this tragedy.

The frailty of life is astounding, the non-permancence of it is something we should not take lightly.

I’m going to try to procrastinate less, and to make more plans with the people I love even when anxiety makes it difficult. Even when I’m frightened of the what ifs and the maybes because I’m more scared of not really living than I am of dying.

I’m going to live my best life in the memory of my friend, a lady who touched so many lives and so many hearts and always lived her life to the fullest.

Rest in peace Suzanne, I’ll never forget you.

Everything Changes

I hate change, or at least I’m not very good at it.  I’ve never liked it and have always found it unsettling.  Whether it was starting at a new school, a new job, a new relationship there would be the anxiety, the tears and the sure and certain knowledge I’d fail. It would disorientate me and knock me off my feet leaving me swimming, unable to find the ground beneath me.  I would flounder and gasp and try to swim until I was able to grope and grapple my way back to the surface and clamber back to solid ground.

Those are the hard parts, the moments where the ground starts to shift and I have to try to rediscover my surroundings, keeping my head above water, trying not to let anyone down and never letting anyone see that I’m flailing.

I’m not sure if it’s genuinely change that scares me or the likelyhood of failing but either way, things do change and that’s life. Without change there’d be no progress and no growth. As scary as it is, we have to try and move with the current or we’ll drown fighting against it. The question is how?  How do we do the thing that scares us most?  

I’m coming to realise in the bits in between that the way to deal with it is simply to do what comes next.  Don’t worry about the distance left to travel, focus on the next step. Do what needs doing now, the rest will fall into place in time (and if it doesn’t you can deal with that when it comes along).  If you just keep doing what’s next, not looking forward beyond that, you’ll be amazed when you look back and see how far you’ve come.  I know, because I just looked back and realised that actually, despite a minor setback I’m doing okay.  My head is what it is and I may struggle in areas but in others I’m good at what I do. I just need to give myself the space to do it.

A caterpillar doesn’t sit and fret about how it’s going to transform into a butterfly. If it did it would drive itself mad with worry.  After all, how exactly does one grow wings and fly?  The caterpillar just caterpillars along doing whatever it is that a caterpillar does and it lets life takes care of the rest. 

Life can seem very overwhelming but I think that’s partly because we jump from here to there in our mind in one giant leap, not allowing ourself time to grow into the changes, expecting a caterpillar to fly.

Everything will be okay, it always is. We just need to worry less, swim with the current, fly when we’re ready, take the paths to unknown destinations one step at a time and trust that the details will work themselves out.

Blip

I stopped writing and I think that’s where it all went wrong. Everything got too big. It built up and up and had nowhere to go and I began to implode. Often when I need to write most I find it hardest to do. I start worrying that what comes out wont be good enough.  Anyway, why would anyone want to read about the living disaster that is my ill-functioning brain? If you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say anything at all. Ride out the bad and wait until you have something positive to say, something worth offering.  Something that can help. Suffer in silence. Don’t practice what you preach.

It’s 12.17pm and I’m sitting on the sofa with Dolly-Dog curled up on my feet like a furry hot water bottle.  I’m taking my Citalopram and wishing I could be normal, all the while knowing there’s no such thing, or rather, there is and this is it.

The good days outweigh the bad ones now and I’m grateful for that, but somehow it seems to make the bad ones worse because I appear to have forgotten how to deal with them.  They seem like a bigger set back than they should, than they are…

My head itches inside. Everything gets over-analyzed to the point where I regret each utterence, each action.  I feel idiotic.  My stomach lurches, my chest feels tight as if it has been gripped by an invisible force that is trying to squeeze the life out of me.

Anxiety has got me again.

It crept up on me, stealthily stalked me.  I couldn’t see or hear it coming and then it was too late. Now I have to ride it out and try to wrestle back control of myself.

This is real but it isn’t permanent.

The adreniline is real. The accelerated pulse, the tears that cling to every moment, waiting to fall, the fear of an unknown foe, the shallow breaths.

Damn my irratic, imbalanced brain.

Does this really have to be my reality?

Yes, for now, but not forever. Not permanently.

I’ll be okay again.