I see myself, mainly, as a conquerer of mental health. I have stared it’s angry little face down and, I think, won. However just last week I found myself in the grips of delayed anxiety – I may have just made that term up, but I think most people are just grappling around looking for someone who can tell you they have experienced the same thing right? Then you stand next to that person, inwardly thinking ’You, I choose you, for you get me’
Anyway, I digress. So last week I found myself with that fog that takes over your brain. For me, thats what anxiety feels like. It’s not just being a worrier, it’s the belief in every little negative thing that your brain throws at you; a cloud that makes you feel so completely and utterly worthless, spiralling down so you can’t gather or rationalise a single thought.
The problem is, I can normally pinpoint exactly why. When I’m slipping into that feeling I can figure out why and deal with it and stop it. I was just back from a holiday and excited about life, but my brain couldn’t stop me spiralling, torturing myself that I wasn’t good enough, my body tight, pin pricks in my blood just from speaking to ‘normal’ people.
But slowly as the fog lifted and the jaded, exhausted feeling of coming out of anxiety started creeping in, I realised it could have been a delayed onset of a historical problem.
My anxiety had always surrounded death, I was scared my Mum would die, scared my boyfriend would die and scared I would die before I ever got the chance to see them again. Except, this wasn’t just fear, this was complete belief. I stopped myself travelling anywhere because I was convinced I would die. I would lie in the fetal position on the floor sobbing, barely breathing at the thought of any long journeys, completely believing that that journey would be the end of my life. I became so scared of dying, I was barely living.
So fast forward to today, I’m travelling to a few cities a week, taking myself off on holidays at least once a month and enjoying every little bit of flying, travelling and the whole world of new cultures. Travel has now become my sanctuary, my true love – a bit of a change hey? But that’s another story.
The weekend in question I had been to Madrid, travelling alone but meeting a friend whilst I was there, I had had a lovely trip. I had flown the same week that there were French Airstrikes, and after my already late flight was delayed by over an hour, we were boarded onto the plane to then be told we would be waiting another two hours on the tarmac before we could take off.
I was fine. I was sat thinking ‘this is great, this would have broken me in the olden days and look at me know’ I was chatting to people, helping more worried passengers and generally finding the whole situation quite amusing. Finally we set off and I snoozed for a few hours before landing in Manchester.
But then, the next morning I awoke with the familiar feeling of the fog on my brain. I felt sad, like I could feel my blood coursing right under my skin. My brain couldn’t rationalise anything, I felt like an imposter, I wasn’t good enough to do my job, good enough for any guy, my friends were probably sick to death of me. And then I went to my Spanish study class and it amplified, I was a fool for ever thinking I could learn another language, I was stupid and should stop having these big dreams I had been fostering lately. Sound familiar?
I felt horrendous, and at the time found it completely warranted, then the next day I had the slow dawning that it was anxiety. I hadn’t had my usual warning signs, I had just woken up like that, and thats when I realised it was caused by my historical fears. I had managed to keep myself together so well during something that would have terrified me, but with the exhaustion from the delay it had seeped into my brain anyway and manifested itself in another way. Pesky anxiety has a way of doing that.
Luckily, I’ve got a pretty great support system around me now. I talk about my mental health problems all the time, so my friends are used to knowing how to deal with me, and with a bit of help and some mindfulness I managed to get back to my happy little self.
It scared me that anxiety still had a way of seeping into my life, but is it going to stop me? Hell no! It’s just another thing for me to face and conquer and now I know it’s happened, it won’t be happening again!