Friday, 28 July 2017

What am I doing?

Hello everyone, how are you doing? I hope you're all well - and it's difficult to hold a conversation in this medium, so on to me.

I've been working very hard on taking care of myself and it's beginning to pay off.

The last few years have held more than a handful of major life events. I'm now 33 and although I can't remember the dates, I know that in the last decade I have:

  • Moved from the North to the South, leaving all friends and family behind (except my fiance)
  • Got married
  • Got divorced
  • Started a new job twice
  • Been hospitalised twice with stress related illness (abscesses. They suck) and been on heavy duty courses of meds three additional times for abscesses that didn't require surgery.
  • Lost my Dad
  • Seen both my sisters through extreme depression
  • a few other things that are less impactful individually but really add up when piled on top of all that.
I'm now on anti-depressants myself (for anxiety) and I'm going to start CBT so that I can manage myself better when I come off them. I am determined to come off them - not because I'm ashamed or scared they're harming me, but because I *need* to know I can live my life without support. I *need* to teach myself the control mechanisms. I can't afford to be dependent on drugs (in case of the apocalypse), people (in case they discover how horrible I really am and leave me) or any other external force. I have to learn to be me; individually, simply, independently me. And I have to learn how to be me and be healthy.

Please note - I don't equate "healthy" with "free from problems". My anxiety isn't going to go anywhere. What is healthy for me is to be aware, respond appropriately and manage its impact (a realisation I picked up from a dear friend who I'm convinced is completely oblivious to the impact he has on my life!)

Other than the medication, I have started to regulate my behaviour based on my anxiety responses. It's funny - the things I thought stressed me out *don't*. It's hidden factors that are slowly revealing themselves. On the bright side, it's about three million times easier to socialise and get to know people nowadays. 

I worry about people. I worry about events. And you know the stupidest thing? It turns out I can handle the worst life has thrown at me *ONCE IT HAS HAPPENED*. I just can't deal with the prospect of it happening. I worry. I stress. 

If people hate me and walk away - I can deal with that. I can live my life. I can cope. But in prelude to every single event, circumstance or whatever, I worry that I will say or do something that will make people hate me or walk away or whatever. Every single time. I worry so extremely it makes me physically and mentally ill. For years I could not walk into a room of friends or strangers without mentally running through every single worst case scenario. Every conversation I had up until this year was fuelled by adrenalin. And I'm a flight animal so with the adrenalin always comes a heavy surge of nausea and shakes (according to my therapist it's normal to want to be as light as possible in a flight situation - you do the math) which gave me another thing to worry about.

Did you know that every time I went to purchase something I had to battle with the prospect that this one unnecessary item would be the thing that made me unable to pay my rent or eat for a month? Did you know that if I got close to payday and didn't have a minimum of £200 in my bank account I would check it on a twice daily basis *minimum* to make sure no unexpected bills had gone out? I know my bill schedule - I know logically how much I need in my account at any time of the month, and track by those numbers for the majority of the time. But closes to payday? Hoo boy. Logic went straight out the window.

Funny impact - when I started anti-depressants, I had no impulse control at all. Because my actions weren't shadowed by constant dread, I did whatever I wanted. I came very close to being in financial trouble, but a well timed panic attack finally overrode the drugs and I've been aware of this need to look for healthy ways of managing my behaviour since.

I had another bad day more recently and it coincided with a couple of my Tweeps also suffering. I worried about them, so I wanted to help and help, but I couldn't - it exacerbated all my own problems and drove me deeper into the black hole. I couldn't understand it at the time, but with hindsight it makes sense. I left Twitter and I didn't miss it. I could - I can - control my own behaviour, even in this. I'm *not* an addict, I'm *not* compelled. I just need a reason and in this instance, wanting to be happier and calmer was enough of a reason.

I'm back on Twitter, back with my #fp friends, back with my awesome social circle of lovelies. Nearer home I'm beginning to branch out and meet more of my friends, ex-colleagues and acquaintances and building up a more regular physical social network. Got to be honest through - what with NaNo, my hobbies and my intense interest in the Regency, being my friend on a schedule isn't easy. I get super excited about little things and go charging off for a weekend at the drop of a hat. I used to have a "never cancel" rule, but to be honest that too was driven by anxiety. Now I have a "be a decent human being" rule. If I'd be ok with someone doing it to me, I'm ok to do it to them. So, no giving up on a once in a lifetime opportunity because I have a monthly game night to go to. 

Life is not easy. It's a struggle - it's a huge struggle some days, but that's ok. I paint pictures in my spare time, sometimes with words, sometimes with acrylics. I have begun to widen my habit of gifting people decorative items I've made and whether or not they like them, they claim they do and that makes me happy. At work, I have driven myself into exhaustion and that is beginning to tell, but the flip side is that my role is once again changing and growing and the college is aware of how I am moving forwards.

Next steps - an L5 apprenticeship in management, a Masters in digital education, an HEA fellowship and consolidating all of the digital learning systems in the college. Outside work I'm finishing my latest novel (I've been reading a lot of thrillers and it triggered something), reading more, and planning to exercise more frequently (again) but the big thing is that I am not wielding this as a stick over myself. It isn't a Must do - it's a want to do. And that is very important.

Now, I'm going to go eat something. And since my wisdom tooth is finally useable, it might even be something crunchy,

Love you